the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Nicest Man in New York City


My mother called today and scolded me for being so “negative” on my blog.

“I can’t handle it, it makes me anxious,” she said, sounding very familiar, since I said the same thing to Sophia when she crying because of her pain.

“Write about positive things.  People like happy stories about people who do good things.” 

Now she was sounding like one of the Hollywood executives who want to re-do “Citizen Kane” and have it end with an elderly Kane gleefully sledding down a snowy hill  on “Rosebud,” all of his happy, laughing grandchilden in tow.

“I have a positive story.” my mother continued.  “You should write about that.”

My mother is a very nice woman, and can even make a good brisket, but a storyteller she ain’t.  But since this blog has been such a downer lately, I’m going to turn over the reigns of “Citizen of the Month” to my mother and present to you (lights and the roar of the MGM lion):


I’ve titled it “The Nicest Man in New York City.”

Mom, take it away!

“I was on the Q65 bus in Queens when a man came onto the bus at Kissena Boulevard.   He seemed confused about where to go.  He asked some woman…  but the confused man, a very nice man, only spoke French.  No one knew what he was saying.  Some college student, this Chinese girl, said she took French in high school, but could only understand that he “didn’t know where to get the Express Bus.”  Suddenly, the bus driver said, “I know French!”  He was from Haiti, and a very nice man.  He explained to the French man… in French… how to get to the Express Bus.  Even more… when the bus driver got to the right stop, he waited until the French man got off the bus and stood in the exact location on the street to catch the Express bus.”

And that was the story.

“That’s it?” I asked, laughing.  “That’s a nothing story.”

“Everyone thinks New Yorkers are so mean, but this proves differently, because the bus driver was so nice.”

I wasn’t in the mood for my mother’s Pollyannish ways, so I thought I’d trap her in her own story.

“And how did all the other passengers feel about the bus driver waiting around until this French guy found the right spot to catch the Express bus?  I’m sure they were annoyed and wanted to go already.” 

“No, not at all.  Everyone on the bus was very nice and cared about this French man.”


“Everyone.  So, why don’t you write about THIS?  It’s not a nothing story.  It’a nice story, about nice people.”


  1. hellojed

    I love those stories! They make me feel all good about humanity…I’m a complete sucker for them.

  2. Greg

    I’ll laugh at neither; I just think your mother is sweet. But I also thought that people stopped thinking NYers were rude post 9-11. I went there recently and everyone kept hugging my face and handing out free stuffed bunnies.

  3. Leah

    If I was in a hurry, then I would have been irritated. But then again, why would ANYONE take a bus if you’re in a hurry. I’m sure you could walk somewhere faster. In NYC, the subway is way faster than a bus. So…I guess that blows my theory.

    BUT(!), if the French man was missing limbs or had a gimp eye and a cane, then I definitely would have felt bad for him and wouldn’t have minded waiting. Did he have a gimp eye and a cane?

  4. Rhea

    I love New York stories, especially those heartwarming ones. I feel like I just watched “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

  5. Two Roads

    Ok there are some holes in the story – if the bus driver was so nice and knew French then why didn’t he understand what the man was asking for when he got on the bus in the first place. Also, how does someone being from Haiti make them a New Yorker? Your mother has a strange knack from extracting information from the people around her – chinese girl in college took French in highschool; bus driver from Haiti.

    I’m with you Neil – perhaps a little “off” but I would have been annoyed with the driver who could have prevented the whole situation in the first place if he had spoken up first. Oh well….

  6. V-Grrrl

    Whenever I get negative on my blog, my husband is disturbed. Sure, I’m allowed to be a little depressed but I’m not allowed to be angry. I am supposed to deny that I sometimes feel pissy and irritable and be a Good Grrrl.

    While I admit I avoid blogs that are entrenched in cranky, the world-is-against me posts, I also ignore blogs that are all butterflies and sunshine. Never apologize for keeping it real, Neil.

  7. Dagny

    Such a sweet story. Thank you, Neil’s mom.

  8. femme d'espoir

    Your mommy is sweet!

  9. Ash

    That is a lovely story 🙂

  10. Bre

    Everyday stories like that are more important than the sweeping ones, don’t you think?

  11. Not Fainthearted

    Excuse me a second, Neilochka.

    Thank you, Neil’s mom! It was a wonderfully nice story. And Neil has turned into a wonderfully nice man. But sometimes we all get down and need our friends. You know that, of course. It is your job to worry most about Neil. But don’t worry that we won’t like him anymore. We’ll still be his blog friends even through the depressing stuff.

    And I LOVE how you found out all those interesting tid-bits about the people in the story! It’s those little details that make the strangers real people, don’t you think? It’s kind of like why we come hear to read Neil’s stories. To find out the little tid-bits of a real life, complete with laughs and tears.

  12. teahouseblossom

    Hey, I’m not surprised that happened!! There are a lot of nice people in New York City. I don’t know why we get such a bad reputation..

  13. Eileen Dover

    I just love the fact that your mom reads your blog. That’s the most hysterical thing of all.

  14. Finn

    Yeah mom! I love this story! I’m such a mush!

    I don’t know why New Yorkers have such a bad reputation. People who think they’re rude probably have never been to Boca.

    Thanks, Mom!

