The only thing we have to fear…

New Yorkers have very specific fears that don’t necessarily translate to other parts of the country. But for some people, the paranoia gets the better of them. Just a few days ago, a man who’d had it with roaches decided to exact his revenge by spraying the hell out of them with extra-strength Raid. In fact he sprayed so much of the stuff in his tiny apartment that one lit match ignited it, blowing out the front windows and charring more than 80 percent of his place. At least the roaches are gone.

But New Yorkers’ fears aren’t limited to the vermin/rodent category. Here are some other things that freak us out (in no particular order): getting run over by a bike messenger; a transit strike; a black-out during a heat wave; George Steinbrenner; falling debris from high-rise construction work; the mysterious steam that comes out of those orange cylinders in the middle of the street; and, oh yeah, Al Qaeda.

A very pregnant friend tells me that she hyperventilates at the thought of going into labor on the subway. She has reason to be worried. She knows the story of Francine and baby Soleil. Francine, pregnant with her first child, starts feeling a little uncomfortable so the doctor tells her to come to the hospital to be examined. Without enough money for car service, presumably, or thinking she has all the time in the world, she hops on the F train with her husband, Max. By the time they get to the East Broadway stop, Francine is feeling much worse. Max tells the conductor who radios ahead for an ambulance. He ushers Francine, who is by now having serious contractions, onto the platform, and the train leaves the station. Then New Yorkers, who love to be in the middle of everything, spring into action. They lay Francine on the platform (blech!) – a man offers his briefcase as a pillow, a woman holds her hand, several people give their clothing to the cause, another man runs to the street level to guide the EMTs, and as luck would have it a nurse steps off an arriving train and lends a hand. In fact Wendy Brown, a woman from the Bronx who offered moral support, noted at least four trains came into the station and some people from every one stopped to help. When baby Soleil makes her appearance, all the passersby applaud and jump on the next arriving train.

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