I’ve found that the most profound sense of being truly alone in a big city is when you’re sick or hurt. You really have no one else to rely on and you’re at your most vulnerable.
And it never fails to amaze me how most New Yorkers just can’t be bothered to show a little compassion, or when they do, they make sure you know they are being bothered.
Case in point, I wiped out on the sidewalk last night in Hell’s Kitchen. My foot crumpled beneath me when I tried to take a step. This actually happens to me a lot, so I’m used to the fall-sit there-gingerly get up process. Yes, this probably speaks to some deeper issue with my bones, but we’ll put that aside for the moment. More often than not, people slow down just enough to make sure there’s no blood and then keep walking. A man actually stopped long enough to help me up, but it was as if he was the White Rabbit. I could practically feel him urging me to be fine so he could cut short his show of empathy and get to his destination. I mercifully freed him by saying I’d be okay. Another gentleman stopped and actually tried to help me get a cab, suggesting I sit down, etc. When it became apparent that catching one would take a while, I thanked Guy #2 for sticking around longer and “freed” him as well.
It’s so strange. This sense that you’re imposing on someone by daring to be hurt.
A coworker of mine was actually threatened by a crazy person on the subway Friday morning. She came in sobbing. Listening to the account of her ordeal, what stood out to me was that no one on the train bothered to try and help her, to intercede. Shut away in their own worlds, in their personal bubbles of “I don’t see you,” they chose to pretend this poor young woman wasn’t being threatened right in front of them. Why? If she’d actually gotten shot in front of them, without them helping, would that really have more acceptable than getting shot trying to help her? What kind of person thinks, “As long as it’s not me, I don’t care”?
Are people really in such a hurry, so convinced of their own importance, that simple acts of kindness are a burden?