As someone who was raised in New York, spent over a decade living in the South and now resides in Brooklyn, I think I know a thing or two about both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. And one of the biggest (and most infuriating) stereotypes southerners have about northerners (particularly New Yorkers) is that we’re rude; they’re “Southern Hospitality,” while we’re telling everyone they’re #1 with a certain finger. (Hint: It’s not the thumb. Or the pinkie. Think somewhere … in the middle.)
This bothers me because it’s not true.
So Rob, what’s the truth?
Ah, glad you asked!
Today, while exploring Prospect Park with my wife and two dogs, it hit me: Southerners are sayers, New Yorkers are doers.
What do I mean by this? Southerners are hospitable. But so are my peeps up here. It’s just a different kind of hospitable. Whereas southerners are more polite and well-mannered, people ’round here believe actions speak louder than words. So while a Yankee may not call you “sir” or “ma’am,” they most certainly will give you directions if you’re lost. And not just any ol’, “turn left at the police station” directions. Oh, no. More often than not, the direction-giver will do one of three things: 1) have you follow him/her to your destination, 2) draw you a map, or, in our case today, 3) give you their map.
Yes, that’s right. While walking around the park today, these two ladies were so enamored with our dogs (can you blame them?) that they stopped to pet them. We struck up a conversation and my wife asked them if they knew where the dog beach was. The ladies started to give us directions when, reading the blank expressions on our stupid faces, realized we would never find the dog beach this way. So, they just gave us their map. Not to reference, but to keep. Mind you, this wasn’t some emergency (we are talking about a dog beach, people; it wasn’t as if we were trying to get to the hospital).
Again, sayers vs. doers.
Yes, in New York the work week is for work, but head to a park on a sunny Sunday afternoon, where getting from point “A” to point “B” as quickly as possible is replaced with a slow, meandering stroll with the dogs/kids/loved one, and the kindness of New Yorkers is in full effect, for all to witness.
Maybe the pleasantries aren’t as pleasant up here, but the conversations are more genuine. Maybe we don’t have time to say “excuse me” every time we bump into someone on the subway, but ask us a question and we’ll give you an answer (or, if we don’t know the answer, we’ll find it, for sure). There is a sense of community that develops from this strange lifestyle we urban New Yorkers live that cannot be found in the suburban, car-reliant streets of places like Memphis and Atlanta (my previous two southern homes). People here aren’t as polite, but they are definitely more helpful.
Sayers vs. doers, people.
Now I’m not ragging on southerners, mind you. There is definitely a place for politeness, and my current home could often use a dose of it. Specifically when wheels are involved …
Those same people I’m bragging about become total (insert your profanity-laced insult of preference here) when driving a car or riding a bike.
The car thing is well known, well documented and, well, true. Besides the whole driving like maniacs thing, New Yorkers have a strange fascination with horns. Specifically, they think horns have magic powers.
While a normal person honks a horn to alert another driver to a situtation or to express anger toward those using bad driving ettiquete, New York drivers will use their horns to try and attempt any of the following:
– Unclog a traffic jam
– Move a bus
– Change a red light
– Change a flat tire
– Make soft-serve ice cream come out of their tail pipes
It’s absurd and it drives me nuts. But not nearly as nuts as those damn cyclists.
Seriously, these people are the worst. You give them a bike lane and they all think they’re Eliot Ness! (Get it? Untouchables? Yeah, I though it was clever, too.) Traffic laws do not apply to these people. Red, like green, means go. Whether you’re in your car or on foot, these nut jobs will zig and zag their way to near collision with you at every turn.
And the worst part? They never get mad! They always have the same, feces-eating grin on their faces when you call them out or give them a dirty look.
Maybe my car horn can make them disappear. I hear horns have magic powers up here.