Thursday, June 30, 2016

Wide Walkers

On our trips we walk all over the cities we visit, often up to ten miles a day. This has given me a new awareness of certain sidewalk hazards I had not previously considered. If you are out and about, especially in the summer tourist season, here are a few species you'll want to watch out for.

The Phone Talker. Do not assume he sees you. He’s in another world. You're not really in his plans.

The Slant Walker. There is something about a straight line. Once people set out on one, they don't like to vary. If you see someone walking on a slanting vector that intersects yours, be prepared to give way.

The Shop Exiter. This is like being t-boned in your car at an intersection. You're walking past a store and out bursts someone, possibly laden with shopping bags. There is no defense to this. The best you can do is brace yourself in the instant before impact.

The Texter. A close cousin to the phone talker, but without any possibility of seeing you as he is fixated on his smart-phone screen. Nothing to do but dodge.

The Quick Stopper. The only way to avoid this completely unpredictable hazard is to not footgate.

The Fast Weaver. Very similar to his highway counterpart. Frequently followed by another who seems to be making a game of chasing him. Don't flinch. Hope their sense of timing is good and that there is not a Quick Stopper in their path who might cause a pileup.

The Wall Hugger. You're walking on the right side of the sidewalk, and here comes someone toward you on your side. They're hugging the storefronts, usually to stay in the shade or out of the rain. Be warned, they will not veer.

The Corner Hugger. A particularly dangerous breed of Wall Hugger. In effect, a Wall Hugger turning a corner from a perpendicular sidewalk, while hugging. If you and they reach the blind corner at the same time, a collision is certain.

An Umbrella Poker. This is a particularly dangerous species in a very light drizzle, when your umbrella might not be up for self defense. The points of the umbrella are always at your eye-level. Nothing to do but duck. Also a risk on a very sunny day from umbrellas being used as parasols.

The Backpack Swatter. Here are the elements of this hazard: a bulging backpack and a quick, ninety degree body rotation. Capable of completely taking out children.

The Unyielder. This can be a single person, but more usually it is a group of two or three. They are approaching, the sidewalk is wide enough for them, but not you and them. You keep thinking they will give you room to pass, but don't be so sure. This species may be identified by studied obliviousness to your approach. 

Of course it goes without saying that the danger from the Unyielder is at its greatest with large groups, particularly school outings and older folks being led by someone with a flag on a stick. They move as a single organism that is only slightly sensitive to contact with others. There is some danger of actually being swept away by a group like this without their ever realizing you are there.

It's a jungle out there. Good luck. The best advice might be to go out mostly at night, when fewer people are pouring down the lanes and the cities are at their most beautiful. People seem more relaxed at night, perhaps with the aid of a drink or two and no pressure to get to the next must-see monument.

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