Good Manners in the Big Apple? Get Outta Here!

Article excerpt

IN NEW YORK THE last time Evening Standard columnist Nick Cohen was in New York he says he was "delighted and surprised by the politeness of strangers".

I can't imagine who he was talking to. Tourists?

After 9/11, there was a brief spate of goodwill here in the city. Reports circulated around the world that New Yorkers were saying thank you - that this made global headlines, says it all. It's true that for a brief period of time, our manners improved. When shoving someone out of the way, we would say "Excuse me" instead of "Move!" And instead of letting the door slam in your face, we'd hold it open until it got too windy. But this civility was unnatural.

It took about two months before the organic rudeness crept back in and people resumed shoving, shouting and swearing like normal.

Having just returned from London, the experience of re-entry at JFK was as jarring as ever. Even though there were six empty carousels, everyone's cases - three flights' worth - were on carousel B. And people from Santa Domingo do not pack light. You have to be in peak fighting condition to reclaim your bag as people begin tripping over themselves to get access. It was easy to tell the Brits from the New Yorkers. The Brits were the ones respectfully waiting their turn on the outskirts of the cluster.

Or another way to spot them: the ones without luggage.

I hoisted my bag - with six "Heavy" tags all over it - onto a cart and looked around for assistance. …