Posted on 9.15.13: Manhattan life is plagued by many irritations. I hate the fact that subway car doors frequently don’t open for several seconds after the train stops at a station. (In Paris you can manually open the doors yourself with that silver latch handle thing.) But the biggest drag these days (for me anyway) are the slowpokes on the street and especially in the subways.
I’m not saying they have to race around like crazy rats, but what’s wrong with walking with a purposeful stride? Very few do this, it seems, and the ones that are really slow are always blocking the sidewalks in groups of five or six or more. I was going to say it’s the tourists but I’m starting to think it’s almost everyone these days except for X-factor types. For me walking around Manhattan is exhilarating exercise, especially if you walk with a little bounce in your step; for the vast majority it’s apparently something to be endured by reducing energy expenditure as much as possible and shuffling around like 80somethings.
So basically when you’re walking around Manhattan half the game is spotting the “blockers” before you’re stuck behind them and have to sidestep their ass. The ones to watch out for in this respect are couples of any age, older women, heavy middle-aged men and especially urban females of girth.
I first mentioned this eight years ago: “Out-of-towners always seem to walk the streets without the slightest hint of spunk or urgency in their step, like they’re making their way from the bedroom to the refrigerator at 2 ayem in their pajamas and nightgowns. And they’re always wearing those dead-to-the-world expressions. (Writer Fran Leibowitz has described the shuffling gait of tourists as the ‘mall meander.’)
“Every day I’m walking along at my usual spirited pace and these Jabbas and sea lions are always walking ahead of me in self-protecting groups or, worse, three abreast. The idea that they might be blocking people, much less defying the basic transportation law of going with the flow, doesn’t seen to occur to them. Then again, the flow in Jabba tourist areas (Times Square, Rockefeller Center) is very zombie-paced so it probably feels right from their perspective.”