So I was coming back from the gym at just a little after noon on a Sunday morning, when I was walking down one of the side streets and a middle-aged white lady was approaching me from the opposite direction. I am always very aware of my surroundings, so I noticed her as we drew nearer, but she surprised me just as we were about to walk past one another.
She said, “Good morning” to me.
Talk about catching your boy off-guard. Yet, it was almost as if I was taken back to another time and place, because almost immediately, I responded with a “Good morning” of my own, and a smile crossed both of our faces.
Now call me crazy, but I don’t think this lady was hitting on me. For starters, it’s not as if I was dressed as Uzo the writer. I was coming from the gym, after a Sunday morning workout and a long night out the day before. I looked half-groggy and half sweaty, nevermind that my baggy jeans and oversized sweatshirt probably made me look like public enemy #1. So throw out any ill-conceived notion that this lady said Good morning and flashed a smile at me because she was interested in me—even though I know that’s hard to believe that anyone wouldn’t be.
But why then?
Why would a middle-aged, white woman living in Harlem say good morning to a hood-looking, young, black man walking past her on a street void of any other sets of eyes?
Actually…Throw away the fact that she’s even white!
Nobody in Harlem says good morning!
Nobody in New York City says good morning!
Okay, maybe church members (on Sundays at least) and the hospitality industry pass out greetings like packs of Splenda. However, your average New Yorker, you know, the thousands of people you pass by every day on the Subway and sidewalks, doesn’t say Good morning; especially in situations when nobody can see what happens to them.
Or maybe that’s just my experience.
But I doubt that.
New York City’s nature is what it is. People are trying to get where they’re going, and they don’t really have the time for pleasantries that people share in the South, Midwest and other parts of the country where people aren’t always concerned about getting from one place to the next.
But why is that?
Is New York so different, that a simple good morning damn near scared me and compelled me to actually sit down and relive the experience on paper?
Say what you will, but New York gets a bad wrap for being a city full of rude people.
Yes, the city has more than its fair share of disgruntled, mass transit users that no longer have the patience to put up with time-wasting out-of-towners, tourists and other slow walkers and novice Subway riders.
And yes, even the riders that aren’t jaded seem to keep to themselves.
But you have to realize that New Yorkers have seen and heard a lot of things that cause them to act the way they do. I have actually seen a guy sit down next to woman, start a very polite, small-talk conversation, before he unforeseeably lashed out at her and started cursing her out. Those types of things, even when you’re not involved, can change how you act in this city forever.
While New Yorkers may skip the “Hellos” and the “How are you doings,” when stuff hits the fan, they are always there.
If it weren’t for the kindness of New Yorkers, there would be a whole lot more disgruntled, pregnant women standing on the Subway.
If it weren’t for the kindness of New Yorkers, how would mothers taking strollers on the Subway ever get their babies up the stairs?
And if it weren’t the kindness of New Yorkers, how can you explain this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gi4ClspNrNs
Unfortunately, when you’re riding the Subway for 45 minutes to go to some job you don’t like, at some time early in the morning that you don’t want to be there, just to pay the $2,000 a month for your sub-par apartment with rodent problem, you really don’t feel like talking in the midst of a crowd—even if you are genuinely a nice person.
So perhaps this lady who told me good morning yesterday was just putting her genuinely, nice persona on display. Perhaps she was having a good Sunday, a nice walk, and was actually one of the few white people who aren’t living in Harlem purely for monetary reasons.
Or maybe she was just trying to show a display kindness to ward off a potential attack from a guy walking the streets looking like the epitome of thuggish-ruggish bone. Either way, it was nice to hear “Good Morning” from a stranger for the first time in a long time.