Everybody Pukes: A Tale of Two Cities
I could write so many beautiful and eloquent essays about the differences and similarities between the two big cities of New York and London, but I honestly think these tales of people vomiting illustrate the differences pretty damn well.
While standing in a London train station, I heard a strange sound. I looked around and realized a man was dry heaving next to a trashcan. Almost as if my eyes on him were a trigger, he started vomiting. The sound and sight should have repulsed me, or at least made me uneasy, but there simply wasn’t time. Within seconds, a woman had rushed up to him, handing him tissues, patting him on the back. As she comforted the man, an employee with a mop and bucket went about cleaning up the mess. Dude was like a ninja janitor. I seriously have no idea where the hell where that guy came from or how he got there so quickly, especially with that big ass mop bucket. A doctor was third on the scene, chatting with the man, making recommendations.
This all happened in the span of maybe 2 or 3 minutes. I was astounded. It was the most British thing to ever happen. The Brits were Britishing like champions. Seriously, all that was missing was a cup of tea and maybe a God Bless The Queen.
A few days later, in New York City
I arrived at Penn Station and had to take a shuttle to the airport equivalent of the apocalypse, aka Laguardia. Perhaps 20 minutes into the ride, I noticed a teenager, maybe 14, desperately clutching a Sprite bottle and swaying in such a way that all I could think was “yep, that kids going to blow chunks. This is happening.”
As this poor kid finally let loose, the sounds of vomit splashing onto the floor of the bus cut through the trademark NYC “I’ve got headphones on so don’t even look at me” silence. Even if the other passengers on this small bus did not hear the sickening slap of puke hitting a hard surface, the smell of the chunks being blown was quite pungent. I quickly dug through my purse, grabbed a packet of tissues, and offered them to the boy’s father.
The look on the father’s face was reminiscent of a homeless man receiving a sandwich – a look of pure gratitude and surprise.
I looked around the bus – no one else would even look at the kid. No one turned around or even muttered about it. These New Yorkers were serious. Years of just refusing to see all the weird and messed up shit in New York had trained them to believe that if you don’t acknowledge something it simply does not happen.
And so we all sat there for the next 40 minutes and allowed vomit to seep all over the floors. The long forgotten Sprite bottle rolling about, painting stripes of vomit as it rebounded off seats.
I want to tell you I was appalled by everyone’s behavior. Maybe make myself the hero – Lady Kleenex, holder of travel tissues, champion of borderline generous gestures. But the truth is, I couldn’t help but think about that man in London. I paled in comparison to the Ninja Janitor, in all his swiftness and glory. The British didn’t want that whole vomiting embarrassment to have ever happened, so they swooped in and made sure the evidence was erased. Meanwhile, a bunch of assholes on a shuttle to arguably the worst airport in the world just sighed heavily, turned their iPods up just a little louder, and kept their eyes trained on a screen, the window, or really just anything other than another human.
In the words of LCD Soundsystem, New York, I love you, but you’re freaking me out.