36. Why are New Yorkers always in a rush?

Every morning I walk west on 78th street one block to Lexington Avenue. I turn left and head south along the east side of Lexington to 77th street. I wait there for thirty seconds until the light changes when I cross Lex and descend into the subway.

This pattern rarely changes. I almost never choose to cross Lexington at 78th because I enjoy the race that takes place at 77th. You see, it is on this spot every morning where thousands of people converge before getting on the subway south.

You’d think the crowd might be subdued. It is morning after all, and everyone is heading to work. A crowded subway awaits. There is nothing enticing about heading into the underground.

But the people that aggregate––like cattle waiting to pass through a gate–– can barely wait to cross the street. They sneak forward off the curb and then dance backward to avoid upstream trucks. They keep one eye poised on the light. With the other, they gauge the traffic’s slowing speed. They are eager to get a jump on the rest of the group, cross the street first, and lead the mass down the stairs and through the turnstiles.

The rational arguments for being first onto the platform are limited. 40 seconds earlier a crowd of equal size performed the same ritual. You are unlikely to actually “be first.” Even if you were, the people behind you will still cram onto your subway car and make you hot and uncomfortable. So you gain little on that front too.

But New Yorkers are hungry. They are addicts for the city’s pace. They want to be first for the sake of being first. You lose your edge if you stop to catch you breath. You must beat on.


Note to reader: This is day 36 of 92 in my commitment to write for 30 minutes each day from October 1 through the end of 2015.

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