Walking, talking, standing. All things most of us do every day. Yet in New York City, where and how you do these things can often peg you as a hapless visitor or as a New Yorker who acts like one.
Here now, the 10 worst habits big city pedestrians should try to break.
1. Stop walking to the left.
Sidewalks, stairways, always, please . . . stay to the right when you’re walking through New York City. It’s such a basic idea, underscored by all our two-way streets and large stairwells separated by bannisters. Yet there you all are, plunging up and down the left-hand staircase or left side of the sidewalk against the tide of pedestrians dutifully trying to stay to the right. Just as many locals as tourists do this, so don’t point fingers. Just veer right. And pay it forward and yell at three people coming toward you to do the same.
I’m willing to admit that I enjoy Times Square and its “modern corporate lack of character,” to quote Alex the Lion from Madagascar 3 . But when I do walk through there with my family, we vary between marching in a tight tandem grouping or walking single file, depending on how many veering-to-the-left walkers we’re trying to avoid.
3. Quit “Tweetwalking.”
I'm trying to break my bad habit of texting while I walk, especially in pedestrian-heavy areas, and I encourage the rest of us to do the same. My five-year-old son has walked right into text walkers who have stopped short in front of him and he has likewise been smacked into by texters mumbling an insincere “Sorry” before continuing on. My kid has a hard head, but please, give him a break.
4. Let me off the train.
It’s become commonplace for locals and visitors to bark “Move in!” the moment they enter a subway car, and I’m all for moving in to the middle of the train – except for those times when all you people who shrieked “move in” make it difficult for me to move out. I realize this is the very reason some people don’t like to move in when they board the train, but we need to work at getting out of each other’s way.
5. Take off your backpack.
Evidently the threat of thievery hasn't provided enough incentive for riders to remove their backpacks from their backs after boarding the train, so permit me to clarify that when you keep your pack on your back it juts into everyone, reducing the amount of space we have around us. So please, hold your backpack by your side from that handy loop the designers stitched into the top of the bag.
6. Don’t make me a captive audience.
When a Mariachi performance or dance number breaks out on a moving subway car it can be annoying, but ultimately it’s difficult for me to begrudge people entertaining for tips. What isn’t so forgivable is being forced to listen to groups of people deliberately talking loudly or sharing the intimate details of their lives. Local school kids are particularly guilty of this, but I’ve seen boisterous out-of-towners doing it, too.
7. Migrate away from the subway entrances.
I can’t swear you’re a clueless visitor – but if you’ve planted yourself at the mouth of a subway station while studying your completely unfolded 3 foot by 2 foot map – you’re sure acting like one.
8. If you ask me to take your photo, there are rules.
Would I mind taking your photo? Not at all, but when I do, please don’t ask me to study your digital camera display and tell you “how it came out.” You’re not at the portrait studio at Sears. And if you want me to snap two or three more shots, kindly mention that when I’m taking the first one, not while I’m trying to hand back your camera.
9. Don’t stop foot traffic to frame your photo.
Unless you have an NYPD permit authorizing you to close down the street for a photo shoot, don’t make all pedestrians grind to halt while you frame the photo of your traveling companions standing in front of a landmark. Or at the very least, wait until foot traffic lightens up before taking your photo. And if I do happen to walk through your shot, I’m not necessarily doing it on purpose, so save your dirty looks, please.
10. Get some perspective.
In many cities, memorably Rome, San Francisco, and New York, I’ve been waiting to enter a sold-out museum, boat ride, or show (for which many waiting have bought their tickets in advance) and inevitably someone bellies up to the ticket window and bellows “But I’ve come a very long way!” when told there are no more tickets. You tend to hear this more overseas – no doubt, in some cases, from traveling New Yorkers – but really, it's such a silly thing to say. No matter where we are, we’ve all come a very long way, haven’t we?
What habits would you like New York City visitors – or New Yorkers – to break? Sound off in the comments section and if the feedback is fruitful, I may quote you in an upcoming post.
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