Altruism is a tough nut to crack. Some folks think it’s not even possible to commit a selfless act: they believe that no matter how much help you’re doing, there’s always something in it for you, whether material, social, psychological or spiritual. Not that these folks are all assholes. I have a good friend from college who believes in this staunchly (okay, he’s a little bit of an asshole. But a likable asshole.). On the other end of the spectrum, there’s a pretty concise gut logic that suggests people are just inclined to do good, if sometimes a little stubborn to do so. I really want to sit on the latter end of the spectrum. I feel better when I act as if I do. I’ll tell you, though, day to day New York City is a terrible environment for that sort of thing. I would like to posit that there’s a positive correlation between being in a hurry and dickery. Guy, have you seen a taxi driver from these parts? Have you sat in the back seat while they do their terrifying weaving to get to your destination about eight seconds earlier? New York has hurrying on lock, so you can guess what that suggests given my theory. It’s like Arrakis, except instead of sandstorms and worms it’s jerks on subways and heart-wrenching homeless folks from all sides.
To continue this ridiculous analogy, though, as the Fremen say, “God created Arrakis to train the faithful.” New York City in a crisis situation, that’s a whole other story. All the hobo-hardened denizens go into superhero mode, pulling together, committing acts of kindness belied by the gruff exterior, as if to shout in one chorus “No one’s a dick in New York but us guys!” You get little glimmers of this intensity on a more regular basis. Every now and again someone lets you know you just dropped your hat, or is cool about it when a sudden subway stop tosses you into them. Just, y’know, don’t do that shit in the Bronx at 3 AM, or at any time and place wearing a Yankees Suck teeshirt, and you’ll see New York’s a bunch of freakin’ Mother Teresa’s over here.