I don't usually blog about happenstances in New York City, but this morning something happened to make me think, and I had to share it with you readers.
I was riding the N train to work. It was a-chuggin' along pretty quickly, which is surprising since it's always stopping due to "construction" right around the 57th St. stop. So here I am in the subway car, minding my own business and reading my NY mag, trying to block out the incredible BO wafting through the air. A random bum walks through the car doors, a not unusual occurrence. Typically, most people just bow their heads and turn their eyes and hearts steely for a few moments until the bum realizes that none of these people are gonna give him money and then moves on to the next car. The bum this morning wasn't getting the memo, though... he was clearly psycho, walking around and cursing people out and ranting. No one was in danger, but it was definitely a sticky situation.
As I stood there, now just pretending to read my mag, the bum grew more and more irate, spit foaming at his mouth and his hands flailing around a bit. Luckily, the train came to a stop. I noticed a young woman get off and just move to the next car, safe and sound in seeming "normalcy" again. I couldn't fault her-- dude was crazy! But, as I myself got off at the next stop and climbed out of the station and off to work, I realized that it was that easy for us, as New Yorkers, to look the other way. This isn't a small town, where a crazy, drunk person comes along once every St. Patty's Day-gone-wrong. We're inundated with locos all the time, 24/7 (this is the city that "never sleeps" after all). And as the city becomes more and more gentrified, the insanity that originally attracted me to the bright lights of New York is slowly being wiped out. Being in NYC nowadays is like being on a movie set-- you have the tall buildings and cute little benches on the streetcorners, without the madness that comes with urban life. And when that madness pops up-- be it a bum on the train, or a bum following you home from the deli--we have no problem looking the other way. Why face insanity head on when the comfort of gentrification lies just around the corner, in your 3rd fl. walk-up on the UES? It's so easy to go about your business and just live your life, but keep in mind that you're basically turning your head on anyone who's less fortunate than you are...
Instead, all of the stress of the homeless and deranged falls on the shoulders of the city government. And, as we sit on the train reading our NY Times, we all love to complain about how the city is so whack and uninvolved, how we could do a better job. I'm not saying that this isn't a government issue, because it's definitely Bloomberg's responsibility to help the homeless and less unfortunate out. But jumping to the next car isn't proving that we can do a better job-- all it's proving is that we're too self-involved to care about doing a better job.
I'm not trying to moralize-- should we do something, even though sometimes safety might be an issue? Are we too self-involved?