Earth Day in Times Square. An odd juxtaposition of the one-day celebration of using our renewable resources, appreciating the earth under our feet, and planting trees . . . celebrated in the center of heaven-knows-how-many kilowatts of squandered electricity and surrounded by concrete where the closest tree is 20 blocks north in Central Park. In classic New York manner, though, we Manhattanites, as always, celebrate our hypocrisy in style. I meandered through the Earth Day madness a few years ago in Times Square to soak up the experience.
For the most part, the Earth Day celebration in Times Square was a thinly veiled marketing strategy for pretty much everything under the sun. So much so that locals and tourists alike that walked through the streets could literally smell the inevitable "free stuff" and hunted it down like tweens at a TikTok merch sale at Bloomingdale's. People smooshed past each other, ignoring lectures about recycling and green vehicles and climbing over each other to get free samples of oat milk.
Here's the thing about events like this. People are not there to be educated. They are not there to be entertained. At all. THEY JUST WANT FREE STUFF. Screw the earth, give them the eco-friendly shampoo sample. Seriously. I was quickly made aware of two very nasty incidents that drive home my point.
First, a friend was politely tasting a cup of chocolate oat milk when a woman next to her asked for another cup. The kindly young man behind the cart explained that it was one cup per customer. In classic rude New Yorker fashion, she argued and made a general racquet until my friend gently intervened on her behalf. The belligerent woman's response? A half cup of oat milk in my friend's face. No lie. The good thing is the sweet kid that witnessed the whole thing gave my friend two cartons of oat for her potentially ruined green velvet coat. Only in New York City.
The other incident occurred at the Home Depot booth where the nice volunteers in orange aprons were handing out strawberry plants to children. I watched as a very small woman approached and grabbed a plant unnoticed amongst the youngsters. A burly man behind the group of kids shouted at the aproned workers that he wanted a strawberry plant. (Really, guy? I'm sure you have a huge garden behind your ghetto lower east side apartment that matches your washed-last-April dungarees, but these were obviously kid gifts).
Again, a very patient person explained that the plants were for children. "But, you gave one to that woman. I want one. That's not fair". At this, three kids looked up to the grown-up speaking their lingo. "Sir", more forcefully this time, "The plants are for the CHIlDREN." He widened his stance, "Yeah, well, you gave one to her, so I . . ." The altercation blended into the general crowd buzz as I distanced myself from the fray so as not to be hit by any flying planters. Wow, guy. Just . . . wow. Now, these two instances were not indicative of the general hubbub of the event, but they were definitely not the only two of their kind, I'm sure. Yeah. Happy Earth Day in New York City, everybody.
So . . . in light of my general disgust for people's conduct in public, I would like to propose a New York alternative to Earth Day. Since most of us obviously do not give a crap about the planet, I would like to propose National Don't-Be-A-Poopyhead-To-Each-Other Day. I know it would be hard in this city where that's our M.O., but I think we can do it for 24 hours. Just maybe we can try not to throw oat milk on each other, steal plants from children, plow people over with our bags, and mutter obscenities under our breaths at each other. Maybe we could even try to adopt a little of the charm that is inherent in the Southerners we so often like to chastise. Just for a day. If the Earth gets one, we humans should, too.