I’ve always been an impatient person, but New York has certainly brought out the rudeness in me like no other place I’ve lived. Today, a lesson in New York street etiquette.
I routinely shoulder-check people on the sidewalk. I am not proud of this, nor am I ashamed of it. On a tiny island of more than eight million people, there are street rules that must be followed, and unfortunately, the street (and the millions of rushing, stressed out, jaded New Yorkers) doesn’t care if you’re new to the area, or just don’t like walking fast. They don’t care if maybe you haven’t figured out the rules, or you think they don’t apply to you – you’ll figure it out fast enough. Here’s a quick lesson for any of you who are a bit unsure (and please know that this does not apply to kids, elderly people, or people with disabilities. New Yorkers might be a bit on the rough side, but we are not the assholes everyone assumes we are):
– If you are walking alone on a sidewalk, and someone is walking the other direction in your path, you both give way for each other. One person should not have to entirely move their course of direction for you; if you both make an effort, social norms of decency are upheld. If you decide to walk blithely along, directly into the path of an oncoming person for no other reason than you decide that they should move for you, you will get checked. Happily.
– If you are walking down a busy sidewalk, staring into the barren depths of your smart phone like a brainwashed idiot, and walk into someone, you will, nay deserve to, be checked.
– If you are walking two or three or four abreast steps down a sidewalk, so someone walking the opposite direction may be forced to actually stop their progression to allow you to pass, you will get checked. Common decency indicates that you adjust formation to allow others to pass in the other direction.
– If you are one of those those people (see the first point) that feels entitled to sidewalk space to the detriment of others around you, you may be one of those people who does not acquiesce to others even when it means that the person walking in the other direction may be forced to step over garbage, go around a pole, or step into the street to get by. If you are one of those people, you should get checked.
I’m writing this rant as calmly as I can, but I’m one of those people that encounters these issues multiple times a day. Yes, I live in New York so I have to expect a certain level of pedestrian frustration; I do my best to act with compassion and patience. I do, however, worry that I am subject to more encounters with the types of people I’ve listed above than average, simply because I may be what some call “diminutive.” I believe that in many people’s unconscious, reptilian brain, they see me as smaller and therefore inferior to them; someone that will be easy to run through and that should naturally submit. Unfortunately for them, times have changed and the concrete jungle’s rules are somewhat different to the real jungle’s. Many a taller, larger, oblivious woman has learned the hard way that I am in fact more solid, more strong, and more stubborn than I may look at first glance – perhaps my encounters with these people have taught them some of the rules of the road, so they may not soon forget? Here’s hoping.
Again, I’m not proud, but I’m not ashamed. I’m a New Yorker, and you gotta learn the rules fast around here or you won’t make it. Check yourself.