New Yorkers Who Get a Kick Out of Bumping Into Strangers

The Jostlers and the Jostled

You know you’re a New Yorker, perhaps, that day when some dumb lug stops right in front of you–and instead of saying, “Excuse me,” you brush briskly past him. But what kind of New Yorker are you if you add a little jostle for good measure?

“I find myself doing it when the subway is crowded,” said pink-cheeked Rebecca Hooley, 29, who came here from San Francisco to attend law school at Columbia. “Someone will come onto the subway when you’re trying to go out. I give them a hard nudge usually, with my elbow. Particularly big men. I just want to make them aware that it’s not going unnoticed and they can’t really bully their way around.”

She said that, in the anonymity of the crowd, she enjoys the momentary rush of power bestowed by the jostle. “Nobody really suspects that I would do it because of the way I look,” said Ms. Hooley.

It’s hard to get men to admit they jostle, since the practice has overtones of frottage or, worse, those maniacs who push people in front of trains.

But Kevin Wynn, a choreographer and professor of dance at the State University of New York at Purchase, owns up to the occasional light body bump.

“I was coming from Brooklyn to Grand Central on the 4 train,” said Mr. Wynn, 43. “There was one of those obnoxious, loud people–just like totally offensively standing. I knew that I was safe because there were so many people around me. I shoved past him so rudely. I wanted him to know he was totally in the door. He was so in my way that it was just completely wrong .”

Mr. Wynn’s latest dances, “Corpuscle Madness” and “Territorial Boogie,” are inspired by the idea that urbanites’ collective bouncing off one another is not necessarily a bad thing. “I’ve been amazed when I’ve done things like that,” he said of his jostling. “I’m expecting people to be upset or pissed or not happy with me–and it’s almost like the beginning of a dialogue!”

Tell that to Todd Shuster, a literary agent who recently moved here from Boston. Where people are civil.

“New Yorkers are too Hobbesian,” complained Mr. Shuster, 35. “In Times Square station, I had just gotten off the N-R. I was coming from my office and going to see The Dead , by James Joyce. People were rushing at me like cattle . This woman’s behind me and she’s prodding me with her briefcase. And, sure, my instinct would be to hit her, but my better judgment is to say something very polite and not patronizing … I’ll usually say, ‘Who is your mother?’”

He admits that, after five months in New York, he has occasionally begun to brandish his own briefcase in defense.

But for now, he said, “I’m definitely the jostled.” –Alexandra Jacobs

New Wild Girl

Director Christina Peters was in town. She has just made a movie called The Smokers –about a group of boarding school girls who attempt to go on a serial-rape rampage against their male classmates–and was in New York to try to find a distributor. One of the girls in the movie says to a guy: “Munch the muffin, big boy.” She has a gun in her hand when she says it. The guy she says this to is Nicholas Loeb, 24, who put together the funding for the movie and has a nice part in it. Dominique Swain, the girl from the latest Lolita , is in the movie, too. Anyway, Christina Peters, the director, is 28 and lives in West Hollywood. She grew up in Short Hills, N.J., and Oshkosh, Wis. She was staying at the Regency Hotel on Park Avenue, Room 224. I met her there, then we got a cab. She was wearing tight jeans, a tight button-down shirt, black boots. She had big eyes and a chin dimple. “Believe me, I was the ultimate bad girl,” she said in the cab. “I was in my boarding school room telling all my friends how to give a guy head, how to have sex with him. But the big secret was I was such a virgin!” We ended up at Broome Street Bar. We ordered salads, cheeseburgers, fries. “And lots and lots of ketchup,” she said. “I tell you right now, all you New Yorkers will hate this one. I’m the only writer–I know I’m not a writer by technical New York standards. But in Hollywood, I guess one would classify me as a writer, right? I’m the only writer that doesn’t read. I hate reading, I hate it with a passion! The dreaded times for me were when you had to do your book reports, right? One of the books I was supposed to have read was a Thomas Hardy book, or what was it, the Hardy Boys books, or whatever, the scary ones for fifth graders. And I never read it, never read it. My poor father, this is how great he was, he would come in and say, ‘Did you read your book?’ ‘No.’ He would end up reading it the night before the book report was due and give me the brief summary.” “What do you hate about reading?” “It’s so tedious! I was a TV junkie. I was a big ice skater, so I had to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning for ice skating, and I grew up with no sleep, because my parents would tuck me in at whatever was a normal time for kids and then as soon as the lights went off, I had this little basketball that was all stuffed and fluffy and nice and big–I’m telling you, I saw it recently, and it’s so flat because I would sit on it in front of my TV. This was before remote control, and I’d sit there glued to the television, watching Invasion of the Body Snatchers , all those movies that were on New Jersey TV late at night!” Cheeseburgers arrived. I mentioned the line, “munch the muffin, big boy.” “That seems to be the one phrase that everyone says afterward,” she said. “That and the cigarette game, they all want to play the cigarette game: When two girls decide that they want to attract the attention of a male viewer, they will take a cigarette. One inhales the cigarette, the other one puts her lips up to her friend’s mouth, and inhales from her friend’s mouth into her mouth, and exhales, and the two look at the boy with that little smirk that only girls can do. That’s the cigarette game.” “Have you ever fantasized about getting vengeance on a man?” “Yes. But I hope it comes across in the movie, I don’t think that that would ever work. My revenge on men, the best revenge a woman can get on a man, one word: flirting. You guys like to call it a dick tease.” She laughed. “But you know, that’s what keeps you coming back for more.” “What’s the wildest thing you’ve done sexually?” “Well, I had sex on the capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin. It was the first guy I’d ever been with, the first time, naked on the capitol steps. Is that wild? I played the cigarette game before.” Did she have sex during the Smokers shoot? “There was no time! No time to even think about it, no time to even masturbate,” she said. “I’ve never dated somebody for a long period of time. Eight months was the longest relationship I’ve had. But the relationships I do have, I’m open. I’m open. It’s like, every position, you know, flipping me over. Cars, libraries, where else? Friends’ bathrooms at their parties. Believe me, once I find a guy I like, I like him!” We talked about movies next. She hated Analyze This and loved Babe and A Clockwork Orange . She discussed her ambitions. Find the love of her life, a house in the country, kids, maybe become the first female President. “You know what really sucks about being a woman?” she said. “Actually, this is one of my favorite lines in the movie: ‘It sucks being a woman. The guy pushes you down until he’s done and then he fingers you like a Brillo pad, and tells you that’s an orgasm.’ And then at the end, she finishes off by saying, ‘And you want to know the worst part of it all? You want him to do it again.’ We’re all horny and we’re all looking for somebody to fill our–to be with, to love, to be loved. But what sucks is women always have to be the ones that say ‘No, no, no’. Why can’t we say, ‘Yes!’ But it doesn’t work that way.” We got up to leave. Outside, on West Broadway, Ms. Peters did the chicken dance, flapping her arms and rocking side to side. –George Gurley