I had the chance, possibly for the first time ever, to sit on a corner in downtown New York (specifically Whitehall St and Pearl St), eat my lunch, and just do some people watching. It didn’t take too long for me to realize how much public behavior — even in a stereotypically surly city — is governed by simple respect for our fellow people.

There’s the guy in the over-crowded and entirely enclosed news stand who can hardly get his arms out the little peephole to take your money, but is apparently unafraid of anyone stealing his wares. And the couple selling produce next to him even walked away for several minutes and no one touched a thing. Everyone seemed to know exactly where the polite little line at the hotdog vendor was supposed to be. (And as an aside, why is it always right next to the server, not across from him?) And there was a startling lack of honking car horns.

I was somewhat taken aback. I wonder how much of it has to do with downtown-Manhattanite post-9/11 bonding, and how much of it was always there.