I never knew before moving to New York that I am actually perpetually in a rush even if I have no place to be. The haste has grown on me, without my consciously choosing it, as if my body’s adjusted to ensure I keep up with the pace of the rest of the city. It’s the pep in my step I just can’t seem to shake, and I have to consciously remind myself that every once in a while, it’s okay to move a little slower, to enjoy the simplicity and serenity in a no pressure stroll. But because I am in a rush the vast majority of the time, it didn’t take much time to realize there’s public transportation/pedestrian etiquette instilled to allow the efficiency of commuting to thrive. Those who disregard these rules throw the system into disarray, and me into fury.
1. The classic tourist photo-shoot road block
You’re in your groove – you’re weaving with the swiftness and grace of a gazelle and suddenly, the family in front of you stops mid-stride in the middle of the sidewalk. Never mind the fact that I at one point of another in my life have been the tourist; there’s no time for sympathy when I have places to be and urgently. Maybe I’ll be in the corner of the photo glaring at them, and unfortunately it will do nothing to help the stereotype that city folk are mean.
People who stand on the wrong side of the escalator or walk on the wrong side of the street and send the rest of us into chaos and awkward shufflefests. There’s an unspoken agreement that standers stand on the right, walkers pass on the left. Same as on the road guys, it’s not that difficult.
3. Wide-stride waddlers
Not only are they walking slowly, but they’re basically making their way down the street like a pendulum, floating from the right to the left and back again, so passing them is like a carnival game rigged for you to lose.
4. I’m-too-sexy-for-this-sidewalk folks
It’s crowded as hell, if we don’t all occasionally do a little grape-vining and swiveling, we would be body-checking each other constantly. It goes without saying everyone bears equal responsibility in avoiding collisions. Not this sidewalk VIP, though. No, no, and shame on you for thinking you had a right to share the concrete with them. Shoulders square on & not even a consideration to adjusting, if you don’t cha cha real smooth you’re about to get a taste of linebacker life.
5. No cute name, just inconsiderate assholes
In my opinion, perhaps the worst of all the ill-mannered, these people know the subway doors are about to close, they see you rushing down the stairs in a frenzy to catch your train, six Trader Joe’s bags digging into your forearm, but do they attempt to get out of the way? No, they carry on, blocking the fastest route, while you and your four bottles of $3 wine and surprisingly good quality frozen meals watch your ride home leave without you, sweat worked up for nothing.
6. Subway pole leaners
Pole leaning is literally only appropriate if no one else is using the pole or in a close enough vicinity such that they may like to use it. These people feel your knuckles in their back but are unfazed. They’re committed to being obnoxious and oblivious.
7. The thou shalt not enter before others exit sinners
Pretty self-explanatory. Wait ’til people get off the train before you try to muscle your way on. I once heard a guy chew out a whole crowd of people for this faux pas, and while he was probably unnecessarily aggressive, I appreciated the principle of his message.
8. The “I’ll take your consideration and raise you a middle finger” folks
The train is crowded but through perseverance and paid dues of being on the train for a respectable number of stops, you’ve nestled into a decent standing spot. You know the one: in front of a seat with a vertical pole to grab, and the implication that you have first dibs on the seat if it opens up. Here comes someone and they’re trying to get through, so you step back to let them pass, but instead of continuing on, they stop…. in the exact spot you worked so hard for. Extra point deductions to them when you’ve had to do some awkward stand on your tippy toes maneuver to let them by. Those people deserve to get on a crowded train with nothing but two fingers pressed to the roof for balance.
9. 87.8% of bikers
The rules are little more than a laughable suggestion to them. Red lights? Stop signs? People other than them having the right of way? HA, good one. You are never safe from being run over by a biker so long as you’re outside and on foot.
With all these commuter characters bustling around the city, it’s a wonder anyone ever gets anywhere on time. All the fury they incite in me aside, while my need for speed has increased since moving to the city, it’s also sparked a greater appreciation for patience (of which I have very little when the subways are constantly delayed), and the simple joy of strolling (of which I do very seldom because I’m always rushing to make up for time lost due to train delays). I guess that’s the nature of a city, though; you either keep up or get left behind. So when those beautiful moments come along where you find yourself unconfined by deadlines and time constraints and destinations, you better slow your roll and enjoy – just make sure you’re not in anyone’s way.