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  • Writer's pictureMaureen Seel

New York and a lesson in impatience.

Something I have come to realize since moving to New York is that deep down, I've always been a New Yorker at heart-maybe even since I was a child. I grew up in Missoula, Montana. It's a big city by Montanan standards, but small by probably everybody else's. My partner and I moved to Brooklyn last June and I'm starting to feel less like an outsider. In fact, it is now my firm belief that I have always belonged here.

You've probably heard New York called "The city that never sleeps". But you should also know that not only does New York City never sleep, it never stops moving. It's always in a hurry. There are so many places to go and things to do, and everybody is in a hurry to go and do those things. And when something gets in the way, it will inevitably result in an expression of frustration, like someone pushing past you on the escalator, subway, or sidewalk, someone shouting an obscenity at you, or honking their car horn.

I first started to realize that maybe I've always been a New Yorker when I took the time to think about the fact that I am one of the least patient people I know. It's been a less-than-attractive trait of mine since I was a kid. When I was younger, I never understood how things didn't just happen instantaneously. I didn't get how when I ordered food, the food didn't appear. I didn't get how when a movie was no l longer in theaters, it wasn't instantly available on video. Some of this I definitely attribute to always thinking a little differently than others. As I grew up I, perhaps, became a bit more reasonable about my expectations, but my impatience only shifted to other frustrations, namely drivers. I had road rage that stressed me and my friends out to the point that one of them bought me a red rubber squeaky baseball bat. I used to whack the dashboard with it whenever I was annoyed.

When I wake up in the morning, it is usually to the sound of car horns honking impatiently at the intersection outside my apartment building. I don't need to see it, but I can tell you now (after frequent observation) the light probably changed only seconds earlier.

can almost hear the thoughts of the people in their cars.

"It's green-why am I not moving? Why are you not moving? Why aren't we moving yet?" followed immediately by rage and frustration in the form of various types of honking and beeping in futile exasperation.

I feel this exact feeling at a crosswalk when people are walking in public. When they're staring at their phones or looking around instead of walking across the street like they should be. I can't restrain the "tsks" of frustration and annoyance. The vast majority of New Yorkers that I know are annoyed in the same way I am. If you're slow, stay to the right. If you need to look at your phone or call someone or do anything that could distract you from moving forward in the direction of your choosing. This brings me to another point-choose a direction and walk (and/or drive) in it.

This brings me to my next example of my impatience: My deep and abiding hatred of people I define as "sheeple". Granted, this is not the internet's definition, which refers to people that are easily persuaded, misled, or fooled. My own definition of Sheeple is people that behave like sheep in a herd. Sometimes they do travel in herds or large groups. This is most common in touristy areas like Time Square and large shopping centers like malls and Wal-Marts. Frequently, they will break into smaller groups 2-3 people wide if the pathway is narrow-like the sidewalks in New York City.

Sheeple can also be found traveling alone. When alone, they often spend time staring down at their phones instead of looking at where they're going. They're busy looking at tall buildings, signs, maps, and just about any place other than in front of them. They are unaware of their surroundings or other people around them (not part of their herd). You can bump right into them and they either act like it is your fault or remain entirely oblivious to the fact that they bumped into anything at all. They walk slowly, mainly because they're not looking where they are going.

Common responses to Sheeple include

-Annoyed "tsks" when walking past Sheeple (often audible)

-Rants to your friend or partner about how annoyed you are with the incompetence of people (usually loudly enough for the sheeple in question to hear)

-Audible *harumphs* as you (maybe noticeably) bump into someone because they're not being courteous on the subway or they're in the way on the escalator.

The thing is, it's really all about common sense and common courtesy. If you slow down (whether you're driving or walking), traffic piles up behind you. If you're not looking where you're going, you will slow down. You expect courtesy from others but your behavior is not courteous to those around you.

So with the understanding that New Yorkers may not be jerks necessarily, but possibly impatient and annoyed because of a lack of common courtesy or sense, I think it's important to share some advice with those considering a visit to New York:

  1. Move over.

Got a text?, call or someone sent you a funny meme or TikTok? That's ok. Step off of the sidewalk as soon as you can and take your call or text. Just don't stare at the phone as you walk-this means you're distracted and often this causes people to wander from on side of the sidewalk to the other aimlessly, slow down, not pay attention to things like traffic and pedestrian cross signals. Be safe, and don't be annoying. Keep it moving.

Unsure what direction you're going? Lost or confused about something? Don't continue to walk, staring upward at each cross street. Most people have phones-so you can step off to the side and double-check your directions. Using a map? Most New Yorkers will recognize someone who is lost and many will stop to help you. Will they be super nice? Sometimes, but it helps to remember that people in New York are kind, but not always nice. They'll help you, but they won't blow sunshine up your ass either. What good is it to say "Oh I'm so sorry, I wish I could help!" When your tire blew out and you're blocking traffic behind you? But a person that pulls over to help you change the tire, regardless of if they're happy or nice about it, is the person that is helping you and truly being kind. Keep it moving.

2. Keep it moving

Just enjoying your walk? Or maybe you are getting around slower today. Are you on crutches or maybe had too many mimosas at brunch? That's ok! Just stay to the right. It's just like driving (in the States anyway). If you're slow, stay to the right and people can get around you. Do not walk in the middle of the sidewalk. Do not walk 2-3 people wide or in big clusters. (Unless you're in a group of tourists, in which case, come back to New York when you're not being herded everywhere.) Just know when to move over. As previously stated, people are in a hurry and the city needs to keep moving to function. Time Square is a perfect example of this. People-watching is great if you're seated or out of the way instead of standing and staring or clustering together in groups on the sidewalk. When you live here, the touristy areas are usually not places we seek out (eg: Time Square, the Empire State building) because a lot of us are just trying to catch ythe train home after work or get somewhere. It gets annoying for those that live in NY, because people are not only not paying attention, they're in the way us getting to our destination safely and as quickly as possible. (Word of caution, don't try riding a bike in Time Square. Just don't do it.)

3. Don't let it get you down.

New York is not for everybody. It may be somewhere you just visit and never live. You may never visit-maybe the things I've described in this article will be enough to scare you away. But if you do visit, just remember, people that live here have a very different experience than those who visit. We have a lot of ground to cover, lots of walking to do, and we're always in a rush. But when you look beyond that, the city has so much to offer. We have some of the best bars, food, museums, and architecture in the country. So come and visit sometime. Just remember-keep it movin'!

(PS: This is more of a courtesy/heads-up. If you see a subway car that is pretty empty or very empty and most other cars are packed, don't go into it. In my first experience it was a person who had urinated on the floor and it had traveled maybe a third of the way up the train car. There's a reason it's empty.)

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