3.22.2011

henry rollins: nothing can stop new york

Although I am not a Henry Rollins fan, I see he and I have something in common. Take a couple of minutes to appreciate New York City along with us.

18 comments:

Amy said...

Two quick stories about civility in NYC, both occurring within a few hours on Friday. We saw a man walking down 8th Avenue trip and fall on the sidewalk. Within a flash of a second, the two people nearest himrushed over and lifted him up without hesitating. The man who fell was gracious, and everyone moved on as if nothing had happened.

Then a few hours later I was in the restroom at the theater during intermission, and a woman, after washing her hands, screamed that she had dropped her ring in the large trash bin while drying her hands. Again, two strangers helped her pull out the plastic bag and rummage through to find her ring.

Who said New Yorkers are not civil or friendly?

allan said...

Who said New Yorkers are not civil or friendly?

Usually, people who have never been to New York.

However, as L has pointed out here several times (probably when contrasting Toronto with New York), NYers expect you -- if you are asking for directions or need assistance of some kind -- to get straight to the point. And will be blunt about it. Some people no doubt interpret that as rudeness.

laura k said...

Who said New Yorkers are not civil or friendly?

Usually, people who have never been to New York.


Exactly. Amy's observations are very typical of visitors to NYC. I've heard dozens of them, especially the lengths NYers will go to give proper directions and help people find places and things.

But as Allan says, don't tell us stories - don't waste our time. What do you want, where are you trying to go?? Tell me! I will pick you up on my back and carry you there if you will just GET TO THE POINT!

laura k said...

I think part of this comes from living in an uber-urban world. We see each other out on the sidewalk, on public transit - so we feel more connected to each other, look out for each other more - compared to a suburban world.

Amy said...

The key difference I have found between NYers and non-NYers is that outside of NY, if you get on an elevator or pass someone on the street or see someone in a waiting room, you tend to smile, say hello, ask "How are you?," even if you have never seen that person before. In NY, people in elevators or sidewalks or waiting rooms tend to avoid chitchat and eye contact unless forced by someone to engage.

I grew up thinking that was normal until I moved to New England (where people are hardly warm and cuddly either). When I first moved to New England, I wondered why everyone was smiling at me and saying hello---I thought THEY were weird! :)

laura k said...

Hm, interesting. I have never been in a city where people do much of that, except a passing nod or hello, if you're the only ones in the elevator or waiting room. If it's crowded, generally there's no greeting or acknowledgement, I find.

In smaller towns or cities, yes. Big cities, no, in my experience.

Stephanie said...

Interesting about the interactions noted by Amy.

I think there is a major sliding scale but it _is_ in my observation also cultural (NOT US-Canada but NA-Europe).

First while living in downtown Toronto I became much like everyone else not interacting with others on the street, in elevators and so on but this had to be learned.

Having moved away many years ago I can still get caught on the street by people who are essentially panhandling but by approaching. My Torontonian friends are a half a block ahead (and laughing) once I figure out the deal.

But when in Europe on a University campus I am reminded that i have a N.A. coldness when complete strangers passing by in the hall will say hello and I have to shake off the shock in order to respond.

This is something that a colleague remarked on when he first came to UWO (not even TO) from Madrid. H found it quite odd that in the hallways at the University strangers do not greet one another when passing (or in the elevators where the customary thing to do is to ask what floor you need and then press the button).

laura k said...

(NOT US-Canada but NA-Europe).

And likely NA vs Central/South America, too.

On the other hand, when we first moved to Canada, in general people in the GTA seemed SO much friendlier to me than USians in general. I used to blog about that in our early days here - the bank, the car dealership, the utility company, the library - everyone was so welcoming and friendly. Not just compared to NYC, compared to anywhere I've been in the US - including the rural South, where people were long-winded and nosy, but not necessarily friendly.

Stephanie said...

Wow, how very interesting it is to hear about the kind of friendliness and welcome you were made to feel.

My only visit to NYC was entirely without running into rampant rudeness.

