I feel like sharing with the internet something I noticed while traveling to NYC in the past.  While quietly observing New Yorkers, I noticed something odd – they close their eyes in public a lot.  I never really noticed before but in the Midwest, we rarely if ever close our eyes in public places.  Perhaps we think it’s rude or something.  I also get the feeling that we would probably be a little concerned (or creeped out) about someone just sitting there with his eyes closed in a public place.

I noticed it mostly on the subway – people would settle in, get their ipods set to whatever music they wanted to listen to and would close their eyes, even though falling asleep on the subway doesn’t seem like a good idea.  I wouldn’t even mention this if I thought it was just the occasional overworked mother who is just trying to catch a few winks before going home for the “second shift” or something.  No, most people closed their eyes sitting straight upright, not slumped over in an effort to actually fall asleep.  So that led me to think that maybe the eye closing behavior is completely unrelated to rest.

What other reasons would New Yorkers have to close their eyes?  What I think could be a possibility is the fact that they live in a very different world than I do.  In Dayton, Ohio, there are lots of times where I have the privilege of being alone.  For one thing, it’s uncommon to not have a car of your own in the Midwest.  My husband and I both have our own cars so most days during the week I enjoy 100% privacy when going to work or to meet friends, etc.  People in New York don’t necessarily have cars, primarily because parking them in a safe place costs more than the rent on my first apartment in Dayton.  So they use public transit to get around.

Basically, since New Yorkers don’t enjoy much privacy in public places, they seem to have to create a private space of their own while using public transit.  The ipod blocks out most ambient noise, the closing of the traveler’s eyes blocks out any communication that could take place.  So even though a New Yorker may be surrounded by people during the subway’s peak hours, she is technically traveling inside her own self-contained unit and won’t be bothered.

All that being said, I love New York City – observing its population’s similarities and differences to the Midwest is just a facet of that love.

What do you think?  Am I way off?