Saturday, May 26, 2007

Third Avenue, May 2007

Yesterday as I was leaving the company cafeteria, carrying my cup of morning coffee, I rounded a corner and nearly ran into a man coming the other way. I had two reactions: Instant annoyance at his presence, and a need to define for myself why he was in the wrong place while I was in the right.

It's not really important where we both were in the hallway - in fact, according to traffic rules, I was probably the one in the wrong place. What was interesting, to me anyway, was that dual reaction and how quickly it came.

I think many New Yorkers live with a sort of perpetual low-level annoyance at people around them. There are just so many of us, crammed so close together, and we're always in each other's way. When I go to other cities I marvel at how spacious they feel compared to New York.

The instinct to blame him was a surprise, at least to me. There was a reflexive close-mindedness to the idea that I could be in the wrong. What inner insecurity or defensiveness brought that on? And even if I felt I had to deflect fault myself, why didn't I think of it merely as the unhappy accident it almost was, the result of blamelessly shared trajectories?

Of course, I didn't express any of these reactions - I just smiled and apologized. But how quickly our minds can classify and judge!

1 comment:

  1. I always feel the denseness of humanity when I'm in New York, too. Not so sure I would do well over the long haul in that city (I'm such an introvert!)

    One thing that helps out on the streets are the rules: stoplights, right-of-way, revolving doors, etc. Indoors there's no right-of-way. Interesting about your reaction but please remember you had just gotten your morning cup of coffee - until a person finishes said cup, all reactions are to be expected!

    Here in DC, people play "chicken" on the sidewalks. It's so bizarre. They walk straight at each other, never ever ever moving to one side or another. I used to always step aside, being a polite midwesterner. Sometimes now I just keep walking, to see when and if the other person will ever shift. I've bumped chest to chest with many a Washingtonian. The studidity of this stupid macho behavior always makes me laugh!