Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Invisible People of New York

It would be almost unbelievable, if history did not record the tragic fact that men have gone to war and cut each other's throats because they could not agree as to what was to become of them after their throats were cut." - from "The Fried Rice God"

Classification has been defined by Mayr as "The arrangement of entities in a hierarchical series of nested classes, in which similar or related classes at one hierarchical level are combined comprehensively into more inclusive classes at the next higher level." A class is defined as "a collection of similar entities", where the similarity consists of the entities having attributes or traits in common. - from Biological Classification - Wikipedia

I have discovered a-yet-to-be-classified species - a species which can be found in New York City, though I suspect there are variants in Paris and Moscow.

I strongly suspect that the species I have discovered remained unclassified for so long because all of its members are invisible.

So I shall call them "The Invisibles", though I suspect that some bright young thing will come up with a better-sounding nomenclature, most probably derived from Latin.

A group of invisible New Yorkers
Here is a photo of a group of Invisibles outside the Lincoln Center. They are humanoids, and should they not be invisible, they probably would be indistinguishable in outward appearance to other New Yorkers.

Besides being invisible, the Invisibles are unlike other New Yorkers in that they are quite unable to speak. In fact no sound issues at all from their vocal cords, though I suspect one could hear their footfalls were they to come close when walking outside. Walking outside is something they rarely do, as their main function in life is too sit quietly at home or in some quiet place, holding a phone to their ears. The phone can be of any type. It can be a cell, or a cordless hand-held VoIP or landline.

Speaking of cordless hand-helds, I actually know a man in Melbourne, Australia, who does not know the difference between a cell phone and a cordless landline phone. He actually thinks they are one and the same because the are both "mobile" in the sense of being capable of being carried around. Unfortunately though, this man is NOT invisible.

Invisible New Yorkers on Vacation in New Hampshire
Back to the Invisibles. You might think they would be anti-social solitary beings. This is in fact far from the truth. Many of them are married, or are living in blended families. Some may even have pets.

Although you cannot see them, you CAN detect their existence. All you need to do is get onto a bus or subway car in New York, and listen to those very visible New Yorkers talking to the Invisibles on their cell-phones.

It is quite remarkable, as regular visible New Yorkers can talk for hours on end, first to one Invisible and then to another. Talking on cell phones is the New Yorkers' preferred method of passing the time while commuting.

The Invisibles are POPULAR. If they were not invisible you'd see them in old high school year books, with captions such as, "Miss Popularity", and "Girl Most Likely to Find a Husband". Invisibles have qualities that New Yorkers do not possess but which they find eminently desirable in others.

Invisibles are patient; they listen diligently. They NEVER interrupt. They never voice an opinion. They NEVER talk about themselves - what they have done, how they feel - but are content to listen to every minute detail of the visible friend's life.

Invisible New Yorker with Umbrella
There remain some parts of the Invisibles' culture and environment that I do not yet understand, and because of their nature, will never know. For example, do they eat? I imagine that they don't as they would have no time to shop for food or cook it. They couldn't even order-in, as their phone lines are constantly busy. Do they hold political or religious views? I expect not. I would imagine they would camelion-like, take on the views of whoever they are currently listening to.

Nearly all New Yorkers have at least on Invisible friend. I know this because almost every time I hear a New Yorker talking on a cell phone, there are no pauses; there are no phrases such as "Really" or "Did you?" Or "What do YOU think?" New Yorkers never answer whoever is on the other end of the phone, and this certainly must be because the listener has nothing whatsoever to say.

Sometimes a New Yorker will make a mistake and call another visible New Yorker. This has happened to me a number of times. They'll just forget and when I actually get to talk - and it DOES happen that a visible New Yorker can make a mistake and pause for a nana-second, perhaps someone distracts them, or they have an urge to cough - when I actually SPEAK, I can almost hear the astonishment emanating from the other end of the line.

At such times the visible New Yorker is speechless. The callee has actually attempted to speak. There is stunned silence. But only for a second - undeterred, the visible New Yorker carries on talking as if nothing has happened. My words have had no effect.

I am thinking of nominating the Invisibles as a group, for the television channel "NY1" "New Yorker of the Week" series. To date this has been dominated by visibles - teachers, philanthropist, firemen and such.

It is about time the Invisibles are recognized. What would we do without them?

Just imagine the chaos if everybody here talked at once, if no one listened to anyone else. And if people actually LISTENED!

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