After spending the last three and a half years traveling around the U.S. we’ve come to at least one definitive conclusion: we New Yorkers get a bum wrap. For a long time, most of our lives actually, we assumed the stereotypes must be true. Everyone agreed, after all. New Yorkers are rude. A poll released this week, and The New York Post’s coverage of said poll, both confirmed it. But now, having meandered from coast to coast, from north to south, we’ve come to a different conclusion.
New Yorkers ain’t got nothing on some y’all.
We’re not even talking about the strange habit of non-city-dwellers to stand in the most inconvenient places; in the middle of sidewalks, in doorways, or – for crying out loud – the tops and bottoms of escalators.
No, what we’re thinking about today is the kind of conversation we’ve had with countless strangers over the years. Small details change from person to person but the general outline goes something like this:
Stranger: “Where in Texas you from?” Says a man (always a man) who stops to admire our Texas license plates
Us: “We’re not actually from Texas. We’re originally from New York.”
Stranger: “New York, huh? Better you than me. I wouldn’t be caught dead living there.”
At that point any normal person might feel justified in responding “So you choose to live here instead? Have you ever considered moving out of jerkwaterville to some place real?”
Of course we never actually say that. Why? Because we’re not dicks.
Usually we just nod and quietly hope the person will go away. Most of the time we’re not that lucky. On particularly unlucky days the stranger just transitions from insult to politics. We try not to indulge. “Nice day, today, huh?”
The disturbing thing is that none of these people ever seem the slightest bit self-conscious about trashing the hometown of people they just met. They do it reflexively, as if suffering from some form of Tourette’s syndrome. I’m not a doctor, so I can’t say for sure. But I do have a theory.
The ease with which they insult us, often with a knowing smile – sometimes even a wink – leads me to believe they’re not deliberately offensive. They’re simply clueless.
In their insular worldview no one would ever choose to live in New York. Certainly they wouldn’t. None of their friends would. Hell, nobody they know has ever been there so they can’t imagine why anyone would actually want to live in such a place.
It’s not an insult, or even an opinion. You see. It’s an undisputed fact.
Never mind that the 20 million people who have chosen to live in New York State might disagree. Of course, to consider that point you’d have to first know that New York is not just a city, but an entire state; one with beautiful open spaces, rolling hills, babbling brooks, hardworking farmers and, yes, even god-fearing Republicans.
On at least one blessed occasion we were spared all of this aggravation. That guy, upon hearing we weren’t Texans, turned on his heels, got in his car, and drove away without another word. We were stunned.
Now we’re just grateful. Silence is such a beautiful thing. Some people should use it more often.