I'm a floral delivery worker. That's what I do. And when I do it, I get the wonderful opportunity to see things that most people don't because I'm on the street all the time. Last week I saw a man in a suit get hit by a cab on 47th Street. He was thrown through the air, rolled on the pavement, got up and continued on his way only after screaming an obscenity at the cab driver. He reacted as though a neighborhood kid hit him with a Nerf football. And this wasn't a man who looked as though he went to the gym and was in great physical shape. "Shlubby" is the word I would use to describe him; an average person. But what gave him his impervious powers I realized, is that he was a New Yorker and therefore, very hard to kill. I went home and thought about this unique City and why it constructs such Terminator-like characteristics and this is what I've realized:
1. We're All War Veterans: Yes, many of us experienced terror first hand, but I'm talking about a larger issue. The everyday life of the New Yorker and how it prepares you for potentially life threatening situations every day. True, the City has cleaned itself up considerably in the past two decades, but still, it is a boot camp that trains you for situations that most Americans would find insurmountable. New Yorkers can get plopped down in any war zone and have a better chance of survival than some recruit from the Army. Getting yelled at by your commanding officer? Please, I get yelled at by people on a daily basis for no reason. Dodging live ammunition? Just walking across the street, as illustrated above, can become an obstacle course replete with Tron-like bicycle riders, cab drivers going the wrong way and aggressive panhandlers who have all read The Art of the Sell. Surveillance? On an average day most New Yorkers (especially women) need to assess any given amount of questionable persons walking towards them and determine if they are threat or a friendly.
2. No Hesitation: They say that the first thing that can kill you in battle is hesitation. Think too long, and you can die in your foxhole, or whatever we're calling it these days, by a mortar or tank. New Yorkers are singularly the most quick-thinking people on Earth because we have to be. The subway's delayed? A typical commuter can develop a new travel strategy to get where they're going faster than an air traffic controller on Thanksgiving. How about finding an apartment? If you manage to find a vacancy, you have five minutes to decide if that's your new home before someone else takes it. That job you're perfect for? Guess what, 7,000 people are also perfect and you need the jump on them. Hesitation does more than kill in New York, it can rob you of your future.
3. Teamwork: Another quality that you have to learn here is that no one can survive alone. Rambo wouldn't last five minutes in this city without help. He'd be in a squalid studio apartment somewhere in Newark because, when you're Rambo, you don't have a network of friends who can help you get a job or an apartment. He'd put on his headband, strap on his credit report and resume to his chest to some 80s rock song and venture out into the concrete jungle only to be shunned as a camouflage-wearing weirdo. In New York, it's not who you know, it's who knows you, and in order for people to know you, you'd better find a tribe of like-minded individuals or be banished to the hinterlands. And in an emergency, let's just put it this way: if you want to face New York in a confrontation, you're facing 8 million of us and we're all veterans.