Monday, January 12, 2009

Ways to Make a Person Snap #48, 49, 50: Walking, Part 2

First of all, a couple shout outs from comments on Ways to Make a Person Snap #47:

Ann -- Welcome to the blog! Great to have you!

Ken -- as always, YOU are the one who should be writing a blog. Everyone go friend Ken Anselment on Facebook; you will not regret it. Humor like you read about.

Regina -- I thought I was the only in New York who had trouble with the umbrellas. Thanks for the affirmation!

And Nellie -- whaddup??? Reading your comment made me happy.

So, just to recap: walking in many parts of Manhattan is basically like agreeing to be the ball in a game of pinball. You thought flashing lights, loud noises, fun. But then, after a couple minutes, you're saying to yourself, getting smacked from bumper to bumper is really a lot less fun than I thought it would be. Please, Lord, please help me get down a gutter or down the hole.

And then tomorrow, for some insane reason, you do it again. (The classic definition of insanity: to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result.)

Now, the real drama, though, is the intersections. First, the straightforward: you're waiting on one side of the street, along with 20, 30, 50 other people (and more and more piling up behind -- and everyone trying to find a way to the front). On the other side, the same. The light changes.

At first, it's nice, a little breathing room. But that other group from across the street -- they're walking right at you. I'm serious, right at you. So what do you do? Personally, I try to find the hole, as the footballers say. But sometimes there really is none, and all you can do is throw your hands up and say, Ok, then, RUN me down. Miraculously, then a hole usually appears.

This is the paradox of the game of chicken: everyone wants to play, but no one wants to get run over. Again, if we could just do sides -- you stay to the right, we to the left, or vice versa -- all would be well. But no, as a group, we'd rather be the heavy guy with the untucked shirt, hanging out all over the place.

But wait, there's more! Because intersections go 4 ways; people are not coming just from behind or before you, but from the sides as well. And even when those people aren’t going to be able to cross yet, because the light is against them, still they try to move forward as far as they can. Which means, if you’re coming from the other way, even though you have the right of way, you have to push through them. Seriously.

I believe there should be a second set of lights on the sidewalk for pedestrians. You think I'm kidding, come visit. Or there should be a gate that comes down, like with a kid's train at a zoo, that keeps pedestrians from pushing through the oncoming foot traffic. In Midtown, it really is that crazy.

And to be honest, I don't make it any less crazy when I try to walk diagonally from one side of a crowd to another when crossing at an intersection. Inevitably, you end up running into people crossing toward you. And a lot of people, because people aren't expecting you to behave in this way, and so they freeze. And then, because where you were planning on finding a hole you've now got a deer-in-headlights-but-ready-to-take-a-swing-at-you person, suddenly, you've got a collision.

This will contradict everything I've said so far but it's true: When in doubt in New York, never, never stop. It's when you freeze that you get in an accident -- or, more likely, the other cyclist/pedestrian/driver gets in an accident. Never, never stop.

Lastly, Umbrellas. You can probably write this part yourself. If normally walking in the busy parts of Manhattan is a game of chicken, walking when it's raining is something closer to a joust. Because everyone brings out their umbrella; and some, who haven't realized that they're not alone in this world, bring out umbrellas with diameters the width of the sidewalk and reinforced titanium for the rods. And everyone holds their umbrellas as close to the ground as they humanly can. Making it all really like a sort of vertical joust, or like a heavily stylized Chinese fight scene. (Now that I think of it, it's actually sort of cool if I think of it that way.)

And I think it's worse if you don't have an umbrella. Because it's sort of like a force field, it sets up a perimeter that protects you from the other umbrellas. And without it, you're the like kid at the adult party, no one pays any attention to you, and you could very well get your eye poked out.

Seriously, when it rains I walk in fear.

So, that's walking in Manhattan. Luckily Bellevue is always taking new clients. I'm going to post some fun stuff tomorrow, including two versions of a video asking people to give advice to Obama, and a snarky story I wrote about TV shows.

But for now, one more Way to Make a Person Snap -- this would be #51:



Rusty said...

you are such a nut, Jim! Mom

Ken said...

Next time you're at the intersection, try painting your face in blue warpaint, donning a large Gibson-as-William-Wallace wig, and scream "Freeeeeeedoooom" as you and your mates charge the folks on the other corner. I assure you that the hole will be quite large.

Anonymous said...

As a short person, my umbrella ALWAYS gets bumped. No one seems to remember that they are taller and can lift their umbrellas higher to avoid bumpage. So I end up lowering the umbrella so far down that it hits my head. I just pull up my hood now, forgo the umbrella, and weave and dodge like a champion featherweight.