A Year In New York

A Daily Bite of the Big Apple

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Day 55: A City of Strangers

August 20th · 3 Comments

On my first night in San Francisco I wait at a taco joint, and while people in line watch the cook sizzle up some carne asada, I watch the people. I turn to my friend Sherm.

“You know what it is about Californians?” I said to him.

“What?”

I lowered my voice. “They don’t like each other. Check it out, no one here wants to deal with each other.”

We glance around. Seems that everyone out tonight in the Mission District – a white bike messenger in dreadlocks, a Korean chick slouching in a motorcycle jacket, two Mexicans with wispy moustaches – is in the act of ignoring his or her neighbor, as if he/she were the only person in the room.

“If I were in New York right now, I could see strangers having a conversation,” I said. “I mean, they don’t want to deal with each other any more than people here. But they have to. They’re used to being mashed together in the subway.”

“Maybe it’s because this is the end of the world,” Sherm said, pointing his chin in the direction of the Pacific Ocean, that vast presence that gives San Francisco its fog and its chill. “This is where the West met the East, and after that there’s nowhere else to go.”

“Such different cultures. Maybe that’s why they don’t get along.”

“Or maybe it’s that everyone’s in their cars all day,” Sherm surmised.

“People in New York seem to like each other more. Everyone talks about how easy-breezy people are here in California, but they don’t exactly max out the friendly-meter.”

We pick up our burritos – the food here is fantastic, of course – and walk off down the street, having made new acquaintances with exactly nobody.

Tags: Dining · East Coast v. West Coast · Sights & Scenes

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bev // Aug 20, 2008 at 3:45 am

    I KNOW it! The standard saying is how rude NYers are. Au contraire! We were riding to Hoboken with Cha Cha to take cousin Antknee home our very first night in NYC ever! All this after having the fear of God put into us about even vacationing there in the first place. Fuhgeddaboutit!

  • 2 Michele // Aug 26, 2008 at 12:02 am

    aw. That’s sad. I find it untrue, as well. Anywhere you go, you get some friendly if you give some. I do this thing when I’m hiking where everyone I pass coming the opposite way gets my most blinding smile. It feels good and it gets results. Try it instead of whispering amongst yourselves. 🙂 btw, I left my job in at MVPL. I’m in Contra Costa County now. is good.

  • 3 Erica // Sep 14, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    A few days after you read this to me I was in line at the Hollywood Bowl, trying to get tickets. The guy in line behind me and I started chatting and pretty soon the people in front and in back of us joined in- a four-stranger conversation! So I don’t think it’s because we don’t like each other, it’s just that we usually don’t know how to deal with each other. Never assume malice when ignorance will suffice.

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