I read this article today in the New York Times, Get Out Your Handkerchiefs. Or Maybe Not., and it really got at something I have noticed walking the streets. I have too walked passed people weeping sitting on a curb in the middle of the day, sharing an intimate moment right in front of the subway station, rolling out of bed to walk their dog, and getting sick in a crowd. Without the privacy mobile (i.e. your car) nor a corner to go around and be out of sight you tend to see everything. I too have that neighbor across the alley. Mine cooks in his underwear- to each their own. I have also learned that while New Yorkers will turn their heads and give you the privacy you need in the middle of everything, they will also help you out as soon as you ask.
I haven't had the public breakdown yet, but I did forget to remove the underarm tags on my new jacket one day. As soon as I got on a packed subway car a nice lady pointed it out and removed them. She then went on for the rest of the ride about how nice my jacket was and almost erased my humiliation. And when you make your trip to the big city just remember that trips and tumbles in the subway stations are never acknowledged because we have all been there (excluding of course if someone is actually injured).