Abusive Bipedalism

Ever tried to lap a cigarette smoker underneath a golf umbrella on a Manhattan street enshrouded by Empire State Building scaffolding?

Neither had I, until today. And from my new experience, I can say that it’s not easy.

By my own admission, I’m pretty impatient while walking. Partly because I know where I’m going, but also because I know the fastest way to get there. Don’t think I’m being full of myself. This is walking, something I’ve been doing for a long, long time now (in relative terms.) It’s not rocket science. But man, people have a special way of making something as simple as walking into a complicated process. And not in the evolution of pre-human to bipedal primate way either.

First, there are the texters, which by default, automatically decreases anyone’s gait. Even the fastest walkers and most seasoned texters fall prey to at least a 2 mph decrease in walking speed when the desire to type “Yo. LMAO at amercn idol! :)” beckons them to unlock their phones. I’ve actually grown accustomed to the texters, mainly because they make me laugh, and sometimes because they fall into a more clearly defined category which makes me laugh even more: the lateral texter.

The lateral texter types text messages with their thumb, and their gait follows the direction of their thumb. If they’re typing something on the right side of the their keyboard, their gait veers to the right. And if they’re typing something on the left side of their phone’s keyboard, they veer left. You might think I’m making this up. Part of me wishes I was, but I’m not. I just think some people’s brains spend more time concentrating on sending a text message than walking.

The rain adds an entirely different element to walking down a New York City street. Umbrellas are big, with pointed ends that are usually at eye level, being held by people that do not account for the safety of the eyes of the people they are walking past. This is a different type of complication. The walker isn’t making walking more difficult for themselves by holding an umbrella; they make walking more difficult for the people walking at and around them. A sea of umbrellas. Pointed and ready to gouge all those without glasses that dare to pass. I’m not mad that people use umbrellas though, I just wish they would be more attentive to those around them. You know, just a little raise of the umbrella when passing someone coming at them or trying to get by them.

Golf umbrellas are an entirely different story. The golf umbrella has a wingspan of like 12-feet in all directions. It’s impassable by anyone over 4-feet tall with a hurried gait and a waterproof North Face jacket. And most of the time, they’re carried by seasoned golfers, who usually think they belong in a cab instead of on the sidewalk. The kind of person who is already accustomed to abusing their public space, which brings me to my next subject.

But I won’t attack cigarette smokers. They already get enough shit. I’m not a fan, and it’s hard to pass a smoker on the street dangling a lit cigarette from their hand, but the smoker is already a dying breed and they don’t need my two cents to make it even worse. I just don’t want a cigarette burn from a wayward walker with a swinging arm anytime soon.

Now combine that cigarette with a golf umbrella, and you’re looking at at least a 6-foot diameter to navigate around. Scaffolding cuts down your squeeze-by space in half. Bus tour guides standing on the corner cut that space down by a third. And the one or two texters laterally coming at you because of the direction of their thumbs means that the wet sidewalk in midtown is more like a minefield of complicated distractions and processes.

All this from walking on two feet out of the water. Terrestrial locomotion-ists, please save us from our abusive bipedalism….

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