New York is known for a few things: wonderful and innovative food; the world’s best art and fashion; and terribly, horribly rude people who are always in a hurry. Coming from Montana the mere mention of New York will set Ma or Pa off on a tirade about how “them people dun’ know how ta just settle down an’ be nice for one gosh durn minit!” Even people who have never been in New York nor really interacted with a New Yorker will discuss at length with you the problems of those awful East Coasters and their refusal to act with a modicum of politeness.
And to an extent, they’re right.
The thing is, if you move to New York you are often in a rush, and you do get a bit ruder. You have to. But it’s not because you get sucked into some sort of respect-stealing black hole, or because the city is located on top of a portal to Hell, a la Buffy; the problem is that so much of being in New York is about waiting.
Let me explain: when I lived in Montana I lived seven miles out of town. This means that to drive to me (and pretty much everyone I know had a car or had access to a car) took roughly 15 minutes — maybe 30 minutes if they lived on the opposite side of town and it was snowing and there was traffic AND they happened to stop and watch a group of deer grazing on the way. Living where I did, I often had friends tell me they didn’t want to come over to my house because it “took so long to get there.”
Fast forward a mere month to New York, where I discovered that the first apartment I moved into was a mere 15 minutes away from the first friends I made in the city and we all did a little dance, because, suddenly, being 15 minutes away was amazingly close.
So, you see, New Yorkers don’t rush because they are self important; they rush because they waste so much time not moving at all. Meeting a friend for a quick cup of coffee doesn’t really happen in New York because getting to that coffee shop often takes twice as long as the meeting itself, and who wants to do that?
When we discuss why New Yorkers rush, we must discuss the rudeness — ah yes, the signature trademark New Yorker attitude. The rudeness is born not of spite but of futility. If you have never lived in New York or an equally bustling metropolis you will never understand the fury that overcomes you when two people with suitcases decide to waddle down the sidewalk, side-by-side, at the speed of molasses on a Canadian winter day. Sometimes walking through the streets of New York make me feel like I’m in the labyrinth and have to get past the minotaur, only there isn’t a single minotaur; there are seven million immensely slow hulking creatures blocking my path and ensuring my loss of sanity.
It’s like Chinese water torture: one slow person, ten slow people, you can deal with, you move past them without a second thought. But at some point, maybe around 6,723 humans that seem intent on being nothing more than fleshy roadblocks, someone moving slower than my grandma does in her walker is liable to make the bile rise up your throat and into your eyeballs.
And what about stopping in the street to check your directions? If you need to find out where to go, I don’t begrudge you for pulling out your map or smartphone to check your location — I once got lost for two hours shortly after moving because I thought I was going south when I was going east — but if you’re going to do that, do it while leaning against a wall, not at the top of the bloody stairs!
Every New Yorker tries to exert some sort of force over their own transit-fate because, ultimately, they are powerless. Finding the worst place to stand in the entire department store and slowing everyone down isn’t done out of ignorance; it’s raising your fist at the heavens and shouting, “You see? I can do that too!” And then desperately sobbing.
While we’re on this subject, let’s talk about honking, a side effect of the fact that sometimes automobiles seem to lurch slower than a senior pushing a shopping cart down the sidewalk. Only, when talking about honks we must talk like Yoda. “Honks lead to anger; anger leads to fear; fear leads to the Darkside. Born of the Darkside, honks are, and lead to the Darkside, they do. Only causing more honks, honking does.”
The truth is New Yorkers are ruder sometimes, yes. We can’t deny it. This is not because of some miasma of anger lurking in the streets; it’s just because getting around this city is such a pain in the butt.
I know why the New Yorker Rushes
And gripes and sneers at windows,
Empty Starbucks in his hand.
No taxi in sight again and
The Q train has not arrived in so long.
She wishes for freedom
A way to escape these endless avenues.
Perhaps a turquoise Vespa,
or even a lawnmower.