Take for example that most of the mundane things New Yorkers complain about are simultaneously interesting and common. The smells in certain subway cars some days are sometimes worth mentioning in order to watch people make disgusted faces. The fights seen or gotten into or recorded on buses are probably actually hilarious. Disagreements in politics can be caused by genuinely entertaining issues and lead to watching YouTube clips of young people dancing (sometimes phenomenally) on trains. Even plain complaints–ugh, there was one of those annoying people leaning on the whole pole just now, who had one butt check on each side–serve as points of bonding with the majority of people every New Yorker will ever meet. Because we’ve all been there, but that doesn’t make it boring to hear someone else’s telling. It’s probably actually hilarious. The City has a good sense of humor like that. Laughter is the best medicine, and so the City can stand a dense population. It can muster being a deeply communal space. And at my core, I do long for communal living but I never had to know it.
Don’t get it twisted. In the case of New York City, I do not mean to universally equate communal with friendly or hospitable although New York City is a friendly and hospitable space *for me.* I mean communal as in communal. Millionaires share seats on trains with homeless people. When a Duane Reade is open 24 hours it is because that’s the only way to efficiently serve the number of people sharing it. Fire escapes in the back of buildings publicly serve as nurseries and laundry rooms and places to smoke or write or read and New Yorkers stay sharing semi-private moments with neighbors across allies. We learn to appreciate and respect each other this way. Even when we hate each other. Because for all the Fuck Yous I’ve screamed at cabs cutting me off in crosswalks, I’ve always trusted the cabbies and me to work it out evenly unscathed.
That’s why I’m surprised I took for granted the the traffic patterns in Manhattan’s mixed-use neighborhoods, like the one I lived in. When getting from point A to point B on foot in mixed-use neighborhoods, I never stopped walking and I consistently jay walked safely. The timing of the lights, the speed of the cars, my own speed, the position of the trees and hydrants and stop signs and food carts in space are all synchronized so that the urban ecosystem basically dances, encouraging everyone to be efficient and not hold no one else up either. That’d just be rude.
Not every place is going to possess this kind of space. I think more should. I think respect and sharing should be forced on society at large by society at large. But in the meantime, outside and away from my NYC bubble, I need to learn intentionality. I need to learn how to build community where I must and join community when I can. I need to learn patience and how to basically chill. Also how to laugh more regularly. With or without the mundane.