Gotham Note:
Deep Dislike
15 May 2018

ΒΆ One of the great pleasures of city living is taking a deep dislike to a stranger whom you will never see again.

Now, visitors from the provinces are probably no less liable to sudden, unaccountable dislikes, but their mistake is to regard the offenders as an annoyance. In fact, somebody like the large, insouciantly self-important customer at Schaller & Weber this afternoon, who seemed to know everything about what the shop had to sell while giving the impression of never having visited it before β€” somebody like this is free entertainment. If you’re really lucky, he or she may provoke you to say something witty and slightly rude. But you must never be angry or impatient. You must be studious, you must savor the disagreeable tics, especially the ones that have a cultivated air. 

While this woman plied the butcher with questions that betrayed a fascination with her own drawling voice. I noticed an elderly gent β€” older than I β€” in an old summer suit. Nobody had made a suit like that in twenty or thirty years. It was clean and in good shape, really very respectable. But it was very, very soft, full-cut, and, all things considered, somewhat zoot-suity in the length of the jacket. The man was wearing a tie and a straw hat and neat black shoes. I remembered when his get-up was the normal, respectable thing. I remembered when so many people in Yorkville were obvious transplants from Central Europe. This fellow looked as though, when he went to bed last night, it was still 1970. In fact, I was reminded of Marathon Man, which begins, for very good reasons, right in this neighborhood. 

I felt a twinge of regret, in my short-sleeved Madras shirt and pleated shorts. (It was hot today, heavy with impending electrical storms, since come but not quite gone.) I admired my neighbor’s solid habits. And he was my neighbor, too. Although he was behind me at the store, he passed me as we crossed 86th Street, and I followed him right into the building. I’d never seen him before, but he lives, it seems, on the other side. 

When he got a few steps ahead of me, I noticed that he was wearing white socks. White socks with a suit. That said it all! But I completely approved.

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