On the sidewalks of New York

I recently returned from a short New York vacation, the opposite of a cottage getaway: you leave to energize and come home to unwind.

And walking the streets (not like that) it seems like the best shows really are on Broadway – just not inside.

For instance…

It feels like there’s a version of everyone you know or could imagine wandering around NY. Just look around and you’ll notice them. The similarities in faces, hair and mannerisms. Call it N-Yapparitions.

The City’s sidewalks feature an entrepreneurial bizarre (sic). I saw a grizled old guy handily demonstrating the fine art of slicing and dicing vegetables with some sort of metallic gadget and he drew a crowd. If you’re good at something you can do that in Manhattan.

There’s an endless stream of people pouring out of every nook and cranny – day and night. And so many connections, however tenuous or fleeting. It’s exciting and surprising and shocking and chaotic and funny and fast, fast, fast. This is a real social network in action. NYC is like the urban template for online.


Insult spam

For the past several weeks, my spam filter has been blocking emails I’m calling insult spam. The New York Times wrote about them in June, around the time I started receiving them.

(Oh, how wonderful it is to be an early adopter!)

Basically, these messages have a customized subject header that says things like: ‘You look stupid mwaxman’ or ‘You look like a moron mwaxman’.

At first glance, I was taken aback. I mean who are these people to tell me I’m a moron?

But then I had to laugh at the the absurdity of the situation. I mean, here I was feeling bad about a silly comment from someone I don’t know who’s ostensibly trying to spread a virus or sell me something.

And I wondered, who in their right mind, would open an email like this?

On further reflection, I realized messages like these are aimed at our neuroses, in much the same way as so-called complimentary spam (notes that say things like, ‘You look hot’ or ‘I noticed you across a crowded room’).

Essentially, they’re preying on our need to be liked.

And I think it’s high time we started doing a better job of human-filtering; of seeing things for what they are and leaving our insecurities behind.

In a world where communications plays such an important part of our lives, we owe it to ourselves to develop and practice good critical judgement.

(Not) leavin’ on a jet plane

If you’ve been to New York recently and happened to be flying out via LaGuardia, you’ve probably experienced a delay.

Occasionally it’s short, often it can stretch in to a couple of hours or more.

And an advance call to your airline doesn’t always help diminish your terminal time.

Last summer, following a major rainstorm, a number of flights were cancelled and passengers on Air Canada were left to fend for themselves (mind you, if you have to be stranded overnight, Manhattan is the place to be).

One of the reasons for the delays is that there are more flights on smaller ‘regional’ jets than there used to be before 2001. Here’s an article that explains the situation.

So the next time you’re Leavin’ On a Jet Plane, instead of getting ‘hot under the collar’ as my Dad used to say, bring a book, a magazine, your ipod, some work, a DVD, then sit back, be patient and prepare to wait your turn.


Last week I was fortunate enough to be in Manhattan for work.

And while Ontario’s TV ads may claim, ‘there’s no place like this…’, they really should be referring to New York City.

It happened to be raining on my second day, constant but not a major storm by any account.

However, just like an old-time dance number, out pop the umbrellas. Seemingly everyone has one. And those who don’t can easily make a purchase from a street vendor, who appears out of nowhere, as if on cue.

And talk about coordination. People in Mantattan know how to navigate the crowded streets under an umbrella without hitting anyone in the face. It’s practically a feat of acrobatic prowess. Who choreographs the City?

I, unfortunately, was not so adept at the movements. And not wanting to put a damper on anyone else, I gave up after a few blocks, opting instead to expose myself to the elements.

How very Toronto-esque of me, I thought.

Today, during our afternoon of wet snow, many people (myself included) were caught without umbrellas. Did the entrepreneurial vendors appear to cash in on inclemency? Did most of us pull an umbrella from our collective sleeves?

Not a chance.

We just wandered around, sopping, cold and grumbling all the way.

To me that’s the difference between Toronto and New York: They refuse to submit. We prefer to soak it all up.

Stuck in NYC

I was heading back to Toronto from a day of meetings in Manhattan when my plane was cancelled at the airport (all Air Canada flights to Toronto, actually). And I found myself stranded overnight in NYC.

An adventure, to be sure, but not as exciting as I might have imagined. First there was the hubbub at the airport, the line-up to find out what flight we were now on, the taxi ride back to the city, the calls to (hopefully) get a hotel room, an alternate booking with another airline, emails/calls explaining what happened and then arranging an early wake-up to go to the airport again.

But back to the announcement. Folks at LaGuardia were flipping out and I could relate to their frustration (remembering an incident with the now defunct People Express airlines long ago). But this time I decided to accept my predicament and even laugh about it. Why get all hot under the collar (as we so often do) when you find yourself in a situation where you have absolutely no control?

Sometimes it’s better to just go with the flow…