  15. Otir

    Dear Neil’s mom, this was a very sweet story (I don’t say that because I am French and can picture the help this Haitian busdriver gave my countryfellow).

    But you have to grant your son permission to express his depressed feelings on his blog and bite your tongue about it otherwise where can he do that? When I am depressed, I can’t write on my blog for fear my parents are going to worry about their daughter, so I don’t write anything, and they worry about me because my blog is empty.

  16. Kanani

    Yo, Dude…
    I tossed you into a post on “good blog examples” under my updated tips on blogging for newbies..
    Just click on that little linky thingy.

    Now, don’t disappoint me. Or I’ll have to put you on some other list.
    Yes, well, so what… your blog has been a downer lately? All blogs go through these flows and ebbs, don’t you think.

    Here, have a cookie….

  17. tamar

    A previous commenter asked: “Also, how does someone being from Haiti make them a New Yorker?”

    Answer: Not all New Yorkers are natives in the same way that not all Americans are natives. I am an example of both cases. Born abroad to an American mothers, which made me an American at birth. Raised and educated 20 years in NYC, which made me a New Yorker twenty years. SImple.

  18. Shelli

    Your mom is sweet.

    We like to here the real stories of your life. Even if they are sad sometimes. We want to be there for you.

  19. Neil

    Jeez, mother’s day was last month. You don’t have to ass-kiss my mother. That story is awful! No tension. No drama. At least if the French guy hijacked the bus and made it speed over the 59th Street Bridge, and then the bus driver, a Haitian born former Navy Seal who was dismissed because of a drinking problem, was able to talk the hijacker down in French, and then throw him off the bridge, it would be something. You like that one, Mom?

  20. Caron

    I spent the weekend at at atrs festival. I thouhgt I saw you there this afternoon, playing mandolin in a funky little quartet. But then you spoke with a Minnesota accent and had an entirely different. I was still ready to belive you were an undercover mandolin player, but, I don’t think you can pull off a Minnesota accent there, then, don’tcha know.

    Maybe being an undercover mandolin player would get you some good new stories. Around here, we call your mom’s story, “Minnesota Nice.”

  21. momentary academic

    It is a nice story about nice people. I needed to hear something like that. Tell your mother to start a blog called “Nice things about Nice people.” Unironic blogs that are sweet are hard to come by. This disenchanted DCite needs to hear nice stories about nice people. Good job, Mrs. Kramer!

  22. better safe than sorry

    it’s a lovely story on a beautiful sunny day.
    happy monday to your mother:)

  23. Peter

    I enjoyed your mom’s story.

    Though if it was me telling it, I would have gotten Frenchie to rob a bank at the end.

  24. Pearl

    See, Neil, “Mama Knows Best” !

  25. princess extraordinaire

    My Mom has a really bad Pollyanna *ish* complex…..sometimes it drives me crazy……but sometimes is does me a world of good…How is Sophia doing?

  26. deannie

    Not laughing at you Neil. Positive ‘human interest’ stories work for TV, why not on your blog? 😉

  27. Dave G

    I’m with your Mom on this one, it’s a nice story.

    New Yorkers get a bad rep for being rude and it’s totally false. Whenever I go there, I’ve never had a problem with finding someone to help me out.

  28. sarah g

    AMEN for niceness : ) Ya know, pay it forward! I bet that nice french man, did something awesome for someone else (but simple) who did it back and etc etc. And now the world is so much nicer! : ) hehe. Optimism does flow forth!

  29. Caitlinator

    As a New Yorker, all I can say is, goddamn foreigners. Don’t they know how to read a MAP? Geez. I’m with you, Neil.

    P.S. I hope you read the sarcasm in this. (I love how I always have to take back all my nasty comments, which deflates them instantly. Sigh. Or should I say, le sigh?)

  30. Churlita

    Your mother is so sweet. Again, though, you should be as sad and negative as you want to be. It’s your blog.

  31. Mrs Mogul

    She sounds like Mr. Mogul. He’s always saying why don’t you blog about this? or that? hehe Anyway I MISS QUEENS!!! Forgot what Kissena Blvd is all about but I know it’s near Booth Memorial!

  32. Think Jacob

    Hooray! Your blog, for some reason, was blocked from my computer at work. Becuase I never really blog at home, I haven’t been by in a bit.

    I don’t think the bus driver was nice. He waited around for a while to reveal the fact that he spoke French, while the other passengers tried to understand the guy. Maybe he had to decide whether or not to do a good deed…

  33. Think Jacob

    I meant to mention that, more inexplicably, your blog is now not blocked at work.

  34. Neil

    Think Jacob — thanks a lot, now my mother is going to say that if I write nice things rather than stuff about sex, my blog will be unblocked at work.

  35. :: jozjozjoz ::

    My favorite line in this entire post?

    “I thought I’d trap her in her own story.”

  36. Stacey

    It was a nice story, Neil.

    That being said, if you post stories like this every day, I’m going to have to stop reading your blog.

  37. therapydoc

    She could be your agent, Neil. Think about it. She’s onto something big.

  38. Akaky

    A very nice story, Neil, made even nicer by the absolute lack of snark and the complete absence of ABBA

  39. Patois

    I was on that bus. It made me late to an interview. I didn’t get the job. I hate that French guy.

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