Guest post by Sue Hollister Barr
A study established that, of all the cities in the United States, New York City is the friendliest and most helpful. I, who was born and have lived most of my life here, was not surprised. Especially when the study went on to specify that its criteria for friendly were not the sugary pleasantries you’ll never get in this tell-it-like-it-is town but the stuff that—at least in my opinion—matters. We’ll get you to the emergency room, even if we rail against your stupidity for having gotten yourself injured along the way.
It may be creepy and inappropriate from an outsider’s point of view, but we’re totally interactive.
I once saw a car, making a U-turn on a quiet Brooklyn street, knock a bike rider off his bike. Without a second’s hesitation, every single person who witnessed it sprang into action. Two people attended to the bike rider, making sure he was okay and telling him the car driver should be shot. A big guy grabbed the car by its open window and yelled at the driver, telling her she should be shot. Another two set about repairing the bike, straightening bent fenders and producing a necessary screw driver out of nowhere. Last to arrive on the scene, I and another witness gave the bike rider our contact info and told him we’d be willing to appear in court as witnesses.
A friend of mine, run over by a car, had a mob at her side in moments—making phone calls, attending to her medically, threatening the unresponsive, out-of-town car driver with violence.
“Like no other city in the world…”
Where else would so many people I don’t know exchange meaningful looks with me when we both witness the same thing on the street? In no other city would a perfectly sane and lucid stranger, waiting with me for a light to change before crossing the street, strike up our first conversation ever with, “I had the weirdest dream last night.” And then there was 9/11.
I could tell a lot of tales about 9/11 in this town, but the one I’ll tell in the current political climate, which illustrates what I consider the very best of New York City, is of a day when I took a cab across the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan more than a year later.
The cab driver and I hadn’t exchanged a word beyond my giving him the address of my destination. We drove across the bridge in silence. As always, I stared ahead of me at the seemingly empty skyline of lower Manhattan, trying to remember exactly where those twin towers had been.
Though I hadn’t said a word, the cab driver suddenly pointed and said, “Wasn’t it a little to the left of that building there?”
I didn’t have to ask him what he was talking about.
We moved from struggling to establish exactly where the twin towers had been to grappling with the horror of what had happened. He felt very strongly that we should thumb our noses at those who had taken them down by rebuilding the twin towers exactly as they had been.
We both raged, despaired, and finally got so choked up we couldn’t speak.
To break the tension, he politely asked if I had plans to be with my family for Thanksgiving.
I, correctly guessing his situation from a combination of things including his taxi license, asked him if he had plans to be with his family during the fast of Ramadan.
Brooklynite Sue Hollister Barr authored the horror novel Twisted, the sci-fi novella Rococo and has been published in the New York Times. Though she gets misty-eyed every time she sees the sun either rise or set, she loves to laugh and has a deep and abiding respect for anyone whose sense of humor is even darker than her own. Get more of "Holly's" take on her own blog here.