Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Step, Shove, Walk

We're all happy here, except some of us.

You'd think that with the typical sidewalk around four feet wide (1.2 m), there would be issues. This can go one of two ways. Either people go out of their way to accommodate each other, or they bump a bunch.

It's some of each.

I've been slammed from most every side, and had several of my feet stepped on, the latest incident being this morning. That's inadvertent, the stepping-on. No one goes out of their way to step on anyone else, not even on me, but you need to pay attention.

Walk too close to the curb and you're often only a foot from motor vehicles. When it's a 12-foot-high (3.7 m) bus you almost get sucked along, though after a couple of days you don't worry so much, but I'm still expecting to be brained by one of the side mirrors. Unfortunately, I worry about this only after the latest bus goes past.

Cabs? Almost unnoticeable, they're so tiny. Normally, but anyone can get killed by a cab as easily as anything else.

And then what?

Walk opposite the curb, and skim along the storefronts. This is probably worse. Get creamed by a cab or bus and it's over, at least the walking part of your life. Skip like a stone along the open doorways of hundreds of shops and you'll soon be t-boned by another pedestrian. Because no one looks.

People shoot out of shops at any time, at every velocity, and in any number. No one looks.

You're on an empty sidewalk and then someone's is on you — crash. If you're slow. And not watching. But you can't watch everything, and mostly you want to watch the pavement for holes, dropoffs, lumps, dog shit, curb cuts, random debris, and dog shit. Secondarily, as your mental processes allow, you watch for _Bumping Bennies_ bouncing out of buildings.

And no, you walk either along the curb or along the buildings. You can't walk in the middle or you'll never get anywhere at all — it's too crowded for that. Families walk in the middle three abreast, four abreast, in packs, and in small herds. The singleton walker must skirt them to get anywhere.

Still, no matter how careful you might be, you get sideswiped, especially at street corners. Come to one and stand, waiting for the light to change, or at least for the traffic to thin enough to allow a proper jaywalk, and you'll be bumped and jostled from every angle.

People want to get places, like getting to the next corner where they can repeat the process, as soon as possible. Anyone willing to preserve safety by not threading through moving traffic to get across the street against the light is not respected.

But the cake. It was taken one day, a few months back, as I was headed on my way back from lunch, by a local couple.

A circle of teenage girls was standing on a sidewalk, a particularly wide one. It measured five feet or so (1.5 m) across, and the girls took up all of it. I could have gone round to my left, out in the street, which was safe at that point (a parking lane with an empty slot at that location), but a man and woman were approaching from the girls' other side, making the scene even more congested, so I waited.

And I learned something.

If you're a suit-wearing, gray-haired man walking with your wife (or adult daughter, or mistress) and there is a group of girls standing on the sidewalk and blocking it, what then — What do you do?

  • Stop and wait
  • Ask them to move
  • Go around
  • Cross the street
  • Something interesting.

Of course the answer is Use your hand and shove one of them out of your way.

Yep. 'S what he did. Just shoved one of them about a foot and a half, and continued walking with his woman.

Conveniently for me, I was stopped, and was able to witness it all, and as an added bonus I was able to scoot around in the old gent's backwash, because the girls did not re-form their ranks.

They didn't pull knives either, or even say a thing. They looked at him, especially the one that got shoved, but that was it.

Pretty slick, but I'm not going to try it. Not this lifetime. No, better not.

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