July 18, 2004


My facile observation of the day.

Let me take you through my thought process.

We have people visiting from Utah who went to Chevy's Mexican restaurant where they got sombreros for their birthdays. I was told that in Utah, they sort of smash them on your head but here, that didn't happen. I told them that if someone touched another person without permission in NY, someone might get shot. That got me to thinking that there really is an elaborate code of behavior in NY. Unwritten but understood. It governs how you behave on the subway, when it's ok to talk to strangers, how you walk down the street and give enough space so as to not bump the next person, how to fold your newspaper on the subway, how to cross streets, how to wait on line for a bus, etc. This code was similar to the rigorous code of social behavior I have read about in Japan. At least superficially.

So, I decided to pull up the population densities and compare them. To my surprise, I found that NY has a greater population density than Tokyo.

In 1990, according to the US Census Bureau, the population of New York City was as follows:

7,323,000 people in 309 square miles for a density of 23,700 per mile.

In Tokyo, there are 14,097 per sq mile (source).

Facile observation of the day: you want to get 23,000 people living in one square mile, you better have some code of behavior, some commonly understood rules, or else, without strong gun control, you're going to have a lot of dead people.

Posted by Random Penseur at July 18, 2004 02:26 PM

I used to go into the City alot and you're right. There definately IS a code of conduct that you instinctively sense and then adhere to. I think it's all about space. It's sort of like everyone's thinking "I don't have time for all of you so I'll give no time to any of you".

In my neighborhood if you pass someone on the side and make eye contact you say "Hi, great day!" or "Jeeze, when will this rain ever stop?!"
In New York, if you make eye contact, they don't smile, they just look at you as if thinking "Why is this person looking at me...?"

I love New York, I hate New York. Mostly I just avoid thinking about it.

Posted by: Tuning Spork at July 18, 2004 10:14 PM

I'm glad you see it to. I think you need some sort of critical mass of people to develop this, though and I bet LA doesn't have it to the same extent where everything and everyone is isolated in their cars.

Posted by: RP at July 19, 2004 09:42 AM
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