We’re in Kansas City, Missouri (just a few blocks from the Kansas state line, but we Kansas Citians care a lot about the distinction) for the yearly summer visit to my parents.
As always, I love being in Kansas City.
By coincidence, a few days before this trip, I had dinner in New York with one of my best friends from high school, who now lives in Brooklyn.
We were talking about Kansas City, and she mentioned that she had decided that Midwesterners really WERE more friendly and enthusiastic than people on the East Coast.
I’ve heard that, of course, but I never noticed too much of a difference myself. So this trip, I’ve been trying to pay attention.
People do seem less hurried. Clerks in stores are more chatty and helpful. Drivers don’t even turn into an intersection if a pedestrian is crossing (in NYC, they practically edge you out of the way with their bumpers).
Certainly the people walking around move more slowly than I’m used to. In a recent fascinating cover story in New York Magazine, Clive Thompson’s Why New Yorkers Live Longer, I read that a “recent ranking of cities found that New York has the fastest pedestrians in the country.”
Of course, the flip side to “not hurried” is “slow.” When you’re in a hurry, this slower pace can be slightly irritating. But overall, it’s a much nicer atmosphere.
I’m not so sure that people are really more friendly. Part of the friendlier atmosphere comes from not being in such a rush. People take the time to exchange a few words.
There’s a kind of friendliness peculiar to New York, too. Odd things are always happening, and you’re always around lots of other people, many of whom have hilarious commentary to offer.
Nevertheless, this exercise has made me appreciate the value of adding a few extra words to a routine exchange. Even a “Hot enough for you?” as clichéd as it is, makes an encounter seem more pleasant.
I’m not good about talking to strangers, so it’s an effort for me to offer these little remarks, but I’ve noticed the big difference it makes in the emotional tone of my day.
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