This one is dedicated to my favorite cousin, who recently lost a shoe to the vicissitudes of the city streets.
The most ubiquitous outdoor sport in New York is walking. Everyone does it. You have to. To and from public transportation, around the neighborhood doing errands, visiting friends, shpatziring (that’s strolling), or exploring. The streets are filled almost 24/7.
But what must we all contend with, we brave and hearty New York soles (see the pun there)?
Dog poop and pee. Self-explanatory – pooper-scooper laws are never enforced. And the permissive attitude to animals pissing on the streets…well, I’ve never understood that one.
Cracked sidewalks. Ubiquitous. There’s not a street in the city that you can safely walk on without looking down.
Crazed drivers – Not only the ones who run red lights or bear down on you just because you’re a pedestrian; there are those who occasionally drive up on the curb. Yes. Even someone I’m VERY close to has been known to bypass a traffic jam by driving up onto the sidewalk. He only does it on side streets.
Free-range psychotics – the breed becomes more plentiful in warm weather. A combination, I think, of the impact on fragile psyches of New York heat and humidity plus the compassion of their usual gatekeepers. Why shouldn’t everyone get some “fresh” air? I’ll tell you why. Because they scare the bejesus out of me. When a wild-eyed, disheveled man or woman approaches – and they’re talking to themselves out loud – I bolt (like the Flash) to the other side of the street.
Random toxic spillage. Who can even identify the strangely colored, viscous substances that show up in the gutter? Another element to which I give a wide berth. It always calls to mind the classic 1950’s sci-fi movie, The Blob, so it’s not just “yuk,” it’s “yikes!” too.
Elbows-out friends and neighbors. By this I make reference to the unconsciously hostile bumpers. There is never a cause to crash into someone on the street. Step aside if you’re about to occupy the same space. But there are some who, I suspect, relish the collision: a little dislocating shoulder-bash, or an elbow that whacks you in the side (or the ear, depending on your height), or the head-on impact – usually caused by cell phone override.
Umbrella wars. I have written extensively on this matter. See: A pride of wet dogs; a herd of drowned rats, Nov. 18, 2014.
So, that’s the skinny on walking. If you want to break out and move through the streets at a faster clip, you had better be trained in the NFL to do broken field running, cause no one will get out of your way.