Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sidewalk Etiquette



Today, I want to take a moment to talk about sidewalks. Yes, sidewalks. Most of (dare I say all of) us are are familiar with those lovely little [most often] concrete pathways we traverse with our feet that separate us from the danger of moving vehicles and large piles of dog crap often piled in the grass that often lines the space between curb and sidewalk.  

Most communities have some sort of sidewalk in place, and it's what most of us learned to ride a bike on, lest we fall over directly into oncoming traffic--save a few communities (like the one I grew up in, the lack of sidewalks always baffled me; still does to this day).

A bit of history about the sidewalk: it existed in ancient times! In fact, Romans were essentially sidewalk connoisseurs.  During the middle ages, they disappeared for awhile, but by the 18th century they made a comeback, and by the 19th century, they were in widespread use again, and have remained that way ever since. 

So, how is it that we are here in the 21st century, and there are some people that still don't know how to use sidewalks?  It's not just sidewalks in the suburbs that people have issues with--it's walkways in general.

The other day, I was walking my dog on the small sidewalk outside of our apartment, when I happened upon two people who were making their way down to the Chipotle at the end of the block (yes, we live down the street from Chipotle, and yes, it is as amazing as it sounds). Anyway, I watched these two people approaching, walking directly next to each other, as people are apt to do when they're going anywhere together.  

A bit about the sidewalk in front of our place: It is, indeed, small. In fact, it is comprised of two large-ish squares of concrete next to each other and that's pretty much it.  On either side, there is grass. Grass between the curb and the sidewalk, and grass that is classified as someone's lawn.

So, as I am walking along the sidewalk, I see these people approaching and I think 'they'll move out of the way.' After all, Cash and I were taking up one square as we were walking, and they were taking up two squares.  They had to move, right? It's common courtesy to use sidewalks in the same way you use a street when you're driving--one side of the sidewalk is for people going one way, the other side is for people going the other way.  Apparently, that was not what these two individuals--a male and a female--were taught about sidewalks.  They were taught that you can basically take up the entire thing and it's totally fine as long as you have an inflated sense of self or something.  Because they did not move.

No, instead, Cash and I were essentially forced on to the small grassy knoll in between the curb and the sidewalk. Cash was fine with it, he enjoys that spot, particularly the smells.  I, however, was not fine with it--and I sat there for a moment in disbelief, silently fuming, until I called over my shoulder "The sidewalk's a two-way street, you know." I didn't look to see if they heard me.  They probably didn't.

And, I know, the sidewalk is not technically a two-way street, but it is a two-way...sidewalk.  Just because you want to walk next to your partner, that doesn't mean that someone else should be thoroughly inconvenienced.  At least, it shouldn't mean that.

And it's not just sidewalks--people have this crazy notion that they can basically walk next to each other no matter what the circumstance, and you should be the one to get out of their way. I was at Disneyland, walking around Downtown Disney, when this happened to me.  There were a group of about four teenagers (17-ish? I'm bad at that game) walking side by side, coming at me, and the only way for me to get past them was to essentially throw myself into a small planter.  Which I guess is what they expected, or at least the girl on the end did--because she wasn't about to move.  Finally, at the last minute, she slightly moved, causing our shoulders to brush up against one another.

In the past, I have always been the one to get out of the way--the one to step up on to the grass, or completely stop walking to let others pass.  But, you know, it gets kind of tiresome--it gets kind of annoying realizing that most everyone else is less courteous than you are.  So. I've decided.

I'm not going do it anymore.  I think this connects to my last post--my moving out of the way of any and every person is the body language equivalent of saying 'I'm sorry' for my presence.  I'm not sorry for my presence. I exist, and I am just as worthy of a space on the sidewalk as you are, O Rude One.

Of course, there will be times I will move--for Children with parents, for the elderly, when I am the one in the large group taking up space.  But, for the most part, I will stand my ground.  I will be courteous to others, but I will assert my right to take up the [very little, actually] space that I occupy on this planet.

Prepare yourself, ye who don't know how to use sidewalks and walkways, for many shoulder checks from this little part of the planet.

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