Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pedestrian Aggressiveness Syndrome

It’s true, side walk rage is REAL guys. I wrote about it here, but Gothamist has made it official with today’s article. And it’s official, tourists are slow and in the way.

Though, if you live in NYC, you most likely already knew that. I feel a small amount of rage bubble up nearly every day when people cut me off, push their baby carriages next to each other and totally block the path, or just generally walk too slow, typically dangling some sort of small child off their grasp. Each day during my evening commute, I take a couple deep breaths and remind myself that if I get a little less annoyed, and walk at a normal pace, I will get home only minutes after a frantic race walk to the apartment door without having to sigh loudly and glare at the a-holes who don’t think they can make it across the street once the orange hand starts blinking. Sound familiar?

It all started for me when I was studying abroad in Madrid. Yes, this would have to bet the first time I recall first puzzlement that people were blatantly disobeying the unwritten code of the road, followed by confusion when I was nearly pushed down several times by people who just refused to yield to other pedestrians, to sheer and utter annoyance that these silly Spaniards have no idea how to walk anywhere.

In Europe, I noticed that firstly, there is no left side, right side rule to where you should walk on the sidewalk. Could be attributed to the FACT that they don’t even know which side of the road their cars are supposed to go on, but that’s another story.

And, to make it worse, people like to stroll. There is no urgency to get where you’re going, might as well enjoy the sights. New Yorkers will be gasping, appalled right about now, and imaging the SHEER CHAOS that would ensue if everyone lolly gagged along zigzagging willy nilly across the entire sidewalk. Add the third element I observed: a complete and utter lack of understanding that if someone is walking toward you on the exact same strip of sidewalk, one of you has to move out of the way to avoid collision. It’s madness I tell you, madness!

One day I was sprinting along to class from my apartment near San Bernardo to my school near Moncloa. It’s a far walk, and I was late per usual. It dawned on me that on the way, not a single person coming towards me moved to make way for this person who was obviously in a rush. I was perplexed. On my way home that evening, I decided to test my theory, and not change course when a man was walking towards me, on the wrong side of the sidewalk I might add, and to stay the path. The result? I was nearly knocked off my feet as he did not seem to think two people couldn’t go in opposite directions in the same space. This happened time and time again.

Thankfully in NYC, people who suck at walking are mostly the aberration (tourists, and new comers), and those who get a pass (old people, the physically disabled, and people with dogs I can pet). Even when it’s raining, we develop a complex system of lowering and raising our umbrellas, and quickly going around people on our sides of the sidewalk to avoid (insert aghast look here) actually coming into physical contact with another New Yorker all while getting to our destination as quickly as possible. There may not be an actual handbook that lays it out for you step by step, but they go something like this.
  1. Walk to the right hand side (Yes, like cars)
  2. Pass to the left (Again, like cars)
  3. Do not stop suddenly in the middle of the sidewalk (8 million people live here, someone is probably behind you)
  4. Do not walk more than 2 wide
  5. If it’s rush hour, you shouldn’t be walking next to any one (or smiling)
  6. If you have a child, for goodness sake, keep it out of all the happy childless peoples’ ways (strings of 2 or more children holding hands holding your hand are not cute, they are an obstacle)
  7. That goes for baby carriages too (Just because you have an infant does not give you the automatic right of way)
  8. If you are standing, waiting for someone please make sure it is off to the side next to a solid unmovable obstacle (like a wall or road sign) that people will avoid anyhow so you are not in the way
  9. Hustle. We all have somewhere to be.

Is that really so hard to understand?

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