So I was looking at magazines at the big Hudson News in Grand Central at about 1:30 one afternoon when I felt a persistent pressure against the middle of my back. I stepped away to the side and turned to see what it was. “It” was some essentially normal-looking, darked-haired woman, about 5-foot-2, maybe in her 40s, wearing a beige parka, dark pants, flat shoes. She looked like a working commuter mom— I mean, she didn’t appear to be insane. “Did you just push me?” I asked in complete disbelief.
“Well, you were in the way,” she replied in a nasty, whiney voice as she reached for a copy of some food magazine.
“You couldn’t say, ‘Excuse me’?”
“You were just standing there in front of all the magazines,” she whined, furiously flipping through the pages.
“I was standing there because I didn’t know you were behind me!” I was staring open-mouthed at her, but she wouldn’t look up at me.
“You were in the way.”
“WERE YOU RAISED IN A BARN? Don’t you know how to say, ‘Excuse me,’ if you want someone to move?”
She thrust her magazine back on the shelf and turned away. “Never mind,” she muttered.
“What, were you raised by baboons? You can’t go around pushing people out of your way!”
She started to walk off.
“I don’t care how old you are,” I said—loudly—“the next time you push me, I’m shoving you back!”
The accusation that she was old really hit a nerve, I guess, because she walked off swearing like a sailor. Or like someone brought up in a barn. By baboons.
“Did you just push me?” he asked.
“You’re in the way,” the woman answered.
Etcetera. We don’t think it was the same woman. It sounds as if his was younger, and also probably a junkie. I don’t know what was wrong with mine.
I also don’t know what the heck was wrong with the woman who sat beside us with her two daughters when we went to see “Hunchback” at the New Victory Theatre, but when I complained about her daughters talking nonstop all the way through the show—including talking on their cellphones—she said, “It’s their first time at the theater, they’re entitled to ask questions.” I guess I’m entitled to never, ever go to a show at the New Victory again, but there’s not much I can do about standing at the newsstand or waiting for a table at a restaurant. I just hope the Baboon People don’t push me too hard.
Addendum, 12/19: I appreciate all the Listener comments about this post, especially because I see we are not all within the same frame of reference. Of course there are rude people in New York—there are rude people everywhere. I was trying to describe what I think of as a new type of self-entitled rudeness that I haven’t seen here before. I blame the disneyfication of New York for removing the consequences of bad behavior. It used to be, if you jostled someone, even accidentally, you apologized immediately before the situation escalated. Now it’s like that girl a few years ago who was being mugged by a guy with a gun and said, “What are you going to do, shoot me?” Well, she’s dead now. I think people are moving here, and New York doesn’t seem so scary as in the old days (when, for example, on my way to the radio station I once was chased through the Port Authority Bus Terminal by crackheads and there was not a cop in sight). These folks have seen the all-white middle-class New York on TV, the New York where you leave your apartment door unlocked so your friends can pop in at any time, and they don’t realize they still need to behave themselves. The Bad Thing could still happen.