New Yorkers tut over the president's proposed solution to the financial crisis – and cancel dinner over a shock baseball result
I would not advise anyone to try and stop people on the streets of Manhattan - for anything. Ever. And especially not to ask them questions about the government at 8am on a Monday morning. If you do, be warned: nobody will stop, there will be a pile-up from both sides, and you are very likely to get an extra-hot, non-fat, with foam, caramel, tall, soya latte thrown at you.
The pace on the streets here doesn't stop for anything, let alone a slightly disorientated British journalist. So the last hour of my day has gone a bit like this. “Excuse me, do you have a couple of minutes?” “No.” “Really: just two minutes?” “No.” “Oh, okay. In that case, could you tell me where I am?”
But all was not lost. I grew accustomed to the NYC commuter mindset after about 10 minutes - even the learning curves here have to be supersonically fast - so I stopped getting in the way and instead targeted people standing in line for buses and coffee. And here I had more success as I tried to gauge opinion on the $700bn Wall Street bailout.
The most common reaction has been tutting, shaking heads and a lot of “It's just terrible” followed by a blank stare when probed further
It is the issue of the day worldwide, and particularly out here in the States. And as the bailout bill is being voted on by the lower house of the US Congress today, reaction from the people of New York is varied. My questions have been met by a mixture of blank stares, measured responses saying it will be good for the economy but expressing concern over what it will mean for taxpayers, and - the most common reaction - tutting, shaking heads and a lot of “It's just terrible” followed by the aforementioned blank stare when probed further.
Oh, and one rather odd: “Save the trees, save the birds, save the people.” But I think that response was down to a bad choice of interviewee on my part, as she was almost definitely drunk. This became obvious as, after talking to me, she staggered off and proceeded to lie spread-eagled face down in the doorway of the nearest Dunkin' Donut.
But back to the only slightly less ridiculous - President Bush, who today urges the House of Representatives to pass the bill to deliver the bailout package that he believes will rescue the US economy and calm the volatile global financial system. It is understood that last night there was still a “distance to go”, although around 120 votes were thought to have already been secured in favour.
The feeling here is that nobody should have to pay for the government's mistakes - especially not to the tune of $700bn
A “new, improved” bailout package has been cooked up over the weekend to reassure taxpayers. So has it? At the subway stations, coffee outlets and sandwich stands here in New York, the answer so far is a resounding “No”, even from those who admit the bailout might provide some financial stability.
The feeling here is that nobody should have to pay for the government's mistakes - especially not to the tune of $700bn. “It could be good for the economy,” said one commuter outside Times Square subway, “but it is worrying as a taxpayer how it's going to affect us in the long run. And this is the government's mistake, the government's mess: the government should pay to fix it.”
Apart from the odd opinion here and there, though, it is hard to tell exactly what people think after just an hour on the streets. So this afternoon I will be heading to Wall Street to get more opinions and an idea of how those in the thick of it feel about the plan - and I will update you as soon as I can.
There is another big story hitting the headlines: the New Yorker standing trial for killing his ex-girlfriend's cat - in self defence
For now, though, information is coming through thick and fast. Most TV channels are flicking back and forth from their regular programming to give up-to-the-minute updates. And apart from the fact that the Mets lost the baseball last night - big, big deal; a friend of mine living out here actually cancelled dinner last night because he was so devastated - the bailout is what is on everybody's lips today. Well, almost everybody's lips.
There is another big story hitting the headlines out here, you see - the dramatic tale of a New Yorker standing trial for killing his ex-girlfriend's cat. The tagline “CAT KILLER?” flashed up at the bottom of the screen as the accused was interviewed for NBC News and the details unfolded of how he had flung the cat to its death in - wait for it - self defence.
The reporter remained unconvinced: “I want to believe you, I do. But what do you think I noticed about you when you walked in here right now? I noticed you're a big guy; a real big guy. This was a 7lb cat with no claws - it's hard to imagine what it could have done to you to provoke you to react in the way you did. Do you think you did to this cat what you secretly wanted to do to your girlfriend but couldn't?”
The alleged cat killer looked down and began to cry, and I was torn between staying in my hotel to find out what happened next or dashing out to gather information about the financial crisis. But worry not: I noted down the NBC channel number, and when I have a minute I'll get you an update on that one too.
So keep an eye out for my news from Wall Street and the Cat Killer of NYC.