Walk This Way

Crowded_StreetI walk–more or less–the way I drive. I stay on the right, pass slower moving people in front of me on the left, and do a lot of passing. I am not particularly patient about people who–for lack of a better term–walk while rude. I wish I were more patient–it would make me happy to be more virtuous. But honestly.

What constitutes walking while rude?

  • Walking in a group that spreads across the width of the street, forcing people coming up behind them to slow to a stop, and people coming in the opposite direction to pull over until the crowd passes.
  • Stopping in doorways, at the top of stairways, at the top or bottom of escalators. I have no problem with people who stop in the turnstile to get into Muni or BART–if you’re not used to the system, confusion is understandable. But stopping to check your Facebook status while standing in entrance to the mall argues a degree of obliviousness that tempts me to a smackdown.
  • Not being aware of the (relative) speed and ability of the people around you. That little old man with the cane? He’s not going to be able to dodge real fast when you shoulder him out of the way. Conversely, wandering aimlessly in the center of the sidewalk without regard that some people around you are moving faster is not considerate.
  • Streaming across a street, ignoring the cars that are waiting to make a turn. This one drives me particularly crazy: the war between drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians is particularly fierce in San Francisco, but SF has a lot of streets without traffic lights, and there’s a tendency for pedestrians to act as if giving a car a chance to play through is giving quarter in the battle. At least once a day I stop at a corner and wave a car or two through; and sometimes a pedestrian coming up behind me will charge right into the street–don’t let that car through or the Terrorists Will Win. Sigh.

This last form of incivility I find particularly irksome. Why can’t we all just get along?

Illustrative Anecdote: about ten years ago I was chaperoning a high school field trip. The gaggle of tenth graders stopped at the corner on the way to BART–except for one kid who forged across the street–despite the fact that there was already an SUV already in the intersection, bearing down on him. I grabbed his hood and pulled him back. He wheeled around, confounded: “What?” I pointed out that the SUV might have hit him. “They can’t. It’s against the law.” I, dumbfounded, pointed out that the law of physics trumped those of mankind, and that he might well be killed. “Well then my parents would sue!” “AND YOU’D STILL BE DEAD!” (By that time I had veered from impatient to outright cranky.)

I am no saint. As I’ve said: I’m impatient. I want the people lost in abstraction over their phones to get out of my way–or at least keep to the right, in what in driving would be the slow lane. And yet I look at my phone (worse, I read and walk, and have for years). I do try to stay out of other people’s way, but I am weak and very human, and sometimes fail.

When I find myself being judgmental about other people’s walking manners, I try to remember that I often fail to meet my own high standards. I’m attempting humility. Still, if you see a woman charging through the streets yelling “keep to the right, dammit!” that’s very likely to be me.

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