Who says all New Yorkers are mean?

Ok, before I go writing about the nice people I’ve met here, I should say that I have found, overall, the stereotype to be true. New Yorkers are typically hurried, angry and rude people. They honk at you from their cars or yell at you from their bikes or push you as they try to walk by. I’ve had some of the worst customer service I’ve ever experienced and seen people be more bitter to those serving them than I ever expected. In general, you can tell who the Midwesterners are because we smile and say things such as ‘please.’

That said, there are nice people in New York.

This past week, I only had to work a day and a half, so I did a lot of exploring on my own and, as it happened, encountered a lot of people.

On Tuesday, I tried for the first time to go to The View. I got in line for standby tickets at 8 and was number 16. The first 13 got to go. Right in front of me were a mom and daughter from Ohio. The daughter had also just graduated college, and they were on a vacation before she starts her job. Right behind me was an older woman who lives in the city. We all struck up a conversation, and they asked about my internship and school and were generally very interested in what I was doing with my summer and how I ended up in New York. The woman was actually a Columbia journalism grad and worked for a talent/modeling agency, and she kept insisting that I must be at Shape because I’m a model. (No, I’ve seen the models, I told her, and they’re all about three inches taller and 15 pounds lighter than I.) The next day, the mom and daughter were in line with me again – this time an hour earlier. I got to go in, but sadly they didn’t. However, we again chatted for a while, and when they were turned away, the mom hugged me as we said goodbye.

Later that day, I went to St. John the Divine (I think the largest cathedral in New York) to check it out. While I was walking around, an older lady with an (I want to say) German accent walked by pushing a stroller with a baby in it. Apparently it was clear I was sightseeing, and she took the time to show me a round a bit, tell me a lot of the history and point out some highlights. Without her I never would’ve seen the beautiful garden that has three peacocks, which have been at the cathedral for decades.

Then I was on to Columbia University. As I stood across the street from the entrance taking a picture, a woman asked me if I wanted a picture of myself in front of it. (This happens every so often, and I always say no. I like pictures of the things themselves.) Turns out she’s worked at Columbia for decades, so she showed me around and pointed out the best buildings to go see. She also was very interested in my degree and internship and excited about my future. She told me about a grant program through Columbia, insisted I should apply after I graduate again, and told me to tell them that she sent me. She seemed very spiritual and was on her way to a prayer luncheon. As she left, she told me, “I think we were supposed to meet.”

Tuesday afternoon I was walking around Greenwich Village, and I passed a bakery called Amy’s Bread. I had seen this before and had it on my list of places to eat (for obvious reasons), so when I saw a sign that said it was their 18th anniversary, I decided I needed to go in. I asked if there was anything special going on for the anniversary (because I was being unobservant), and the girl behind the counter pointed out the tiny cake samples by the cash register. I then told her that because of the birthday and my name I felt an urgent need to come in when I passed, and so she decided to give me a big slice of the cake to take home.

On Wednesday, besides getting on The View (and being on TV as the one chosen to read the commercial lead-in), I took a (literally) five-minute ferry ride to Governor’s Island for a walking tour. I had forgotten a hair tie, so I borrowed one from the girl standing next to me as we waited for the tour to start. She was about 14 and there with her younger sister and mom, who then struck up a conversation with me. Again, they were very interested in my school and internship and what I’ve been doing in New York. During breaks on the tour, the mom would turn to me and ask another question. Turns out the girls’ cousin goes to Mizzou for med school.

So those are all the friendly people I encountered in just two days of exploring. I feel I should also mention here all the fabulous editors in New York. Everyone at my internship has been friendly and helpful to me, and the editors I know at other magazines have been wonderful, too. I’m working my way through my list of contacts in hopes of getting coffee or lunch with everyone I know here, and the responses to my e-mails could not be more positive. They are so willing to help, willing to talk to me, willing to take time out of their busy days for lowly me.

And I don’t know: Maybe all these people are out-of-towners, but either way, there are enough outsiders to make New York a welcoming place.

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