People complain New Yorkers are rude, which is imprecise. New Yorkers are some of the kindest, most good-hearted people I’ve ever met. But New Yorkers are busy, and they cannot tolerate dawdling.
I called my mother once from a stoop right outside a Starbucks in the East Village. I was having a hard time—missing home, unsure of my path, and wanting some boy who did not want me—and halfway through a walk, I had crumpled into sobs, and there was simply nowhere to hide so I just sat there, tears streaming down my face, as pedestrians passed me by. Sometimes they would look at me, and look away, the expression on their faces never changing.
“This is such a cold town,” I said to my mother, in between blowing my nose. But it took me a while to learn their reaction wasn’t a sign of disrespect or indifference, not the way I took it anyway. New Yorkers are unshockable, it’s true, but they also know that no one gets private space, and the best they can do is to leave you alone and at least pretend you have privacy, even if the crowded sidewalk affords you none. When I see someone in tears on the sidewalk, my instinct is not to rush over and help them—what would I do, anyway?—it is to offer them the dignity of not staring.
(via The Morning News)