Nothing Personal, Just Busyness

Great view of the New York City (NYC) skyline with a few high buildings and sun in the background.

“Feeling the New York City rush is rough.”


The month was August, and I was new to New York City. Up until this point, my only insight into Manhattan was the idea of what I thought I knew. My first experience of the big city was walking through the revolving glass doors into the Time Warner building located in Columbus Circle. With my exceptional Midwest courtesy, I figured I’d mosey my way through the doors. A tall gentleman about six feet five in height and rather stocky, barged in front of me. Thinking back to this instance, the experience made me highly upset. Who does that? Who muscles their way into a building without acknowledging the patron entering first? He gave me a slight smirk, as he turned his back to me. Once inside the building, I saw the sign which read, “Whole Foods.” The escalator led downstairs into the grocery store. The whole time on the escalator, all I could think about was how rude this guy was for pushing his way into the building. But then I realized, it wasn’t personal, just the busy movement of the city.

As I ascended on Whole Foods, the grocery store consisted of a plethora of selections. The prices were out of my range of affordability, coming from Southeastern Wisconsin, but I chose to purchase lunch nonetheless. Choosing from the variety of hot dishes, I waited patiently for the patrons to scoop their food into containers. I quickly learned my kindness was a weakness, as one-by-one people walked ahead of me. Wow, how could you not see me standing here? You saw me allow the lady to go first, being the gentleman that I am. Now be courteous to me, and allow me to retrieve my meal. Yet no one even made eye contact with me as they forged ahead. Once again, it was a feeling of nothing personal, just in a hurry. Eventually, I was able to choose my meal, and walked to the queuing system, which was colored coded to maintain order. This system was fair yet lengthy, as the television screen showed my color and register available. After paying for my $20 lunch, (yes, that’s right, for lunch, way more than I’m used to) I made my way out of the grocery store back into the Manhattan city streets.

Standing near the crosswalk, the light turned red. My attention shifted vertically as I became transfixed on the rich architectural structures. Next thing I knew, a wall of people came crashing from behind me, as well as in front of me. I felt as if I were caught in the middle of one of the occasional tornadoes I’ve experienced in small town Wisconsin. To keep from being a victim of the moving traffic, I crossed the street along with the pack. Once across the street, I thought to myself, “I’m pretty sure that light was red; who crosses on red?” No one acknowledged me, nor each other, as cars and bicyclist sped past who had the right away. But observing the scene, it was yet another case of, hey, nothing personal, just in a hurry.

Walking these mean streets, made me retreat to the underground. So I purchased my ticket from the metro machines in the subway system. Holding my single ticket, I walked through the turnstile and threw my ticket in the garbage. Standing near the yellow caution line, the train came barreling through the station. As the train came to a stop, I didn’t realized the barrage of people who emerged behind me. The train doors opened, feeling my body involuntarily move forward, I could tell it wasn’t all my bodily force. People were behind me, forging forward, for a chance at a spot on the train. I managed to get a seat, yet allowed an elderly woman the opportunity to rest her feet. She sat down, but there was no acknowledgement of me showing her courtesy. She sat down, without any regard for my kindness. The train ride left me flustered, as I rode the three train headed toward the Upper West Side, on my way home. Yet once again, none of the behavior was personal, just people getting where they had to go.

Once I got home, which at the time was a dorm room, I felt safe and secure. I had my television, my food, and my bed. The roommate was gone, and the room was all to myself. Contemplating about my first day experience in New York City, I thought to myself, “What a rude city?” At that moment, I turned to the local news. A fire broke out at a home in another borough, but the firefighting team risked their lives to extinguish it. Another story involved a car accident in which bystanders stepped in to assist the injured person. There was also a news story about how a child went missing from an elementary school, yet people quickly stepped in to find the missing child.

Then it dawned on me, New Yorkers are not any less compassionate than the rest of their fellow Americans; it’s just a busy city. I thought back to September 11, 2001, when citizens stepped in to help one another proceeding the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Towers, or even the helping hand from citizens to victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Complete strangers risked their own lives to save people they didn’t even know. Yet on any other day they might have walked passed these same individuals. It made me realize, it’s not because New Yorkers are rude or hateful; nothing personal, just busy. Busy with their jobs, busy caring for their children, busy in their marriages, busy in your personal lives. Don’t take it to heart because in the end, when faced with adversity and widespread disaster, the city is there for its fellow New Yorkers. 


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