“I have always depended upon the kindness of strangers”. Those famous lines delivered by Blanche DuBois at the end of Tennessee Williams’ play A Street Car Named Desire. Although not remotely within the same context, (Seeing as I’m not being carted off to the looney bin) I am somewhat reminded of this sentiment during my stay here in NYC.
When I decided to travel alone it was a big step-some people did the ‘oh…by yourself?!’ confused face-a mixture of pity and incomprehension. Yes by myself. First up, I like my own company; secondly, I did not doubt for one second that coming to America would mean I’d feel any lonelier than I’ve felt at times on a miserable cold day in London.
Which brings me to where I am this evening-sat in a beautiful Biergarten under The Highline on Cinqo de Mayo drinking sours with a cousin I did not know I had until a few days ago; a bunch of her friends and ‘The Three Rodrigo’s’ from Mexico City who we just met; all of us chatting away and laughing wildly.
Since arriving here I’ve had a few dicey moments (projects anyone??) but in the main everyone has been perfectly welcoming. I’ve happily been talked to by strangers in delis, on the train, had my bags carried by polite onlookers, been given directions, compliments; and taken as one of their own by people who have only just met me.
With many numbers exchanged and advice given I now have promises of people to show me around in pretty much every stop I’m making on this epic trip and suddenly I am not alone. Not in the slightest. America has my back.
This is one of the many reasons I love it here-ever since I first came nearly a decade ago. I’ve always found the people genuinely kind, generous, and excited to meet me (apparently it’s something to do with the accent-although mine is starting to sound increasingly like that time Anne Hathaway pretended to be from Yorkshire…). Indeed, before coming here my dad fired off an email to long lost family-and just like that I had three places to stay with kinfolk who have never met me before but who were willing to open their homes to me. It’s humbling.
This sort of thing just doesn’t happen in England. Talk to a stranger in a bar in London and you’re more likely to receive a scathing brush off as you are to be bought a drink and offered a seat. Email an old friend as you’re in town and they’re probably busy-not immediately organising a full itinerary for your stay-because OF COURSE you must stay even though we haven’t seen each other in 6 years! For their many flaws I feel we could all take a lesson in hospitality and friendliness from the yanks.
Come Friday I will be just a little bit devastated to leave this city because I’m just starting to feel at home here. The lady who butters my bagels every morning even calls me baby doll.
So I reflect on this generosity of spirit as I sit here this evening amongst my new friends-laughing, drinking, happier than I’ve been all year; and for damn sure I am grateful for the kindness of strangers.