Let's face it: New York City is crowded.
We're all up in each other's sh*t all day long. A lot of the time, we make do with pretending no one else exists.
We ride the subway while trying our best to make zero eye contact, we sit in coffee shops in our own little bubble of solitude, and never acknowledge the fact that there are other humans capable of speech and independent thought right in our midst.
We don't even say “bless you” when someone sneezes (unless we think they're cute...?). But, sometimes, we just can't help it.
We have to creep. We have to listen to people's conversations, we have to nurture our secret little creepy crushes on total strangers. We have to read their books over their shoulders.
We all do it. Let's stop pretending we don't. Here are 12 creepy things all New Yorkers have done at least once in their life.
1. Making up imaginary lives for everyone on the subway
Are the two pretty girls holding hands across the subway from you just friends? Or are they lesbians? They're most definitely lesbians. They probably met in their Women's Studies class at NYU. They're probably on their way to get it on in one of their dorm rooms.
Your imagination is wildly at work here. The old guy reading documents from a manilla folder? Well, he's definitely a really important criminal lawyer handling a life-or-death case. The really cute three-year-old in the basketball hat next to you? He's going to grow up to be such a stud.
Your imagination doesn't really know who it is you're sneaking a glimpse of on the subway, but it seems your brain automatically fills in entire histories and circumstances for all those people. Don't worry though, you're not alone.
2. Watching someone exit the subway
I do this more than I should-- but sometimes your life just happens, like the song Somewhere in Brooklyn by Bruno Mars: there's a girl sitting across from you who's covered in leather and gold and twenty-one years old. Or, she's brunette and gorgeous and wearing a beanie, reading The Importance of Being Earnest. Or, whatever.
It doesn't really matter what she looks like, what matters is that the moment your eyes graze her physical form, she explodes through you in chasms of gold and you can see it all. It will all be so serendipitous.
You'll start talking, you'll both get off at 14th Street, you'll go to the High Line and then the MoMa and by the time you decide to head for drinks you've fallen irrevocably, irreparably, head-longingly in love. Except... then she gets off at Grand Central and the doors clamor shut and you know you'll never see her again. What a creepy bummer.
3. Taking not-so-sneaky cell phone pics of strangers
Because how else will you get your friends to believe this really happened? What kinds of sneaky cell phone pictures do we New Yorkers like to take? There are a bunch.
The first and most obvious situation that necessitates you taking a cell phone picture of a complete stranger is that the stranger looks like your ex. Nothing can send your animal heart flapping against the wall of your chest than a glimpse of your ex, even if upon further examination this person really doesn't look that much like your ex at all (as if your brain hurled your ex into existence).
There's also the example of a person who may also look like your sister, friend, brother, old teacher, favorite celebrity, whoever. These examples are all less exciting, but sometimes people bear uncanny resemblances to other people, and you have to document it.
You might also take a sneaky cell phone shot of someone on the subway because they look ridiculous. Like, what was that girl thinking when she put on her lime green onesie this morning? Just... make sure your flash is off, or she might confront you. Then you'll have to tell her you took a picture of her because she looks crazy.
... shamelessly. Why would that couple get in a fight right next to you on the subway if they didn't want you to listen in? Why else would they make it so damn entertaining?
Sometimes people are fighting so loud, it's worth taking your headphones off. One time on the E train, this guy screamed the worst rap in the world for the entire hour ride. My head was pounding. Then, another guy started screaming at him. That was worth taking out my headphones for, just to make sure I can get away if things started to get violent.
5. Imitating accents in your head
New York City is the most linguistically diverse city in the world, with over 800 languages spoken here.
It's pretty common for me to overhear as many as six different languages on my way to and from the grocery store. Pretty amazing for a wanderlust who doesn't have any money to actually travel... living in NYC is almost as good as backpacking through Europe, right?
The cutest thing is little babies with British accents, or little babies speaking French, or Arabic, or any of the other hundreds of languages emanating from NYC's 8.4 million vocal cords. Sometimes, accents are really, really pretty.
The Spanish guy that sells me coffee every morning has a gorgeous accent, and sometimes I can't not mimic it in my response. I'm yearning to just respond to him in Spanish... but I'm sure I'd mess up.
6. Reading other people's books/texts/magazines/newspapers
Ever been trapped on a slow-moving, rush hour subway without reading material? Yeah, that situation is bleak.
Other people's texts are so interesting. "Hey babe, pls be naked when I get home." "OMG I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU TEXTED HER?!?!" "Hey babe, movie night??"
Anyway, this is definitely way worse than eavesdropping into someone's conversation, because you can't really control what sounds enter your ears, but you certainly can control where you put your eyes.
I don't really think it's that bad to read the newspaper or someone's book over their shoulder, but there does seem to be something inherently creepy about it. It just feels creepy. Maybe it's because you have to lean so far into their personal space to do it.