In line with my prior post:
I sometimes get into conversations with taxi drivers, and since most of them are new to the city, I often ask them what they miss about the place they came from. Almost always, they name very ordinary pleasures: a slower pace of life, a café where they could sit around and talk to friends, a street where they could play kickball without getting run over. Those who miss these things enough will go back home. That means that the rest of us, statistically, are more high-strung, hungry and intent on long-term gains—traits that quite possibly correlate with intelligence.
But I think it’s also possible that New Yorkers just appear smarter, because they make less separation between private and public life. That is, they act on the street as they do in private. In the United States today, public behavior is ruled by a kind of compulsory cheer that people probably picked up from television and advertising and that coats their transactions in a smooth, shiny glaze, making them seem empty-headed. New Yorkers have not yet gotten the knack of this. That may be because so many of them grew up outside the United States, and also because they live so much of their lives in public, eating their lunches in parks, riding to work in subways. It’s hard to keep up the smiley face for that many hours a day.
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