Cultural Imperialist

"Scathing Spats on Shallow Subjects"


Wed Jun 28




Wide Load: The Scourge of Sideblocking

Blame evacuation-route posters in the office.

The most important lesson we learned as wide-eyed tykes inclined toward a grown-up's authority - how to line up in the event of a school fire - faded as we got permission to leave the house and go out with friends.  And what do you do in public with friends?  Walk two or more to one side.

This is no problem - indeed, it prevents accusations of "stop looking at my butt, perv" - until another person or group approaches from the opposite direction on a narrow path.  Sidewalks in particular are prone to this entirely avoidable gridlock, for which there's a simple solution:  Single-file passing.

Why the hell is this such a rarity?

Because we're too damn special to merge into a single walking lane, apparently.  Or to even acknowledge we might be in an oncoming person's path, absentmindedly chattering away about Justin, Rihanna, or (in our nation's capital) the Illinois GOP Senate primary.  Notice how those approaching ignore eye contact as they draw near, as if they're pretending not to notice a clipboard-waving activist (a laudable action) or, in geopolitical terms, dumping subsidized textiles on the global market with no regard for Third World development.  Yes, making me step into the grass, mud or street so your friendly front line can stay intact is morally equivalent to economic jingoism.

Yet we good-natured approachers inevitably move out of the way to avoid a game of sidewalk chicken with a nerd-pounding jock, clawed Valley Girl or mother wielding a stroller, whose emotional and chemical stability are not to be assumed.  No reason to risk a confrontation for something as insignificant as manners in passing, right?

But you don't beat a bully by turning tail and telling the teacher and your mom, who will advocate communication.  Balls to that.  Watch Revenge of the Nerds, get a sensei, and practice your response for the predictable "what the hell?" exclamation when you careen into a double-wide entourage.

"I'm sorry, but I have the right of way" might puzzle your upper-middle-class shopistas long enough for them to decide it's not worth parsing your statement and simply walk by single-file.  "Get the f--- out of the way" risks fisticuffs with frat boys - this is a good situation for having a predetermined witness who can testify to your antagonist's unprovoked bellicosity in the event of blows.  Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, you could simply chat exaggeratedly on your phone while shooting rapid-fire glances into shop windows and plow into traffic.  "Omigod, like, sorry, I was so stoked about these chamomile bath soaps!" invites an understanding look from a pretty pileup of bubbly blondes or gregarious gays.  It's probably best to avoid issuing a citizen's citation using an official-looking badge, as local police and mall cops don't appreciate others homing in on their petty reprimands.

Like a suicide bomber or a Mormon on a yellow bicycle, all it takes is one encounter for people in their crosswalk hairs to perk up and be on the lookout for self-appointed enforcers of manners in the future.  Won't you join me in this decentralized, never-ending flash mob of civility?

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