…a person (even a New Yorker) could be both dissatisfied and happy at once, and that the act of complaining was not in fact evidence of unhappiness, but something that could in its own way lead to greater happiness.
Not long ago, I was in a large city in the Upper Midwest in the common room of an eccentric bed and breakfast. It was morning, and I was quietly eating breakfast when a fellow guest learned that I lived in New York City.
He gasped. Oh, he asked, how can you bear to live there?
Without waiting for my answer, he began to tell me that New York was a cold and unfeeling place, populated by faceless strangers. Everyone in a hurry, he said, everyone obsessed with money. No happiness or kindness at all.
I oughta know, he said, I’ve traveled there for business.
He continued his monologue with an anecdote about a long, disagreeable cab ride. When at last it was over, he said, the cabbie was unable to open the trunk. And this was the last straw. With the help of the passenger of another cab, and while heaping oral abuse on the driver, he hacked open the trunk with a golf club, freed his luggage, and then won a brief footrace into the airport terminal without paying his fare.
By the end of this performance, we were both horrified.
He could not believe that a seemingly reasonable person would subject himself to the nightmare that is New York City.
I was surprised that this was what passed for an ambassador of Midwestern Living.