Man on the Street

nickmartinezPart of my responsibilities with Straus is the weekly Man on the Street. This involves me standing on a street corner, or walking down the street, stopping people and asking them the question of the week. Questions vary. One time I asked them how they feel New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first term has gone. Another I asked what they were most looking forward to about Spring. That was an especially fun question given the hellish conditions this winter.

I’ll admit I wasn’t too excited about the prospects of standing outside and asking strangers questions. The first time I had to, it was a balmy 30 degrees outside and I was a bit too shy. There are plenty of people asking to sign a petition to stop fracking, or saying “I’ve never done this before, but could you spare some change?” Or just shaking a cup. So the majority of people ignore you.

Have a hundred strangers tell you no, or simply ignore you while they walk by took a while to get used to. I’ve had multiple people turn the tables on me, asking me questions. One asked if Straus was hiring. Another was a struggling rapper and asked me to listen to his demo tape. I did, and it was dogshit. Still better than a no, though.

Some people are willing to stop and answer a question, but draw the line at having their pictures taken.

“Thank you for answering the question ma’am. This is part of the Man on the Street section, so would you mind if I took a head shot?” I asked.

“Oh no, I wouldn’t want to end up on some porn site,” one woman said.

“Do I look like that kind of person?” I asked in my buttoned down and flannel tie.


OK, that one stung a little bit. But, how could I blame her? I wouldn’t let a stranger take my picture. It’s why I’m always surprised and ecstatic when someone actually agrees to everything.

My writing aside, I’m a private person, not the kind of guy who likes to talk to strangers. MOS has opened me up about the act. Everyone always talks about how New Yorkers are rude, or snobby. Sure there are some assholes, but there are assholes everywhere. Several spring to mind. A lot of the people I ask at least tell me sorry, no thank you. And the ones who do stop and answer questions are lovely people.

Even the lame jobs are great. I have a week and a half before I leave New York behind. Damn. That just sunk in.

SFUAD Creative Writing major Nick Martinez is spending the semester in New York through the New York Arts Program. Read more about his adventures here.