Jessica Gross

Engulfed in the Crowd

In musings on January 6, 2009 at 1:58 pm

I met a friend for dinner in Koreatown last night. He moved from Manhattan to Texas a few months ago and, in reminiscing about his city days, said that what most drew him to New York is what pushes so many people away — in fact, the people themselves. It’s a city full of residents who pay exorbitant amounts, he pointed out, just to be around really interesting people.

I’m not sure about that last part — I think people choose to live here as much for the prestige of affording a Manhattan apartment, and for the entertainment and feeding options, as for the interesting people. But there is a thrill to being surrounded by thousands of other humans who have no idea who you are. It’s even more anonymous than being truly alone because being part of a crowd emphasizes that you’re a stranger.

It’s pure detachment. This is, for me, the appeal of a crowded subway, and probably the reason the MTA pops up so frequently in my posts — there are tens of people on all sides of me, but I’m inaccessible. I can observe them up close — the books they’re reading, the conversations they’re having, the wedgies they’re picking — without engaging. And, joyfully, even my cell phone doesn’t work. There are so many people that I have the opportunity to connect, but none of the obligation; it’s full control.

And you, NYC-dweller: do you love the crowds or hate them? Post in comments.


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