One of the most common things people told me was that they loved my smile and that not enough people smile at them. I heard that more than half a dozen times. I noticed that lots of people smiled back at me when I smiled but not very many people would smile first.
On the second day of my trip, I turned to a young man while we were waiting to cross the street to ask for a recommendation for a good place to have lunch in the area. He was beginning to tell me about a place a few blocks up that he liked and then he just offered to walk towards the place with me since he was headed in that same direction. He told me he was a student and had been out of New York for a while and was just getting his bearings again. He was originally from the south, I believe from Georgia, and he mentioned that when he first moved to New York he found he was quite lonely because it felt that everyone goes about their days and makes very little connection with the people they pass on their way. He said that so many strangers approach you in New York, whether they are asking for money or handing you something that people begin to tune it out. He found that most New Yorkers basically want to be left alone. It’s such a foreign concept for me, since in Portland we aren’t confronted with masses of people every minute so I think people tend to engage strangers more often here.
In the end, my conclusion was that New Yorkers are nice people though. Everyone that I engaged was helpful and exceeded my expectations in terms of connecting with me. But New Yorkers are busy and in a hurry and the easiest way to move through this very congested metropolis is to look forward and keep walking.
The second day of my trip, I did receive several more kindnesses including friendly patrons on a bus who made change for me when I didn’t have coins to pay the bus fare, shop keepers who went above and beyond to help me find what I was looking for and a women gifted me with a 20% off coupon at Loehmann’s which I ended up passing along to another customer when I didn’t find anything I needed.
I also gave an unlikely gentleman a coin to throw in a “wishing fountain” when I heard him asking his friend for one. We both made wishes and shared a moment of connection. I also bought a gentleman a coffee and a donut and got the biggest smile and thank you of the trip in return.
The second, if you can’t get people to be nice, fine them! I laughed so hard when I saw this. Sort of New York style kindness.