Fuck you. Pay me.
Jon Westenberg

They’re not rude

You just won’t learn how things work

This reminded me of years back when Macworld Expo New York was a thing. I lived in Boston, so getting down to NY was pretty easy, and I was usually speaking. I really like NYC. I don’t think I could live there, I’m way too much of a misanthrope to have three million people per block up my ass, but I love to visit. It is truly an artifact of delight in this country.

After a while, some folks started noticing that I rarely had trouble with the locals. I never had people randomly yelling at me, the concierge in my hotel was the model of efficient awesomeness, cabbies and I got along swimmingly. Eventually someone (not from a big city) asked me how I did it:

I don’t get it. Everyone here is so rude, and awful, but you get smiles wherever you go. Are you secretly one of them?

Well, I’m not sure what he meant by that, but I chose to interpret it well and we started talking. He complained about how rude the hot dog vendors were when he asked for directions and just wanted to be friendly. I said:

Did you buy anything?

He boggled and said

well…no. I just wanted directions.

I chuckled a bit and said

So you’re inserting yourself in a system you have no idea about, expecting it to conform to your wishes, and are surprised the results are suboptimal?

He looked even more confused, so I proposed an experiment. We’d got to the same hot dog vendor who’d yelled at him, and I bet him the price of a hot dog that not only could I get a different response, but so could he.

We walked up and I bought a couple dogs and sodas. Kvetched about the weather and the conference for a minute, (he was right outside the Javits and rather unimpressed with the culinary habits of the attendees), and then I nudged my newfound companion to ask directions to somewhere. He did, rather timidly, the hot dog guy not only gave him directions, but tips on a few better places to go, then we walked away.

Nice as could be the guy was. I stopped there every day, because hot dog carts in NYC are the bomb.

What the hell? I thought he was going to cut me into sausage meat, and he’s acting like you’re his long-lost brother. What gives?

The dude was confused.


I said,

I bought something first.
I don’t get it.
How does he make his money?
Selling hot dogs”
Right, so when he’s on the job, every encounter is judged by “did they buy something.” Lots of folks don’t, but most of them don’t stop and take up his time. When you stop and take up his time with directions or whatever, and you don’t buy something, there’s a real chance that someone who would have bought something has kept going, because he was “busy”. So not only are you not worth the effort, but he just lost another sale, maybe more because of you.

Dude was rather perplexed, but then he seemed to get it.

So when people say “time is money” here, they mean it.

I said.

Another way to look at it is as a respect thing. By buying something first, you’re showing that you respect his time. That you recognize it has value. Even if it’s just gum, or a soda. The intent here is important.
That is so weird to me

he said.

How many people live in your town?
About 50,000
Okay, so that’s slightly over a rounding error in New York. That’s not even a big day on the subway here.
Still, it seems so mercenary
It is. But that’s his world. He’s either hustling, or he can’t pay his bills. Also, that guy probably makes more money than either of us. Possibly both of us. He earns every dime, it’s hard work, but yeah. He’s not living in a box.

I then explained how when I checked into the hotel, I gave the concierge a twenty as an opening move. I knew I might need that person’s services, and by doing that, I was demonstrating that I appreciated and respected their knowledge and abilities. Got me tickets to things and into parties most folks don’t know exist.

The analogy is this: the hot dog guy, the concierge, the freelancer, they all have systems. Those systems work well, but everyone involved has to move within those systems, not demand that those systems reconfigure themselves, for free to their desires. You want me to jack my shit up? Better have some money ready to hit my palm or no fucking way, jack.

By demanding people work for free, the demanders are showing they don’t care about your systems, and don’t respect either you or your work.

Why, exactly, should anyone do shit for someone like that?