I’ve been thinking about space lately. The physical kind.
My office is located in Soho, and this time of year hoards of tourists gum up the sidewalks. They don’t seem to get that a sideWALK is just that — for WALKING, as the name denotes. Not a sideSTOP for chatting in groups¦ or to look up at buildings¦ or to stand four across so no one can pass. These people never note they’re in the way of those who actually LIVE here. And, in order to move on, we must now parry in and out of whatever space is left just to go forward. Sooo frustrating!
Then, a friend’s son was a houseguest. As I’m lucky enough to have a rooftop terrace, he decided (and I only found out later) to sunbath in the nude. Now, I have nothing against this philosophically. After all, I’ve shed my own swimsuit striding along French beaches with nary a thought. So I wondered why this made me uncomfortable, and realized it was because this was IN THE CITY — without regard for neighbors who may not want to have fully frontal views across the way. Am I being overly sensitive?
Recently, basking in his own culture, a co-worker passing through went barefoot in my office, never stopping to consider that this was a place for BUSINESS, not his personal home. Shamefully, I didn’t rebuke him as I was short on time and too caught up with my own presentation. But, this was purely disrespectful (and, frankly, embarrassing as my clients walked in).
Most days, I hop a subway where New Yorkers notoriously avoid others’ gazes — what tourists call “being unfriendly,” but that’s not what it is. It IS having regard for others’ spaces and not wanting to invite someone into your own, particularly when your concerns are elsewhere. Some days you may be happy to give directions or make suggestions. But there is no requirement to welcome others, particularly where you don’t even get to select your seatmates.
Living in a densely packed environment, one learns to consider others. This is far different than inhabiting farmland or a beach community or a town where cars are the primary way of getting around. In those places there are fields, yards and even fences to protect your space.
So, OUT-OF-TOWNERS! Rather than putting down how busy¦ and harried¦ and unfeeling … and hurried New Yorkers are, think about it.
Maybe it is YOU who needs to learn and earn a little more respect from others.