Cold, Hard, Shiny New Yorkers

I understand that New York is a “cold, hard place.” People here are known for being insensitive and selfish. But seriously? I didn’t think it’d be this bad. I was blown away by the callousness of New Yorkers a few days ago.

I was waiting for a train at W 4th station around 8 PM. I had my headphones in, jamming to some Queen classics. In the corner of my eye, I saw an old lady get off a local train (I was waiting for the express train). Halfway through a song, I saw that the lady was still at the foot of the stairs. What is she doing? I thought, and took off my headphones. I realized that she was asking for help getting up the stairs. The poor thing, she had a cast on one arm and two bulky bags on the other. She was asking in the most pitiful voice, like a helpless child croaking for help after hurting itself. Several broad shouldered, healthy young men just walked right past her, ignoring her completely. I shot a disdainful look at the people sitting on the bench nearby, just looking over like it’s some kind of damn entertainment. At that moment, my train pulled in. I was already running late to dinner with a friend (who is never happy about my constant tardiness) I looked at the train, then at the old lady. Train, old lady. Train? Old lady? Ah, fuck it. I went over to her, click clacking in my stilettos (why today of all days? I thought).

Do you need help? I asked. Yes, yes please, she replied. As I was helping her up the stairs, she told me her story. She had just been released at the hospital, and nobody had come to pick her up. They released her with all the things she had on her when she was admitted. She thanked me profusely, saying that god had sent her an angel. Her voice started to crack, as if she was fighting back the urge to cry. What a poor, lonely soul. I kept telling her that  it’s nothing, and not to worry about it.

I assisted her all the way up onto street level, although she insisted that I go and catch my train after the first set of stairs. I couldn’t just leave her there. I tried swiping my metro card again, but the turnstile beeped and displayed “just swiped.” What rejection. Is this what I get for helping someone? What the hell happened to karma… what goes around comes around? No? Exasperated, I went up to the conductor and asked to be let in. The dude shot me a dirty look, saying that I should’ve let him know before going out the station. Seriously, New York? Give me a goddamn break.

Once back in the station, I waited for what felt like forever for another train to arrive. During the train ride, I mulled over what I had experienced. Something like that would never happen in Korea. The old lady wouldn’t even had to ask. Any person going by would consider it his or her duty to help her out, and would insist on helping her up the stairs. There wouldn’t be any hesitation or negligence. If such an event occurred in China, however, it would be a completely different story… but what can you expect from people who’ve been basically brainwashed for decades? A Chinese dude would stare you down on the subway and not bother to look away when your eyes meet. He’d just keep staring. This kind of widespread mentality and general rudeness took me years to get accustomed to. Anyway, that’s besides the point. I’m just trying to point out that we’re not in some communist country here. This is America. Isn’t it supposed to be a civilized country? Alright, alright. I’m not being fair. New York is not really America. But isn’t it   a metropolis supposedly filled with the world’s brightest minds? Since when is there a correlation between intelligence and selfishness? …Something to ponder over, I guess.

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About Han J.

Located in NYC.

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