We were sitting at a red light on Long Island about a week ago during our annual trek back East to visit family and friends (so don’t call it a vacation).
We were in the left lane, going straight, and there was a long line in the right lane, waiting to turn right. Long Island, like much of the country, allows a right turn on a red light after you stop and determine it is safe, unless the intersection is specifically marked with a sign forbidding the turn.
Which this intersection was.
There were about three different signs saying “No Turn on Red”: two wordless red-circle-with-a-line-through-it signs designed to be universally understood, one posted on the traffic light itself and one on a signpost next to the right lane, underneath which was a sign spelling it out in English, all caps. My guess is, there was another sign somewhere I couldn’t see.
New York is pretty clear when they don’t want you to do something. Because New Yorkers don’t like to be told they can’t do something.
So. Like I said, we’re sitting at a red light, waiting for maybe ten seconds.
And a guy who’s four or five cars back in the right turn lane starts blaring his horn.
No one can go anywhere. That guy at the front, HE CAN’T TURN! CAN YOU NOT READ THE SIGNS????
Now not only is he angry and frustrated, I’M angry and frustrated. Why does he have to be so stupid and impatient? Jeez louise, the people around here, Isweartogawd…
And there it is.
Everyone on Long Island, everyone in New York, everyone in the Northeast, from New York to Boston to Philly to Washington, D.C., EVERYONE is angry.* All the time.
There are so many people. Everywhere. All the time.
Everywhere you want to go, there’s someone there. Standing in line in front of you. Driving in front of you. Getting through the yellow light, or not getting through the yellow light fast enough. Taking your parking spot. Getting on the train first. Grabbing that Coke you wanted. Taking your seat. Making you wait. Getting in your way.
No wonder some people drive like maniacs at top speed, swerving in and out of traffic, driving on shoulders (right AND left) to get around you, just for once trying to get someplace without being behind someone else’s taillights at a crawl in the middle of the friggin night (where is everyone GOING, fuggadssake?), keeping you from getting where you want to go, keeping you from BREATHING…
I mean, they’re idiots who’ll probably die in an accident, but on some level, I get it.
It’s exhausting. It’s never ending. If you’re at all introverted, it’s horrible.
It’s actually astonishing that people aren’t more obnoxious to each other. That we can maintain a veneer of politeness at all in social interactions.
Some people love it. New York is “the greatest city in the world” and I’m not one to argue with Lin-Manuel Miranda.
But I also know that living like this isn’t healthy. It’s destroying our humanity. My son said it best as we were leaving: “New York, where everyone is the most important person.”
Who wants to live like that?
*Lest you think I’m overstating, generalizing, or otherwise know not whereof I speak, believe me, I have spent many, many years of my life all over the East Coast, living and visiting. Parts of this trip alone were spent in Philadelphia and its suburbs, crossing through New Jersey, and in Manhattan, as well as on the Island.