Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Revisiting the Rubric of Road Rage

There’s a fresh black-and-blue mark on one of my legs. I’ve had worse, but this one’s still pretty dark, deep, and disappointing. The kind of bruise people get after they’ve been beaten.

No doubt, I have been kicked and slapped around. But I don’t have just one abuser - I’m up against a whole town of them. It’s so much harder to fend off a hulking, densely-knit posse than just one, isolated aggressor.

One of the many urban legends about New York is that its people walk fast. Where in New York is this? Can I be taken there? Was this a pre-gentrification phenomenon? Because I’ve lived around and can attest that people in other cities can and do habitually walk faster. I would bet my tambourine that my best friend (who’s never lived outside of Northern Ohio) could easily out-walk any supposed fastest walker on the island of Manhattan.

I walk often, usually fast and furiously. Hardly anyone else in the New York metropolitan area seems interested in keeping up. I’m a helmetless American football player walking down these mean streets, with the scrapes and bruises to show for it – it’s like a scrimmage out there, darting around trying to get past and squeeze through. I must have gotten this latest war wound when I banged up against that heavy, steel guard railing as I melodramatically escaped a sidewalk traffic jam to walk alongside the cars and buses in the relative serenity of the street.

I’m not against the act of walking slowly – those keen on stopping and smelling the roses should go for it. I don’t want to interfere with someone else’s pace or space –but, in the name of reciprocity (among other principles), I don’t appreciate someone else interfering with mine. Please don’t force me to smell the roses with you, at the place and hour of your choosing. If you decide to walk slowly, you don’t belong in the main line of traffic. Step out of the way, move off to the fringes, let others do their thing.

The socially-unconcerned slow walkers are out-disgraced only by the erratic walkers. Here’s a public service announcement for this crowd: please glance around before coming to a sudden, inexplicable stop – that way, the person trying to respectably get through her day directly behind you won’t crash into you and the sharp buckle on your questionably authentic handbag. If you want to text or try to play Mafia Wars on your BlackBerry or thumb through the free newspaper they hand out in subway stations while you walk, do remove your ass from the main stream and at least occasionally keep your eyes on the road, instead of zigzagging your way through center court.

It’s not just the tourists who traipse about so mindlessly, although they’re chief contributors to the epidemic (as well as convenient scapegoats). The people who live here year-round are just as much to blame, if not more so, as you’d think they’d know better. I’m talking about the people who aren’t runway models, but they would like to be, and this is the only shot they’ve got. Sixth Avenue is the sole stage they’ll ever work and they cling to it. They pseudo-imperiously strut about, often ostentatiously dressed, solo or in small groups, blocking everything and everyone, looking around every now and then to confirm they’re being noticed. Their sashaying has gotten me late for meetings, appointments, and bachelorette parties. Slow walkers have made me narrowly miss trains, stop lights, elevators, and potential opportunities.

On an island this small, that’s filled with this many people, all forms of gridlock are inevitable. But there doesn’t have to be nearly this much of it. When you’re in a major city, during rush hour, on a street filled with office buildings, and there are a shitload of people to every side of you and not too much available physical space to play with, think of yourself as a car and the sidewalk as a high-stakes turnpike – walk defensively, not offensively. I beg of you.

1 comment:

  1. It's the walk of stress. So much hustle and bustle around that you have to walk through it quickly to get to a sain place.