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This Friday morning, I was walking in the snow down 1st Ave. It was 8am, and everyone was rushing to work, trying to walk quickly through the piling snow. Traffic was backed on the avenue, and drivers were honking at each other, letting out their frustration from the weather and from the TGIF that turned into a daytime nightmare. On the side streets, some people were shoveling snow and sprinkling rock salt on the sidewalk. The snow came at the worst possible time of the day, and perhaps the worst possible day of the week.
I went into a coffee shop on the corner of 90th and 1st to escape the cold, and sat down to drink my morning cup. At the table next to me, two middle-school kids were sipping hot chocolate while playing video games on their phones, and at the same time preparing for a test. They sat across from each other, tapping fiercely on their mobile devices, while asking each other questions about the US Constitution and about the Bill of Rights. It was a perfect New York moment, as if it were staged in a move scene, and it reminded me how much I love this town. Yet I was unsure about the reason that it so clearly made me see it this way. What was it about the sight of these two boys in the coffee shop that made me feel that it was special? What made it a memorable moment to share? What is a New York moment anyway…?
I started thinking of past times where moments like this caught my attention: A group of old ladies sitting in a diner in alphabet city last winter, a businessman in a suite eating a hot dog and talking to the guy at the hot dog stand, The dog walker at the Upper West Side who is walking eight dogs and crossing the street while they pull her in eight different directions. There were similar aspects of these little scenes that make them put a little smile on your face. Getting more curious about this, I started looking up New York moments that people shared online. I found pictures of people sitting in the subway on a chair they brought from home (sometimes a whole sofa), the invention of the cronut (croissant dough, donut shape), and Monica and Ross from the TV Series Friends doing the quirkiest dance on Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
I guess New York moments are cool, because they involve self-expression: doing the weird thing without caring what people think. They also involve situations that bring together people from all walks of life, often around food (the cronut, donut, bagel, hot dog, and pizza – food that transcends social status, gender, and age). In one word – New York Moments are casual. In sharp contrast to the city’s buttoned-down, sophisticated reputation, these moments are jeans, baseball caps, hot dogs, Subway sofas, goofy jokes, and kids sipping hot chocolate. It’s that contrast between the self-important hustling and bustling rhythm of the city, and the slow, connected, mindful pace that sometimes people find in it. Such moments touch the invisible bonds between people. Bonds that can only be revealed when you stop being an attorney, a stock broker, a fashionista, or a construction worker, and allow yourself to simply be the bagel-loving human that everyone is.
Today, make it a point to have at least one NY moment. You can have it whenever and wherever you are. In the busiest time, pause for a second, talk to someone, share a bite of sugary/greasy food, laugh, or talk about the weather with a stranger. Dump your ego, and be causal about life, not taking it too seriously. If you can enjoy it like a kid playing video games in a coffee shop, there is nothing more you will ever need.