When the Only Way to Avoid a Klobber-Blam is to be a Lamp Post

Every day I walk through New York City for my commute, and people who have no reason to hurry make a mad-rush around me.

Human nature being what it is, there are many city behaviors that are done (often unknowingly) for no particularly real reason. Of those, many are negative and should not be encouraged.

Among the mad-rush, it’s true that a few of them may be on their way to a hospital to see a dying friend (or, more positively, a wife about to give birth). Those few hospital-goers deserve it, the privilege of pushing through a crowded subway platform so that they may be the first to enter the train. But what about the people who push, shove, and fly-by so quickly that there is no chance to even blurt “Excuse me” (I blurt it anyway, but they often don’t hear), and who then do things like stop short in front of the ones they just passed and rush them again in the opposite direction, or stand fidgeting on the subway platform waiting for the same train as me who arrived ten seconds later?

My wife thinks the situation is similar to what you might find on a football field, where the players are expected to push and shove and fly-by quickly. Sometimes I think she sort of enjoys playing commuter-football. Try it sometime: Imagine yourself as you walk the commute to Manhattan, as if you are the guy on the field with the football. It’s different from the nimble dance that a boxer might do, since the movement is primarily forward, and nobody really ever punches you full-on in the face. But the idea is essentially the same: Defend yourself from direct hits and win ground by moving where your opponent does not expect.

Why does it happen. Why.

If you ask the hurry-walkers, they might look at you (a hint of Godzilla in their eyes) and wonder why you don’t look homeless (crazy people usually look homeless) or why you aren’t holding a tourist’s camera. But you don’t ask the hurry-walkers – that’s just not the way of New York. Besides, even if the hurry-folk act, in that moment, as if they would enjoy nothing more than to give you a good klobber-blamming for the next twelve hours, the truth is that one of the beauties of New York City is that nobody ever notices anybody. The same slant-walker who border-collied you as you tried to pass a group of swarm-walkers, will see you as a brand new obstacle five seconds later as he retraces his steps when having second thoughts about whether the walking path he just took, just now, was the most optimally right one to take at that moment. You, the new obstacle in the path of the one-eighty, will be dealt with this time just as efficiently as before. A quick calculation, you are classed into one of two or three recognizable categories of sidewalk-adversary, and the hurry-walker will be gone once again. You have to admire that type of efficiency…

…which doesn’t work very well for people like me, who walk half-pace.

I walk half-pace, generally. I don’t do it to be annoying, I do it because… it is the way I naturally walk, I enjoy it, and it is unpleasantness bordering on painfulness for me to walk more quickly. Perhaps you don’t understand. Many people don’t. That’s why I generally prefer to walk alone, at least in New York City. That usually works out better for everyone involved.

But the big problem with walking half-pace is that it throws off the calculations. When the torpedo-commuter comes in for the border-collie fly-by, it usually ends in a klobber-blam. I’ve adapted. When I see someone on an intentional or unintentional klobber-blam maneuver, I generally stop (if it’s a particular dicey one, I kneel to tie my shoe). That avoids the klobber-blam but it also unfortunately causes confusion for the other participants in the maneuver, who then sometimes all walk into each other while I observe. But always remember a rule of New York walking: The only way to guarantee you don’t get klobber-blammed is to make it extraordinarily clear that you are a non-participant in the walking game. Hurry-walkers are keen, and when they see a non-moving obstacle they avoid it as surely as they would avoid walking directly into a lamp post.

 

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