you have to find ways of protecting your privacy. In many ways it makes sense- when you are facing this after a 10 hour day, you don't really want to chat. In many ways it is POLITE in New York to avoid eye contact and more than the minimum amount of verbal interaction. Unfortunately, it means that I have really lost any ability to interact with people on a normal basis. When trying to get by someone who has stepped aside for me I inevitably mumble "sorry" rather than saying "thank you". A nice tourist stopped me in the grocery store the other day and I just stared at him confused. Finally I realized he was asking if grocery stores stock wine, since he wanted to buy some for his wife. I was very helpful, but at the end of the interaction I realized that I hadn't smiled once and when he thanked me at the end I just nodded. UGH!!! I can't even say "you're welcome" anymore!!
When I started to realize this I chatted about it with a friend who has been in Philadelphia for about five years. A lifelong Virginian (until Philly), she has retained her southern accent but admits to having changed in some other ways. The truth is, I don't really know if the south is even a polite place anymore. Some people tell me it isn't. Some people remind me that even when I was there I wasn't the most bubbly person : ) However, I would like to believe that Virginians are polite, and that I can one day return to being someone who says "please" and "thank you" without having to think about it.