I was caught by a headline in the WSJ last week, titled, “Get Out Of My Way, You Jerk!” (2/15/11-Shirley S. Wang) The article is about the sidewalk equivalent of “road rage.” In the article, Dr. Leon James of the University of Hawaii, discusses the danger of the intermittent explosive disorder termed “sidewalk rage.” He has actually devised a way to measure this phenomenon called the Pedestrian Aggressiveness Syndrome Scale.
I’m a busy New Yorker. And New York is a walking town. I’ve lived here over 30 years and I am an aficionado of practical ways of navigating Manhattan most efficiently. I still ride the subways regularly, just as I did in my salad days as an actor. (I find that most times subways are the fastest, surest transport in New York.)
But I am also a wily and strategic walker when I am in New York. I have certainly experienced “sidewalk rage,” which is a dangerous thing for any salesman prior to a meeting or presentation. It just throws you out of sync and can leave you emotionally unfocused and concentration impaired. So, in addition to well-known techniques of deep breathing and letting go in such circumstances, I use some little practical tricks to remediate my semi-chronic vulnerability to this state, particularly when I’m running late. Here’s just one.
You are rarely not in a crowd when in mid-town Manhattan. So, when I am late as I come off Metro North at Grand Central Station, I pick the largest, fastest-moving man I can find and follow closely (about three feet behind) in his wake. When he veers in a different direction from my destination I switch to the next large, fast man going my way, much in the manner of a football running back following his left guard through the line. I avoid the awkwardness of a strict open field run and its real risk of knocking over old ladies and small children in my frantic urgency to make my next appointment.
Or, as John Florio says in SecondFruits, “If you will be a traveler, have always the eyes of a falcon, the ears of an ass, the face of an ape, the mouth of a hog, the shoulder of a camel, the legs of a stag…”