Postcard from New York
5 November 2009
The journalist Mignon MacLauglin once said that “a car is useless in New York, essential everywhere else, the same with good manners”. Having lived in Manhattan for nearly nine months, I often found this to be an accurate depiction of New York. There is nowhere else in the world where strangers are so comfortable telling you exactly what they think. Yet despite this uncompromising honesty, New Yorkers always show a genuine concern and warmth towards those who share their city. A fact evidenced when I lost my phone somewhere on the island and it was returned to me via a Good Samaritan who took the time to dial the last number after finding it in the back of a taxi. She told me that whenever she loses something in Manhattan it somehow finds its way back to her. I moved to New York earlier this year to assist Mayer Brown’s New York office with Google and YouTube’s defence of a copyright infringement claim brought by various media content holders relating to videos posted on YouTube’s online service. Moving between two different offices of the same law firm was an easy transition as the internal systems and working culture are relatively consistent between offices. As to be expected, the working day is long but as New York is the city that never sleeps, late nights in the office never felt that bad. Regardless of the hour I left the office, I could always find an open restaurant, a manicurist and a bookshop. To adjust to working within the US litigation system, I had to learn to adapt to the American style of drafting. To practice, I would email friends using American spellings and expressions. My favourite American expression that is in frequent use around the office is “drink the kool-aid”. When I first heard this expression from a colleague, I remember staring in confusion at my glass of water and wondering where the kool-aid was. As it happens, “drink the kool-aid” means to blindly follow a cause and originates from the Jonestown massacre where the leader of a cult ordered his followers to drink poisoned kool-aid as part of a suicide pact.