In fact, I remember one incident where me and a couple of women who were on the street corner waiting for a bus had a big belly shaking laugh when my poster tube fell to the ground and the women jumped in surprise. I turned to them and quipped about it looking like a weapon but it was only loaded with academic posters. Otherwse, we had a really great stay and we got around beautifully (often by taxi) since David speaks Spanish fluently. :D

Then again that is only a single visit and the next time could be entirely different. I find Paris quite unfriendly, as large cities go, but each visit has been entirely different. I find much depends, of course, on where you spend your time and with whom.

laura k said...

I find Paris quite unfriendly, as large cities go, but each visit has been entirely different. I find much depends, of course, on where you spend your time and with whom.

It's true, we all draw generalizations based on a very small sample size.

I always hear that Paris is unfriendly, but I have always found it kind of neutral. I think my expectations for friendliness-from-strangers are very low. I actually don't want too much friendliness! Uh-oh. :)

impudent strumpet said...

What surprised me most about this video is that the audience didn't clap or react when he first mentioned New York. Audiences tend to react when people on stage utter the name of their city.

Regarding greeting people in the street, I once counted how many people I pass in the street, and it turns out I pass 100 people in my 5 minute walk from my apartment to the subway. It would just be weird to smile and nod at that many people! It would be like you're trying to be the Queen or something!

I once read that in some culture (I forget which) where people tend to live with the whole family crammed into a one-room hut, if you want to "be alone", you just don't make eye contact and ignore everyone else in the room. And they tend to respect that, because they want the same from time to time. The thing I was reading then went on to talk about someone from this culture who ended up staying with a North American family, and everyone thought he was rude and weird for sitting there in the living room not talking to anyone. But this is exactly the same phenomenon that makes it possible to sit there quietly reading your book on a crowded subway!

laura k said...

But this is exactly the same phenomenon that makes it possible to sit there quietly reading your book on a crowded subway!

Yes! And I love that about urban culture.

When I was younger, I used to enjoy talking to strangers when I traveled (planes, trains, in airports - didn't matter). I wouldn't read, and would be more open about eye contact, and I would invariably end up having conversations.

Now I don't want anyone to speak to me, so I read and/or busy myself with a computer or a game on my Blackberry, and people very approach me. And if they do, it's for a specific question, not an aimless chat.

impudent strumpet said...

I just wanted to add something that happened to me today. I got on a subway, then realized I'd dropped something on the platform. I darted out to retrieve it, but the door closing chimes started going when I was still on the platform.

So this guy standing on the subway by the door quietly sticks his foot in the door to hold it open for me. I say thank you, and we return to our respective gaming.

Perfect city moment! Situational awareness, quietly helping out, no meddling or intrusiveness.

Then I compare this with the small town where I grew up, when people would stop and talk to me to tell me unhelpful things. (Multiple times I'd be walking down the street, and people would stop me to tell me that I walk really fast.)

laura k said...

Nice, thanks for sharing that.

when people would stop and talk to me to tell me unhelpful things. (Multiple times I'd be walking down the street, and people would stop me to tell me that I walk really fast.)

Now I'm trying to remember why I want to try living in a small town. In a public position. Hm.

laura k said...

Just noticed my typo above.

and people very approach me. And if they do, it's for a specific question, not an aimless chat.

^ rarely

Amy said...

I live in a small town, and as I often say, the advantage of living in a small town is that everyone knows who you are. The disadvantage of living in a small town is ... that everyone knows who you are.

There is a lot of comfort in seeing people you know wherever you go, but it also can be a bit smothering. The one big plus was that I knew that my children always would know someone in a crowd in town if they ever needed assistance. For them, the disadvantage as they became teens was that they could not get away with much without being noticed by someone in town who knew who they were!

impudent strumpet said...

The problem is when the thing you're trying to get away with is buying a birthday present for your mum! Not only do you need to think of and find and buy a good present and smuggle it into the house, but throughout the process you need to constantly be ready with excuses if you should ever come home to "So Mrs. Next Door mentioned she saw you downtown today"

Amy said...

Exactly, IS! Hard to keep any secrets in a small town.