A sign in the airport when you step off at La Guardia (and many similar ones are found at JFK) says, “If someone asks you if you need a ride, they probably shouldn’t be giving you one.”
Isn’t it kinda sad? That an act of helpfulness in a city is automatically called into suspicion? That the person asking you for a ride somehow seeks to harm you, and that you must be on guard all the time from others? There’s a need to protect, and need to close yourself off.
I feel like this is a symptom of the city. A city where you live among strangers, where your community is limited to the few you allow to get close to you, and that is about how far your compassion extends. No smiles to the stranger on the street, no spending some extra time talking to your waiter at the restaurant. Your waiter doesn’t care to talk to you either. Everyone’s closed off, in their own world, with their own lives to live.
Even if one wants to be compassionate, it may not be welcome. It’s the culture of the city. Never stray too long in conversation with a stranger. Never extend more help than might be wanted. Look after number one.
No wonder Baz Luhrmann says, “Live in New York, but leave before it makes you hard.” There’s a toughness that is necessary to live in New York, but is that toughness making us forget our day-to-day humanity?