I spent this past month of July with family in New York City, and while I have been a Houstonian for the last six years, I was quickly reminded what I miss the most about this city.
I think what connects New Yorkers with each other is the sheer knowledge of knowing the struggle associated with the transportation system. Taking a cab to explore Manhattan doesn’t exactly convey what the City is about. To truly understand the so-called “New York values,” it is necessary to explore the city in its native form: through the MTA. Only through that medium can one meet New Yorkers in their natural habitat.
In the four weeks I have spent there, the buses and subways became a usual place of seeing acts of kindness by strangers for people they have never met. The second someone elderly or a parent with young kids came on, people would immediately leave their seats. While this is nothing but common courtesy, New Yorkers are notorious for their rudeness, and these actions clearly contradict that notion. In order to go anywhere from where I was staying, I had to take the Q9 bus and the E train. And since the E train stops by the JFK airport, there are plenty of travelers and tourists aboard it.
One of the days I was on E, I saw a family of four rush onto my cart right before it closed. They each carried a suitcase and appeared quite exhausted. Immediately, a woman got up and gave the youngest daughter her seat. The family quietly conversed in what appeared to be a European language I did not recognize, and the mom pulled out one of those foldable maps of the city.
Hesitantly, she got up and asked the very same woman who gave up her seat something about how to reach her destination. The woman, who had been listening to music, took out her earphones and gave her undivided attention to the mom who was very much confused. They both talked for a bit as the mom asked her about the different routes in her broken English while the woman calmly answered all her questions. The mom then gladly thanked her and shared whatever she had just learned with the others.
This small incident warmed my heart because of how genuine it was. And just when I thought it was over, the woman approached the mom and told her, “Ma’am, I get off on this next stop, so let me explain it to you one more time. In case you need any more help, I have already told this gentleman right here to assist you guys with any directions.” I couldn’t stop myself from smiling at this small yet beautiful interaction. The woman had no obligation to do this and neither did the man who agreed to further aid the family, but they did, because they were true New Yorkers. They understood that New York is a harsh city, and how lending this family a hand would be a small but important contribution to ensure that this family reaches their destination easily.
I know that this was just one situation, and that there must be rude New Yorkers for this stereotype to exist. However, for every rude one, there are ten like that woman who is helpful and ready to help a fellow citizen out.