Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pedestrian Entry

Considering I walk to work nearly every day and have to navigate the narrow city sidewalks here in Boston, I am beyond aggravated with the helter skelter patterns and lack of recognition from other people that they are sharing their walking space.

Rather than take my usual negative attitude about it, I’ve decided to create some rules. After all, if I don’t use this space to make the world a better place, then what good am I really doing here?

Exactly. No good at all. So, let’s get on the same page when it comes to walking, shall we?

Rule 1 - Get the fuck out of my way: This should be fairly straight forward. I am a fast walker which means nearly every person in front of me is moving at a slower pace. If you see me coming, just move to the right so I can cruise on past. It saves me from slowing down and you from a punch in the back of the head. Or, at the very least, me stepping on the back of your shoe so you get a flat. If you have any doubts about any of the following rules, please refer back to this one for clarification.

Rule 2 - Do not come to a sudden stop: This drives me insane to the point of homicide. The crowd is moving along, when suddenly someone will see something in a window or realize they forgot something and just stop. This will result in two or more people bumping into each other and/or a complete pedestrian jam of grumbling people. If you need to stop, just ease off to the side and stay out of the way until there is a break in the crowd. You may save someone’s life one day and that life will probably be your own.

Rule 3 - Walk like you drive: Living in Boston, I realize this rule may do more harm than good, but what I mean is when you walk down the sidewalk, stay to the right. This will eliminate any ‘wanna dance?’ comments when two people can’t figure out which way the other one is going. STAY TO THE RIGHT. It’s simple and it’s just like driving. You don’t keep heading at a car coming the opposite way, do you?

NOTE: I’ve considered promoting a personal signal system so you know if someone is going to turn right or left. Or we can put our hazards on if we are just hanging out or waiting for someone. But I can’t design something small enough not to make us all look like electronic reindeer or a neon moose but still large enough to be visible. I’ll keep working on it.

Rule 4 - Wait to cross: If you need to cut across a line of people walking in the opposite direction, wait for a break in the crowd. Don’t just cut across the line and make people jump to a stop. Then you have caused a Rule 2 breakdown and that ain’t gonna fly! Just wait for a break or someone to wave you through before cutting across. Again, just like driving.

Rule 5 - Wait to enter: This relates to Rule 4. If you are leaving a store that opens onto a sidewalk, make sure the path is clear before barging out of the door. There is a Radio Shack right down the street from my office and people constantly come out of there without looking, then stop to talk to each other about what useless tech toy they just bought. I understand you are excited about the new headphones you just bought or the gold S-video cable that’s going to make your new plasma look totally kick ass, but do it somewhere else. Again, please refer to Rule 1.

Rule 6 - Watch your bags: I was going to address this one towards the ladies, but with the man bags that sling across the shoulders and everyone carrying backpacks with three days worth of supplies in them, this now involves every man, woman and child in America. If you have a bag on your person, be aware of how often it bumps into other people. This bag is essentially an extension of your body and if I get hit one more time with a stray or loose bag, it won’t be the bag getting the shit stomped out of it.

Rule 7 - Be aware of other people: This particular rule is being violated more than any other what with everyone talking on their cell phones while they walk and cranking their iPods. Nobody is taking a minute to glance around and see who’s around them. Look, I wear an iPod, but if I go to pass someone or cross I take a second to look behind me to see if anyone is there. At least once a day, someone will make a move to get around someone in front of them only to bump into me, who is passing on the left. C’mon, people, you aren’t the only ones on the sidewalk. Just glance over your shoulder before you attempt to pass someone. Again, JUST LIKE DRIVING!

Rule 8 - Watch your umbrellas: Rainy days in Boston mean my eyes are going to be in constant jeopardy. I’m about 6’1 while the average lady in Boston is about 5’6. This means that when they carry an umbrella above them, it’s at the same level as my ruggedly handsome face. Now, considering most umbrellas now cover a small city block, that doesn’t leave much room for my head. I’m constantly ducking and dodging while trying to keep myself dry. Please try to anticipate taller gents such as myself when walking the sidewalks.

Also, do not stop at the top of the subway stairs to open your umbrella. Either keep walking and open it as you go or open it before you get to the exit. I know I’m not the only one frustrated by this. One rainy day a older gentleman was stuck behind a professional business woman. She stopped at the top of the stairs that exit the subway to open her umbrella. The problem was she was at the top of an escalator and just because you stop moving doesn’t mean the stairs and everyone on it do the same. Immediately there was a pileup of people trying to stumble their way past the woman. The elderly gentleman waited patiently and calmly until the woman opened the umbrella, put it behind her head and jabbed him right beneath his eye. As she walked away, oblivious, he landed an over hand punch directly to the top of her umbrella, knocking it out of her hand and sending it tumbling down the street.

While I never learned who that man was, he is – and always will be - my hero.

Rule 9 - Use your head: I realize I am asking a lot here, but try and use common sense. While the lack of that commodity is alarming on an international level, you’ll know what I mean. Don’t have you and 15 friends hanging out in the middle of a sidewalk, hopelessly clogging the walkways while you coordinate. Don’t bring your double wide baby stroller and expect everyone to make way for you. If anything you make way for us since you obviously have nowhere to go and we have to work. If you have any doubts about what constitutes common pedestrian sense, consider what you are doing and refer to Rule 1. If it violates that, then you are not using your head.

That's all I've got so far. I'm sure as soon as I hit the Publish Post link, I'll think of three more. Feel free to add your own suggestions and, if they seem useful, I'll add it to my Pedestrian Manifest 2008.

Today's distraction: Rev up your walking routine!! Hey, I'm here to get you fit; both mentally and physically. You can thank me later. Twenties and fifties would be perfect.


Hammen said...

The vision in my head of some old guy punching someone's umbrella just made my afternoon.

son pere said...

I used to get frustrated walking to work when I was working in NYC. I would get off of the subway train and ascend the escalator to 5th Avenue and proceed to walk two blocks to 42nd Street, where my office was located. People walking the sidewalks in NYC are completely oblivious to anyone else in the world and you had better stay out of their way. One day, I noticed a gentleman walking up 5th Ave reading a newspaper (the NY Daily News, I believe). He paid no attention to people walking toward him, and they just got out of his way, like Moses parting the Red Sea. After that, I began buying the Daily News at the RR station before boarding the subway to 5th Ave. That was my liberation!! Indeed, people really did get out of my way as I walked, reading the paper as I went. What a joy!! Of course, the paper also came in handy if it was raining - you could hold it over your head to keep dry as you walked. Dual-purpose papers, a great invention!

Try this one out if you have a chance and see if it works for you. Let me know if you do. If it works, I will not charge you for the information.

You're welcome!

Anonymous said...

"If you have a bag on your person, be aware of how often it bumps into other people."

I've always been an enormous fan of the whole "on your person" lingo. Something about the cop-talk that makes it sound so cool.