And no, thank goodness, I’m not referring to “The Situation” of Jersey Shore fame…watching that show makes me a bit relieved to be on the other side of the ocean from that fake-tanned spectacle, although it’s not too unlike what you’ll catch on Booze Britain on the telly here.  What is it with these seaside towns gone to crap?  But I digress…

Today, I’m in a mood to editorialize.  Bear with me.  Today’s blog topic is inspired by my usual London commute between the Tube/bus stop and any given destination.  What happens in that span of concrete in between Points A and B is a recurring series of events towards which my originally ambivalent feelings (you know, just the casual acceptance that cities will be busier and pushier) have been veering toward the negative.  The usual suspects causing these infractions?

The Space Invaders – This profile of commuter applies to both the sidewalks and public transportation.  Indeed, as I was standing on the Tube this morning, just keeping to myself and reading my book, this older gentleman started to lean in on me, crumpling my book against my chest and physically pushing me backward.  I looked at him to see if he had any recognition of what he was doing—as well as to see if there was any cause outside of his control—but no, he made no eye contact and continued to shove into me even though there was nothing imposing on his space to warrant this displacement.  This happened once before on the Piccadilly Line, which is already compressed enough with its lower ceilings (and especially congested by weekend theatre-goers).  Even though there was no one within 3 feet of this one group of guys, one gentlemen had me backed against the wall, standing so closely that I had to turn my head to the right so my nose wouldn’t poke his shoulder.  And yet, I was still too timid to give the “What you doin’ all up in mah bid-ness, yo?”  Instead, my husband politely asked him to step aside a bit.  Amazingly enough, this happens out in the open as well with the close walkers and talkers.  Americans, you will almost physically feel the walls of your Privacy Bubble puncture.

The Chicken-Fighters – These are the most imposing sidewalk creatures.  They are your oncoming pedestrian traffic that simply will not make the mutual gesture to move out of your path.  In Chicago, I would almost engage in a waltz with other passersby because we were both trying to be courteous.  Here?  Uh-uh.  Of course they won’t be looking you in the eye, but oh yes, they know full well that you’re there.  I’ve been experimenting with daring them back, but I really don’t like being pushy and also fear outright collision against those wills of steel.  Instead, I always end up resorting to the Sidewalk Slalom, weaving in and out to accommodate everyone else’s war-paths.

The  Dawdlers – I am a fast walker.  I apologize.  I have long legs that take greater strides anyway, and I also like to walk briskly as a means of fitness (and, uh, yeah, I’m also usually running late, so trying to make up time…).  Therefore, it is excruciating to get caught behind someone moseying their way along without any regard for the commuters with places to go and people to see.  And as far as I’m concerned, I have every bit as much right to be in a hurry as someone else has to not be, so I believe we can all peacefully coexist in this world if we bear this mutual awareness and try to keep the way clear for one another.  Which doesn’t happen when you’ve got the Dawdler who is also one of…

The Barriers – This characteristic in combination with a Dawdler is mind-numbing.  Truly.  The people who drift into the center of the walkway to successfully obstruct traffic in either direction.  They get even better when they’re curious about something in a shop window and slow down even more, often to a complete stop, at which point they become The Standers planted right in the middle of the sidewalk.  The Sidewalk Slalom maneouvre applies effectively to this scenario as well.

The Crosswalkers – Now this is where I may be getting a bit silly, as it is legally our pedestrian right to cross the street at a designated zebra stripe.  I’m not judging who exercises this right, because I do, too.  But the thing that I continue to feel uncomfortable with is making a car come to a stop on my behalf.  It’s probably just me, but I actually feel bad to be disrupting their momentum.  If there’s a group of others around me, no problem; that’s justified.  But if it’s only me, I just don’t feel I have right of way and will actually pass up a safe crosswalk to endanger myself by J-walking another block up, apparently choosing to shift the burden onto myself to dodge the traffic like Frogger.  Along that vein, I then find myself judging the audacity of others when they use the crosswalk without hesitation.  Yes, this is definitely just me…

I’m getting concerned that if I keep trying to kill ’em with kindness out here, I’m only going to end up getting myself killed as sidewalk roadkill, too passive to survive these streets.  Ah well.  Wish we luck on my way home today 🙂

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