A friend of mine wears flip-flops every day unless there’s snow on the ground. Walking with her is like pulling teeth, since her gait is compromised. You can’t walk quickly in flip-flops, making them not conducive for a New Yorker. They’re better for those with a slow, “I’ve got all the time in the world” stride. And that’s not me. As soon I step outside I shift right into fifth gear. So when I walk with her, I have to focus. Slow is not in my nature. I don’t do slow. But I’m working on it.
There are a number of reasons New Yorkers are in a rush. One is because we walk everywhere, making ourselves the vehicles to get us to our destinations, and we need to prepare for unforeseen hurdles such as crowded streets, packed train platforms, and slow elevators. We’re not so much running late, we’re just trying to stuff more into the limited hours of our day.
But it’s not just New Yorkers who are in a hurry. New York City itself is on a tight schedule. Trains, buses and ferries run on timetables; traffic lights are programmed; Broadway shows, movies, tours, spin classes and museums have set hours; and even some restaurants require reservations. It’s part of the attraction. But it’s not for everyone. Like in many cities, the locals tend to walk a bit faster than the tourists.
Last week I was walking swiftly along West 41st Street and passed a man walking at a different pace from mine, which is to say, leisurely, and our hands brushed. (Hey, this is New York City. Touching strangers is par for the course) Without stopping, I said, “Excuse me,” and continued on.
“Hey,” he yelled. “What’s your rush?”
Well, if I had the time to stop and tell him, then I probably wouldn’t have been rushing in the first place, right? I contemplated shouting a typical smart-ass reply over my shoulder, when it hit me: Why was I rushing? Was it really that important to arrive my usual ten minutes early? Would five minutes early have been so bad?
So I stopped, right there in my tracks, and turned around. As the man approached he caught my eye and his body language changed. Did he assume he was about to be confronted by a crazy New Yorker?
“Hi,” I said, when he got closer. “I wanted to answer your question about why I was rushing.”
He looked skeptical. “Yeah. Okay.”
“I was rushing because,” I said, then paused. “I really don’t know why.”
He smiled back. “No worries,” he said in a heavy New York accent. “I used to be like that, too.”