***the below is a piece I wrote in June 2011 but never published***
“Every day is a gift even if it sucks.”
I have been reflecting upon my week (June 2011) spent upon the glorious island of Martha's Vineyard. The one thing I can say without a doubt that I noticed upon being back on my home island is that the people are different - more guarded, more closed off, and definitely more rude.
We don't look at each other here. I started my Vineyard vacation with my eyes averted from one on one contact, but I quickly saw the difference in the people. Vineyardites actually said, "hello" and "good morning" to the familiar and the stranger. What a difference. I've been living the NYC life for so long that my normal is ignoring. My normal is not acknowledging. My normal is walking down the street with my iPod blasting, tuning out the world. Tuning out the bullshit of city noise is not a bad thing, but missing the sounds of the birds chirping or the breeze rustling the leaves in the trees is a pity of a sacrifice.
People are selfish, all of us in some way or another. For example: on the subway, iPod’s are played too loudly, conversations are conducted across the car. When we don’t pay attention to what we’re doing we’re sharing our entire lives with those around us. If we were aware of other people we would realize that many of us are just trying to mind our own business, read or grade papers, or contemplate the day ahead or just completed. Respect is what we don't have for each other.
I don’t want to hear your gangsta rap. I don’t want to hear your bipolar rant. I don’t want to hear you pushing your religion. I don’t want to hear about your boss or last night’s date. I just want to read my book, enjoy my coffee, and make my way to work or home. Of course, it’s a free country and there’s not much one can do about their surroundings when trapped in a subway car in a tunnel between Manhattan and Queens.
The people on the Vineyard have respect for each other and their island. I wouldn't even allow myself to spit gum out in the woods on the Vineyard. I had this image in my head of some forest creature choking to death on the discarded gum or of the area in which the gum landed rotting away. That last image sure makes me look like I have toxic saliva. You get my point though, right? The space was too precious; nature too important.
New Yorker’s can be rude and obnoxious. (We can also be kind and generous.) The rude and obnoxious label most often goes to the young people who strut around like they’re tough as shit and ain’t gonna take smack from nobody. I witnessed four of them in a row jump the turnstile at my subway stop on my first day back to work post vacation. I paid the new outrageous price of $104 for an unlimited monthly metro card so that I can ride the train. I guess my price includes the freeloaders. Thank you MTA for your higher prices and staffing cuts. I appreciate paying for it.
Two of the aforementioned jumpers proceeded to get the attention of a female they knew waiting across the tracks on the uptown side. She didn't have time for them. They honestly were such stereotypes that it was amusing as hell to watch her use her words to put them in their place. Of course, they referred to her as a bitch the minute they boarded the train to Manhattan. I guess because she wasn’t buying into their Rico Suave game she couldn't be anything else. Good for you girl for knowing there’re better guys in the world.
So, in an effort to recapture the spirit of the Vineyard I chose to go iPod free on my first day back to work. I listened, I observed.
What I observed and heard made it difficult to hold on to my week of leisure, but I will always have the memory of life in the glowing sunlight, cool breezes, and “hello’s” from perfect strangers with no agenda on an island in the Atlantic.