March 30th, 2015
One of the great things about New York is that the people who work, live or visit it are singular and contradictory. Based on recent observations–the preponderance of which were positive–I wonder if I’ve detected a trend.
Walking to work last week I heard the unhappy sound of crunching steel. Nobody was going fast in morning traffic on Second Avenue, so it wasn’t a loud crash–just an “oh, no!” kind of noise. The van and the SUV were each making a right onto 45th Street. The drivers pulled over to get out of the way and each jumped out of his vehicle. The van driver said “Are you alright?” to which the SUV driver said, “This was my fault.” I didn’t see if they were local. It sure didn’t sound like a New York kind of conversation and I was impressed.
The same day, on my way into my office building, I saw the security man, Eric, run for the front doors. That’s unusual. He sits behind a large desk in a spacious entrance, [photo at left] making people sign in, overseeing the elevators, the fire alarm equipment, and so forth. Unless he’s leaving the building, he’s never by the doors. But that day, he noticed a blind woman entering. She was clutching a support cane and a tenant, who was leaving the building, held open the door for her. Eric cheerfully escorted her to an elevator and up to the floor she was visiting.
I was chatting about a project on my mobile phone, focusing on hearing words over sirens and other street noise, racing to catch a train. After crossing a street I was suddenly confronted by a small lake of water that reached around the curb, requiring a 2.5 foot leap from street to sidewalk. [It mystifies that this type of water backup is typical of this island.] What complicated this crossing was that it occurred at a building site. Equipment lining the street and avenue gave me a few choices: Leap over the little lake and possibly miss and twist an ankle, sacrifice one of my shoes and splash my clothes or retreat to the other side of the street which was in the wrong direction. I said, outloud, “Oh my,” as much to the person I was speaking with as to the air. Suddenly a man ahead of me, who had just cleared the moat, turned and held out his hand and said, “I’ve always wanted to help a woman like this and I’m Jewish.” Note: New Yorkers often speak in such non sequiturs. I have no idea what he meant but was grateful. I called him “Sir Walter Raleigh,” and thanked him.
That same week, walking east on 53rd Street after dark, I heard a cacophony of sirens and honking and then noticed a procession of at least 15 police cars with flashing red lights crossing First Avenue heading west and intending to proceed up the street between First and Second Avenues. Stuck at a standstill, the siren noises ratcheted up a notch to a wild throb.
Meanwhile, a private car was taking its time parking, holding up the passenger cars behind it and the line of police cars. The driver was moving at such a remarkably slow speed that I noticed him. He was oblivious to both the ear-splitting noise and the flashing red lights that punctuated the night like a fireworks show a few feet in the air. All but one police car gave up on 53rd Street. Some backed out on to First Avenue while others swung uptown on the avenue. The parker was a poster child for a self-centered person oblivious to others or their surrounding. Too bad the police were in a rush because the parker should have received a fat summons and had his license revoked. Anyone this blind and deaf and disrespectful of the law should not be allowed to drive.
As a big fan of the city, the first three examples were thrilling. Do you think they’re indicative of a trend? Sadly I wasn’t surprised at the fourth. Are you? Have you noticed instances in New York or other cities that indicate a striking regard for others or the opposite?