Guys, it’s just not that crowded. Sure, it is plenty crowded in New York. I could just as easily make this essay, “Why is it so crowded here?” because really, there are just So. Many. People. Crowds are basically part of New York’s DNA. But why does everyone have to act so goddamn awful?
My main problem with New York is that everyone here acts like they are the only person who matters at all. Try surviving one rush hour experience and you’ll see exactly what I mean:
- There’s the biker that you–the pedestrian–have to avoid or they will actually run you over;
- There’s the woman smoking in the little park with signs everywhere that say “No smoking in the park;”
- There’s the tourists blocking your way at the intersection as you rush to make the crosswalk;
- There’s the man who forcefully crowds onto the train when there’s a perfectly good train across the tracks leaving one minute after this one, who leans OVER YOUR HEAD for the bar the entire commute because you know, he really, really needs to hold that exact part of the bar, even if that means making you have a claustrophobic panic attack. (Don’t touch me!)
This idea that you’re just part of a huge crowd and so you can act as shitty as you want to get ahead is what makes New York the very worst. It’s not so much that everyone here is ridiculously cranky (though they are); it’s that to survive here, you too have to act like the center of the universe.
I made it about two weeks before I started to be like this. Soon, I too would push past people and squeeze in when there wasn’t room and yell, “excuse me” as crossly as possible at tourists taking up the entire sidewalk. All of a sudden, I was exactly what I hated most.
So a couple of months ago, I decided it was time to push back on being pushy. I started a few practices that I hope you’ll consider doing, too. They don’t always work, and I’m still awful plenty of the time. But if we could all try just be a little bit less awful, maybe the magic of New York might win out.
First, I prioritize those weekly activities that make me feel myself and whole and sane. You can’t put off yoga anymore, or going dancing and getting drunk with your girlfriends, or cuddling with your puppy. All the little things that help you calm down are important for a reason: They help you calm down!
Second, I try to ask myself these questions every morning, or especially when my blood starts to boil with annoyance:
- Will the world really end if I’m 30 seconds later into work? Am I really the one human holding this whole universe together?
- How are my actions, right this second, affecting the people around me?
- Does it make it any better if I didn’t mean to cut that man off? Or could I pay a little more attention?
- Would I want to be treated like this? Or is this the kind of behavior that really ruins the start of my day?
Third, I try to take two minutes for myself right after a commute before I engage with people. If the mood I’m in during my commute starts to seep into my workday or my date night with Warren, the whole thing can be ruined. Taking two minutes to look at Instagram, listen to a song, or even just breathe in silence for a few seconds can turn your whole mood around if you’re willing to let it.
Fourth, I do my very best (yeah, I definitely fail at this a lot) to keep my venting as small and localized as possible. If I tweet mean things about the man on the train, am I making the universe a little better or a little worse?
Lastly, I try to take advantage of the great experiences New York has to offer whenever I can. It’s easy to want to stay inside all the times I don’t have to be outside, and I end up doing this a lot. But it’s going to be really hard to survive here if commuting is your most frequent NYC experience. So buy tickets to see New York City Ballet’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by yourself, or agree to go to UCB late on a Friday when you really want to sleep. Do the things that you can only do here as often as possible.
New York is pretty tough, you guys. But if you try a little bit to be a little nicer, and someone else tries a little bit to be a little nicer, maybe it will all get a little bit easier for everyone.