On my first night living in the New York City, I took a walk to the glimmering Chrysler Building. Eyes on its towering lights, I walked toward it without taking my surroundings into account. After a block or two, I noticed I sniffling noise every few steps. I paused, and it continued. I took in the scene: cars continued to roll by, the sound of car horns blew in on the breeze, and the woman a few paces in front of me sobbed. Speaking on the phone, she sounded relatively calm, aside from the constant sniffling. But looking at her face, it was clear that she’d been crying for some time and that she didn’t intend to stop. I’d never seen anyone crying their heart out in the street before, and scrambled to think if I could help her. I could only think of one thing to do. Recovering from a cold at the time, I was carrying a small packet of tissues. I sped up, tapped the woman’s shoulder, and when she turned around, I held out the tissue packet. Without breaking stride, she glanced at me, plucked the entire packet from my hand, faced forward, and kept walking – though now she blew her nose every few sniffles.
That was my first lesson on New York City’s crying code. In a city like New York – one where there’s always something happening, emotions run high, and people can’t help but rub shoulders – unless they’re stepping on toes – someone will always be crying. With small apartments surrounded by thin walls and huddled masses, it’s nearly impossible to find a private place to cry. So, no one does. Instead, they pay their expensive rent, high grocery bill, and full taxes. Those amounts seem unreasonable, until you realize that they include hidden and unmeasurable fees; watching the sunset while sitting in an aircraft carrier on the Hudson, riding the subway over the Brooklyn Bride, and crying your heart out in public. So, when things go wrong for city slickers – they lose their job, break up, or step in a puddle – they let loose their tears wherever they are. I’ve seen people bawling on sidewalks, on park benches, and in fifth avenue stores. Anyone and everyone cries in New York City. Their fellow citizens know better than to look at them askance – after all, they’ve paid good money to cry in this city.
As a resident of this city, I’ve cried in subway stations, buses, and once I cried so hard while leaning against an office building that a security guard came out to ask me who had died. There’s no crying in baseball. But in New York City, crying in a sign that you’ve arrived. It’s a city tradition so remarkable it has its own tumblr which highlights best and worst places to cry. Because in a city as variegated and divisive a NYC, everyone has an opinion. In fact, the only thing that unites us is the belief anyone can cry, anytime, anywhere. Go on, you’ve earned it.