Phil Dreizen

kindness in NYC

I was on the subway yesterday. A woman and her daughter left a backpack at their seat as they were exiting the train, and a guy sitting across from them rushed to get the bag, ran to the doors, got the woman's attention and handed her the bag. But once she expressed gratitude for it, the guy simply gave her a curt head nod, and sat down and seemed to avoid making eye contact with her. She really wanted him to acknowledge that she was grateful for getting the bag back to her, and as the subway pulled away from the station, she waved at the guy, who responded with a weak lifting of his arm - vaguely acknowledging her while seeming to brush her off. He never smiled at her. He never said "no problem." Was he annoyed that he "had" to help her, and resented her for it? I don't know (but I don't think that's it either).

I see this kind of behavior in New York fairly often. It's an odd mix of rudeness and extreme helpfulness. I see gruff New Yorker's volunteering to give stranger's directions all the time. Sometimes, I'm that way myself. New Yorker's have a reputation for being rude, and perhaps that's accurate, but I don't think it should be confused for a lack of helpfulness or kindness.

But I am curious. Why the hell are people in New York like this?