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Seven experiences that unite all New Yorkers

"#3. Chaotic subway situations"

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver

New Yorkers are pretty much piled on top of one another, so our experiences very easily become collective experiences. We're all neighbors in this crowded city, even if it doesn't feel like it sometimes. But when certain moments happen, we are reminded of just how connected we are.

Last week, one New Yorker asked Reddit about random experiences that unite New Yorkers going about their days. "Have other people experienced these NYC-specific moments of hyper-bonding? I'm always curious as to what shape they take."

There were more than 200 replies replaying moments that made people feel united. Below are seven of the most common answers:

1. Blackouts

Luckily a blackout hasn't hit NYC in some time, but in the past (at least in 2003, 2006 and 2019), they've served as a moment of bonding among New Yorkers. With no electricity, we're forced out of our homes and businesses and into the streets to help and commiserate with our fellow New Yorkers. We end up sharing our time (and quickly defrosting food) with strangers, and while it's a scary situation, it's one that brings us together.

"I was 2 flights into my 30+ flight walk up to my family's apartment when I realized the staircase would be pitch black the rest of the way. I started crying," user amoebaamoeba shared. "Suddenly I saw a flashlight beam and the door to the 4th floor opened - a neighbor I had never seen before handed me a lit candle and offered to walk me the rest of the way! She and her neighbors had gotten together to do that for every. single. person who passed by in the dark alone. I had already walked over 100 blocks home that day and en route been offered bottles of water, ice cream, beer (though that offer was rescinded when they realized I was underage) and an escort home. It felt like after everyone had been so helpless and scared on 9/11 two years earlier, we were all waiting for our opportunity to actually help each other and make things a bit easier."

2. Yelling "back door" on a bus when it doesn’t open at a stop

We mind our own business but when we see a fellow passenger stuck on the bus, we're going to yell. According to New Yorkers, there’s "never less than like 50% of people participating in those" like a "choir of angels."

3. Chaotic subway situations

Underground, we are all hyper-aware of our surroundings (we have to be) and when shenanigans happen, it's not unusual for us to share a knowing glance or come together to protect someone or keep the train moving. When we're forced off a train or get stuck in a tunnel, we are suddenly on the same team.  

"About 10 years ago, one morning a very pregnant lady gets in the downtown C train at 86th street at the tail-end of rush hour and starts rubbing her stomach shortly after sitting down," jnubianyc wrote. "Someone asks if she is ok and 2 stops later she begins to moan loudly and thinks she may be going into labor. By the time the train pulls into 59th street she asks if she should get off or stay on the train? EVERYONE in the car looked at each other and we all said "NO, get off right now!" At the same time. Someone offered to help and called police at that station. And we all finished our united commute. I Love New York."

4. Accidents or medical emergencies

New Yorkers may not be "nice," but we're kind—we don't hesitate to help when someone is in trouble. Whether it's falling down the subway stairs, dropping your groceries everywhere or having a panic attack, there are almost always people who will stop what they're doing to pick you up or check on you. User sergeantdrpepper said it the best: "There's a matter-of-factness and reflexivity to the help people give one another here that's genuinely unique, and feels really sincere. I get that it's not for everyone, but I really like experiencing the way that type of unspoken social contract within NYC plays out in everyday life."

"Yeah, assisting with an accident or medical emergency is a quick way to unite New Yorkers," added HandInUnloveableHand. "I’ve helped with a few (struck pedestrian, fainted subway passenger, etc.) and I would say we’re at our 'do it fast, do it right' best in times of crisis. Normally I, or anyone else, would bristle at some random person barking orders, but it plays into the efficiency and helpfulness we really prefer."

5. Huddling together out of the rain

Dealing with rain in NYC is no fun, especially when you don't have an umbrella or it's just pouring so hard you have to wait it out. So many of us find unity with other New Yorkers when we have to stand together under an awning in the rain. It might not be a major moment, but when bad weather happens, we can't help but feel like we're it together. It's out of our control and there's something kind of charming about that in this big city.

6. When there's a vintage train on the tracks

We can't help loving when the MTA puts out its Holiday Nostalgia Train. The decked-out train, which is usually comprised of cars from the 1930s to the 1970s, offers an opportunity to dress up in our vintage clothes or costumes and enjoy the novelty as New Yorkers. 

"You have to wait a while and it's crowded AF, but when you get on it's full of New Yorkers all with an ear-to-ear grin and laughing and excitedly talking with each other, like they're all little kids again," wrote BlahBlahNyborg.

7. A victorious election win

It obviously depends on how contested a race is, but New Yorkers come together when a major election occurs that will change the course of history. This was certainly the case when former President Donald Trump lost the presidency to Joe Biden in 2020. The moment the election was officially called, the streets erupted in celebration—we were all singing, hugging, screaming, clapping, honking and crying. You can relieve that moment with our roundup of celebrations.

"We were having a picnic in Prospect Park in the Long Meadow that day, and I'll never forget the cheers that struck up every 10 or 15 minutes," remembered JayMoots. "A cheer would start at one end of the meadow, and slowly cascade its way down to the other end. Truly one of the most remarkable days I've ever experienced in this city."

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