Another curious form of cooperation one sees in New York is the unspoken ban on staring at celebrities.
When you get into an elevator in an office building and find that you are riding with Paul McCartney — this happened to me — you are not supposed to look at him. You can peek for a second, but then you must avert your eyes.
The idea is that Paul McCartney has to be given his space like anyone else. A limousine can bring him to the building he wants to go to, but it can't take him to the 12th floor. To get there, he has to ride in an elevator with the rest of us, and we shouldn't take advantage of that.
This logic is self-flattering. It's nice to think that Paul McCartney needs us to do him a favor, and that we live in a city with so many famous people that we can afford to ignore them.
But if vanity is involved, so is generosity. I remember, once, in the early '90s, standing in a crowded lobby at City Center Theater when Jackie Onassis walked in. Everyone looked at her and then immediately looked down. There was a whole mob of people staring at their shoes. When Jackie died, a few years later, I was happy to remember that scene. I was glad that we had been polite to her.