What is it about winter in New York that brings out bad manners?
A waitress in a restaurant at 68th and Broadway leans against the banister and picks her nose, in full view of customers finishing their dinner. A student at a Juilliard concert scratches incessantly. A gussily got-up woman on the subway blithely combs her hair, staring at a mirror from her purse. A man at a Brooklyn diner uses his finger to remove a flake of dandruff floating on the surface of his coffee.
You can’t pass a street corner without half a dozen people noisily blowing their noses, hawking and harrumphing, oblivious to the flow of civilized life around them. People of all ages and stations have decided to take a rain check on behaving with decorum.
Maybe it’s the dryness which does it. The way the brittle cold sucks every drop of moisture from the air, from the skin, from the flesh below the skin, from the pancreas and liver and lungs. And the steam heat inside does the same. There is no escaping the aridity. All wet has been scraped away, leaving finger-pads that feel like sandpaper, scalp that manufactures dandruff as if struggling to fill emergency orders for a world-wide distributor, lips that crack and bleed without outside provocation, nasal oozings that become tank-armor encrustations in ten seconds flat.
And electricity! Am I alone in feeling like a cellular battery ready to discharge with a zap and a ping whenever I touch someone? So why can’t I charge my own Palm Pilot? Keep my cell phone juiced up forever?
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