Welcome back, me, we really missed you.
Given that I’m now an ex-banker, I’m no longer whisked by limousine from one black tie party to another. Perhaps that’s an embellishment – I’m no longer rushing to catch a cab at the clusterfuck known as 23rd and 9th every morning (or early afternoon, depending on the night before). So I’m doing more walking, taking my time, smelling the proverbial roses. I’ve noticed that a lot of people are also walking down the street, but most of them aren’t very good at it. So as a public service I offer this step-by-step guide (apologies to any b-school types that thought this was some clever metaphor for entree into the lucrative Wall Street scene).
I’m going to assume that most people reading this are already pretty familiar with the act of walking itself (my own empirical observations show this is not true for the general public, but you lot are a cut above) and can handle the physical demands required by the instructions below. You can also skip this if you are completely self aware, you are probably close to an expert walker anyway.
That was a clever ruse – someone being completely self aware is as unlikely as Dice Clay’s career reigniting due to his stint on Celebrity Apprentice. I think I’m pretty self aware and I violated three of these rules last week myself. Walking down the street is a little bit like chess, you can spend a lifetime studying it, but you will never completely master it.
(I’ve organized these as steps, but everything after Steps 1-2 should be considered simultaneously as you hit the street. So don’t get bogged down in Formation if you sense a Moving Analysis problem looming.)
Step 1: Evaluation
Walk to the very precipice of your intended street, stopping just short of the traffic flow (a vestibule is excellent for this, if your apartment is so equipped). First take a look at the sky: rain or other precipitation currently happening or looming? Umbrella or poncho needed? Sombrero? Are you dressed appropriately for this walking endeavor, not too warm or cold? If so, you can level your gaze on the street itself.
Scan the street quickly both directions. Any menacing thug types hanging around? Dangerous looking dogs or other animals? Delivery men riding their bikes on the sidewalk? Note the number of people on the street, flow of traffic, pace. If you do not fear for your personal safety and are properly outfitted for the walking adventure, you are ready to use the information you’ve gathered to merge into the street.
Step 2: The Merge
Approach The Merge similarly to Frogger – find yourself a nice gap between other pedestrians and ease in. Not too close. Make sure to merge going in your intended direction. Take care not to walk straight into someone who has stopped to chat on their cell phone. Good job on making it to the street – but you’re not done yet!
Once in the street, walk straight. No “tack and jibe” walking – that ruins the walking experience for everyone in your near vicinity. A simple test: if you are walking next to someone, and you keep stepping on their feet or hitting them with your bag, then you are tack/jibing. Pay strict attention to any lateral drift in your footsteps (must monitor both right and left feet); once this drift is eliminated you will find that you are walking in a straight line.
Step 3: Pace
Choosing the correct pace is very important when walking down the street – too slow and you can start clogging up the flow, too fast and you risk receiving a mouthful of pepper spray for having “rapist gait”. Often you will have to make several pace adjustments per walk to avoid violating the personal space of other walkers. I have found that walking slightly faster than the average pace, passing people in a non-threatening manner when necessary, is the most efficient approach to pace. However this is a somewhat advanced strategy and not recommended for the novice.
Avoid sudden stops or other overly dramatic movements at all times. I cannot stress this enough. I’ve seen a lot of Jamba Juice spilled through gross negligence of this seemingly obvious practice.
Step 4: Formation (when walking with one or more walking companions)
Many people are extremely confused by formations/staging. A very common sight is the dreaded “Four Abreast” – where four (generally obese) folks insist on walking side by side at an extremely slow pace, bringing the pace of the street down to that of four fat fucks. Even a couple walking arm in arm can act as a conjoined human roadblock on a narrow street. How should we walk as a group, then?
Many of our country’s most prestigious think tanks are studying these walking formations. A controversial stance has advanced from these studies, in which walking in formations is allowed as long as there is a clear leader of the formation, responsible for maintaining the entire group’s street etiquette and decorum. This “formation captain” is required to make frequent street scans (fore and aft) and make temporary formation adjustments as necessary (shift from three abreast to three in a line, double triple to box and two, etc). I surprisingly find myself supporting this radical movement (although I favor implementing some kind of licensing process for these currently self-appointed walking captains). Hopefully this movement will lead people to understand that you can still have a conversation with your walking mates even as you periodically shift from parallel to series formations and so forth.
Step 5: Progress
You have done well. You are in the street, walking toward your target area, and have not caused any pileups. This is not the time to rest on your laurels, though – along with all this other stuff, you have to figure out if you are making progress toward your intended destination! But how? If you are familiar with the route to your destination, you are a step ahead: you merely have to recollect if you are going the same way as during your previous successful trip. If you are, keep going. If you are not, you could gradually exit the walking area, find a safe evaluation zone (you will need to re-evaluate the walking area before you re-enter the street), and refer to a map or computer-like mapping device if available.
Or you could stop me and ask me for directions. That’s what everyone else does. (In the Bahamas, as I was walking back into the hotel, a woman who was exiting the hotel asked me which way the ocean was. True or false: you could see the fucking ocean from where we were standing, it’s that large mass of water with a bunch of sand in front of it).
Step 6: Image
Maintaining the right walking image is extremely important. The varieties are almost endless: Enthusiastic Pimp Strut, Clueless Tourist, Eccentric Homeless Person, Is He Talking To Himself? Hidden Bluetooth Guy….the list goes on. I prefer the Dour Possible Sociopath in a Hurry. This involves keeping your head down, walking at the previously described quick pace while sporting a severe grimace. (I have to work on the grimace, for some reason my grimace is like catnip to lost tourists). Added benefit of the head down: you can keep an eye out for dogshit, vomit and other street detritus.
Step 7: Moving Analysis
Similar to the Evaluation stage, you need to continuously scan the area both in front of and behind you to make sure you aren’t up in someone’s shit or about to step in something disgusting. Keep an eye on the lateral areas as well, as you may need to alter course quickly. Do not take this step lightly, this is where you are going to encounter a bunch of people trying to (literally) trip you up.
Be on the lookout for:
- People pushing strollers – they will push that thing right over your throat at a whim. Any accidents can and will be attributed to protecting their precious cargo.
- People with dogs – actually more of a physical danger than people with kids, but generally less condescending. Those expanding leashes are the worst, I’ve seen two labs block off 20th street as their retarded owners didn’t realize they like 80 yards down the street
- People reenacting the opening credits for the Mary Tyler Moore show. Okay, I’ve probably dated myself again. Be on the lookout for people who look like they are about to stop, do some pirouettes, and throw a beret.
- People walking while texting – I love texting, but please move out of the fucking way, okay?
- Various other dipshits that are big fans of extremely sudden stops, spontaneous arm extensions (generally while holding lit cigarette) or other unpredictable behavior.
Maintain continuous focus on steps 3-7 until you reach your destination. Congrats if you make it there without arguing with a homeless person or fighting with the moron who keeps hitting you with his backpack as he swivels his body erratically to maintain eye contact with his hippy buddy.
Remember, to walk down the street successfully, you can never let your vigilance weaken.