This is a story about a City that has worked so hard to re-position their brand, but just can't seem to bring along one important piece of the equation - the people.
This past week I had the chance to spend some much needed time in the Big Apple. What was once home to me, ever so briefly, it has always had a special place in my heart. It had been a little while since I'd been there, so with the weather beautiful, the Red Sox and the Pope in town - it was juuust right.
I walked the streets and breathed in the energy, intelligence and buzz happening all around me. I had experienced the new credit card payment systems in taxi's, the gridlock seemed less because of the new traffic rules in mid-town, had a chance to see a good friend do stand-up at the New York Comedy club and had some great fare.
All was right with the world until I had to go back to LaGuardia to fly home. The energy of NY quickly turned violent and evil. It's like crossing into that area of town where you can just feel the negative energy. Well, that is LaGuardia - most especially when the weather is a little sour and they are about to close the air space so the Pope can land at JFK.
Well, when we finally boarded the United flight to Chicago, I took my seat in Economy Plus along with the other Premier Executives that couldn't get an upgrade. There were many foreign travelers on the flight it seemed and they were forcing the boarding process to be a little slower than normal.
After about 2/3's of the plane had boarded the gentleman I am about to speak of, boards the plane. He was a relatively non-descript man in his late 50s/early 60's wearing a nice suit with no tie. He was wearing glasses and was slightly balding with grey hair. He made his way about 2 rows on the opposite ahead of my seat. There was a Chinese female tourist sitting in his seat, I presume by mistake. He sees her and says with a strong NY accent - "YOU. OUT!" while using a hand gesture that motioned her out of the seat. His tone was rude and in full-out bully mode. She seemed confused, checked her boarding pass and left. Seeing this, I felt my blood pressure rise. But, with all the work me and Eckhart Tolle have been doing lately I decided to not let my ego get the best of me. I wish that was the end of the story. He kept barking at her as she exited the row and went to find her seat. He was saying things like "Nice try, stealing my seat." "I can see you wanted a better seat." So, finally I had to say something to him.
"You know, you could have asked her nicely and I bet she would have gotten up." I said.
"What did you say?" As he took two steps closer to me in my seat.
"I said, you don't have to be rude."
"Who do you think you are?" He said.
"I am the guy that is telling you that you don't have to be a dick." I said back in a sterner tone.
I said, "Only In New York."
"That's right only in New York." He said in a wise-ass tone.
"You seem proud of that, that's too bad." I said back.
After that he backed off and sat down into his seat. And from that moment on didn't say a word to anyone or even peeked back at me as he was getting off the plane. I had to call the guy out for being a dick. Would have I called him out if he was a 6'5" linebacker? Probably not. But I suspect a guy like that wouldn't have been rude to a lost tourist. This is what's wrong with New York. No matter how hard the city works to create a better experience with a cleaner City, better amenities and tourist-friendly programs - until New Yorkers start practicing some cooth and tact, people will always think of New York and New Yorkers as bullshit, rude and bullies. Too bad, because I love that City. So, the next time a New Yorker is rude to you, call him/her on it - they aren't used to it.