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Sunday March 23, 2003, 04:58

Too busy, moving too fast, no time to smile.

The other day, walking (if you can consider what I was doing, arms swinging, feet propelling me toward home, to be merely walking) home from lunch, I passed by a taxi cab sitting at the stop light. From down the block I saw something hanging out of the back door. Getting closer I saw that it was the power adapter from some manner of Apple laptop computer and getting closer still I saw that it was dragging on the ground and would most certainly suffer irreparable damage if allowed to drag along the streets of New York.

I tapped on the window to the back seat of the taxi, alternately tapping and pointing at the ground. I didn't really stop walking. Tap-tap-tap. Point-point-point. Blank stares came from the passenger, and then he opened his door. I was most of the way past the cab at this point and had to turn to keep pointing at the ground. The passenger, still puzzled, was helped by two more passers-by who also pointed at the ground at the little white square dragging along the ground. Ah! He saw it and picked it up. I was several car-lengths gone by this point.

More than ever it seems that communication between New Yorkers is kept to an absolute minimum. I myself am guilty of it. Would it have been so hard to stop and say something, rather than pointing like a monkey? Apparently, since my fellow good Samaratins were unable to speak as well.

Best not to dwell.

Dwell. Who am I kidding? This war thing has me more tied up in knots than I actually would care to admit1. I am mindlessly obsessed with the news. Any news. The radio. Newspapers online. Non-commercial web outlets. I read through thread after thread of anti-war, anti-Semitic, anti-protester rhetoric on message boards. I read journals. I look for photos online of demonstrations that I witnessed in real life. I'm jumpy. I hear sirens and I wonder what has been attacked. I see fatigues and automatic weapons in the train station and I wonder who they're going to have to shoot. I hear motorcycles tearing up and down the street and all I want to do is walk outside and clothesline the riders off their bikes.

Ok, that last bit is a pretty typical response from me, even in peacetime.

No seriously. I have what I like to think of as a healthy aversion to bullshit. Removing the muffler from your vehicle in order to annoy as many people as possible is bullshit of the highest order and I, for one, am particularly put out by the fact that in a city that is naturally as noisy as it is that there are certain people who insist on disturbing that peaceful din. While shouting "What?! Your cock is too small?!" at the passing riders would be childish, ineffective, and might even cause me bodily harm, and while I can't imagine actually engaging one of these individuals in a debate over his right to a big noise and my right to not have to hear it, I never the less am filled with an intense hatred every time my already stressful environment is filled with the sound of a passing dipshit.

Which isn't to say that I'm looking for a completely antiseptic white-washed world. If I wanted that I would move to, um, actually, where would I move these days? A move to the suburbs is seen these days as nothing shy of a cynical attempt to escape the "hustle and bustle" of the city, replacing the antagonism of passing pedestrians to the complete apathy of passing commuters. A move off of the East Coast would be seen as the forfeit of several dozen IQ points and a move to a different country would paste the "anti-American" label squarely on one's forehead. Oh but the cynics in this town are almost enough to make it all look so good. There is the image of the hardened New Yorker that I like. Fast-walking and fast-talking, this person generally trusts very little. But give me a break. The conductor on the subway the other day thanked us for riding (and that we could all understand the announcement was enough to make me want to rejoice!) and the man standing next to me had to snort and tell me that "It's probably his first day on the job." He sneered and looked to me for added cynical approval. "Maybe he's just happy it's Friday. Friday! Happy day!" I offered. "Yeah, a Friday that's his first day." "Oh so cynical!" I said, "Maybe he just wants you to have a nice day." I got a grumble out of that and probably got painted as a tourist as he left the train.

It gets tiring, you know? I place it all under the umbrella of an overall self-centered attitude that comes from living in a city that has a reputation for picking you up and eating you alive. Carve out your niche and don't let anyone near for fear that you will become a statistic: someone who couldn't cut it in New York. Online, I read message after message from people telling others to go away, that there is no housing, there are no jobs and that the only people who are left are "kids" who are squandering away "mommy and daddy's money" and generally being a nuisance to the "real New Yorkers" whomever they are. In the streets I find myself surprised not by acts of hostility, but by those of kindness. I stopped to watch a squirrel and was thrilled when a mother and kids stopped to watch as well. They even waited until after I took some photos before approaching completely.

The point? No point. I am fairly certain that we call this "letting off steam" and it's far healthier to all parties involved than, say, walking out into the street and knocking a motorcyclist off his bike.



1. So I guess the part that I'm really sort of embarrassed about is that I used to think that there was someone out there actually looking out for my interests. Which is to say that if I worked hard and tried my best and looked out for myself and wasn't a total asshole, that there would be some sort of nebulous force in the form of the government of my country that was actually taking my interests to heart. And while many of my goals in life would not be the same as said government's goals, and while I might not be happy about all things policy and otherwise, at least I could be fairly certain that the people in charge were not actively trying to screw me, as a citizen of this country. I don't feel that way any more. And as the added kicker, most people to whom I admit this little fact about myself tell me that I am the biggest jackass ever to have felt this way and that of course the government doesn't care and of course my personal safety has never been on anyone's agenda and that I might as well just pack it in because really, everything sucks. I feel like they may be right. I'm not happy about it, but I might be forced to believe them.

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