Spying the city

| 23 Aug 2016 | 04:52



New York, New York.

Nobody sang it better than Frank Sinatra and nobody can beat this town in anything.

The people in our town are the most unique, vibrant, diverse group that ever inhabited an urban community, with teeming cultures from the entire planet Earth. Sometimes I feel like I’m persona non grata as I mingle and listen to different voices and mannerisms while on public transportation, in cinema houses, theaters and restaurants.

It’s difficult to try to be invisible with friends, making conversation while trying to catch snippets of small talk at another table or in other venues. Lately I’ve become pretty good at talking out of one side of my mouth while perking up my ears.

Sometimes I get caught out by a friend who thinks I’m not paying attention to the pearls of wisdom emanating from an overwrought imagination. As a rule I blame it on my glass of wine. Nobody knows about my secret vice of spying on other people. New York is such easy prey. Can you spy in the suburbs, where you need a car to get chewing gum or where the drawn shades in your neighbor’s dwelling could be an indication of a homicide scene or some other melodrama and you are the only player in this game. What a bore!

I’m in an uptown bus watching who gets on and off. Nothing special but I do see a black backpack on an empty seat. Who belongs to it? It’s all by itself and this worries me. I get up and make the driver aware of this, keeping my anxiety to a low. The driver merely looks at me and says he will report it. Are people blind or totally indifferent? I’m not taking any chances and get off the next stop. As the bus rolls away I expect to hear an explosion but nothing occurs. I’m very happy but now I have to walk 15 blocks out of my way. Still, my inner security blanket is having a field day having escaped a possible calamity.

I am jinxed when it comes to seating arrangements in theaters. The person sitting in front of me is invariably tall and wears a hat or baseball cap. It never fails; somehow these people are drawn to me like a magnet. My usual comment is “why me?” I can either change my seat, suffer in silence or speak in a pleading voice that hopefully will appeal to the giant in front. Could he please scrunch down in his seat or keep his head to the right so I can turn my head to the left for a better view. Sometimes it works.

The worst are the hat people, especially women. They seem to believe that wearing an ostrich feathered nest in a darkened theater is de rigueur. This is not an international venue but a New York City one where most people (especially in the summer) are attired in flip-flops and shorts and munching gluten-free popcorn and sipping diet sodas. Once I asked a young man to take off his baseball cap. He bluntly said no.

Has anyone ever thought why people go to a movie and have their cellphone open?

At a recent TriBeCa Film Festival I sat next to a woman who was constantly checking her phone. She didn’t miss my leering sideway looks so she put the phone inside her jacket so now she could just flip open her lapel and peek. As the film ended I had a little speech prepared and just as I opened my mouth she vanished. Maybe she was an acrobat that was able to slither down the stairs unseen. So we are now at the point where instead of being advised where emergency exits are situated, we get tutorials about turning off phones, putting candy in one’s mouth before the lights go out and coughing beforehand. Back to grade school admonitions or you will be forced to go to the back of the class.

A funny thing happened to me on the way to the pharmacy when I met my son’s dog walker with his four-legged entourage (at least ten dogs). Among them was the family Shih Tzu who recognized me, started barking and waddling towards me. A New York thrilling moment to bolster life in the city.