Whenever people tell me that New Yorkers are unfriendly, I tell them a story. In the Park and 33rd subway station one February morning, I noticed someone leading a pale woman by the arm in a crowd of commuters.
When I offered help, the first woman said, “I think she’s diabetic. Are you diabetic?” The second woman shook her head and moaned. Her eyes were open but registered nothing. The first woman introduced herself as Margo, and the stranger in her arms as Carly. “You’re going to be okay, just take slow deep breaths.” I took Carly’s free arm and helped her up the stairs. Amid the crush of pedestrians, she squeezed my hand, and I held it tight.
We sat her on Park and leaned her against a building where she crumpled over, head down, arms in her lap. “Carly?” I said. “Can you hear me?” Margo called the paramedics.
Pedestrians streamed by. The sun warmed the frigid air. A passerby in a suit stopped and took her pulse. “You eaten?” he said. She shook her head no. To raise her blood sugar, I gave her the only sugary thing I had: a ginseng sucker.
I ran inside a store to get water. When I returned, a doctor in gym clothes stood in the first stranger’s place, asking pointed questions. Carly admitted she hadn’t eaten since 9pm the previous night.
A woman stopped and asked us if everything was okay. “I’m a nurse,” she said.
“I know CPR,” said another passerby. “If you need it.”
At Carly’s request, Margo called her boss to say there was a problem. She worked at a nearby fitness magazine. Minutes later, a short woman bounded across the street.“Oh no!” she said, and stroked Carly’s hair.
The doctor disappeared but left his card. We all joked about the great medical services on the street.
Before the paramedics arrived and lectured us on eating habits, Carly looked up and, for the first time, seemed to make out our faces. To me she said, “That sucker you gave me was dee-sgusting.” Shelaughed. We all did.
NOTE: Here’s where the published Metropolitan Diary pieces appear. It’s a lively section, always worth reading: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/category/metropolitan-diary/