Walking the streets and subways of New York City I cross the paths of millions of people each day. Each time, leaving one room or place for another, I am faced with the awkward, nerve-wracking confrontation of doorways, gateways and tunnels. Now I don’t know why these crossroads of traffic cause this rush of anxiety over me, but for those few short moments I’m lost as to what I should do. I’ve tried holding doors open in the past, only to have someone brush by under my arm or around me without saying, “thank you.” I’ve even done “the long pause and go.” This is where you hold the door open for as long as it takes you to make it through. This of course left me with the same sentiments, or lack there of. I know I should probably be more concerned with dodging traffic and homeless people on the outside. However it’s these small encounters I have with my fellow man, or woman, which makes me wonder.
I’ve seen people go out of their way, increasing the length of their trip, just to avoid this very moment of confrontation. Is it the actual saying of the words, “thank you,” we fear? The obligation of offering up to a person nice enough to make sure the door doesn’t slam in your face (which has happened to me quite a few times), a simple phrase?
There are exceptions however. Women with baby carriages, old people (sometimes) and pregnant women. We see these people as being in a less than compromising situation which implies a nice gesture. But do we know what “the others” are going through? We simply see an able bodied person and think they are plenty capable of catching the door before it causes some type arterial damage. But what about the personal aspect I touched on earlier?
In a city inhabited by millions of people, not one of them wants to consider the other ten or twelve million. I don’t believe it’s because they don’t care, but simply because they do not want to engage with anyone else. We fear the simple statements and remarks. The awkwardness of having another person pass by you or possibly even touch you. Maybe it’s because no one wants to lose “the race.” Half the time we’re rushing to places we complain about being at anyway. Why not take an extra couple seconds to do something nice?
I guess this is just the direction we’re heading in. A nation of people racing past each other at speeds which makes it hard to consider the fact someone else exists. The rat race in all its glory. We’ve shed the layers of our humanity for the fur of vermin. No better than the ones walking the rails. Spinning the turnstiles without any care of who’s on either side.