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The Straight Walk Express

August 26, 2008

People don’t walk in straight lines. They tend to meander, and phantom sidewalk eddies suddenly pull them to one side or another. For fast-paced walkers like myself, this creates a frequent hazard when going on an otherwise simple jaunt from point A to point B.

Fortunately for me, I used to play hockey, and I have developed an adept ability to “read the play”. I can often anticipate complex movements and adjust myself accordingly. However, hockey relies on fluid movements and predictable trajectories. The average walker has no such fluidity, and is prone to move in a direction contrary to logic.

This, of course, is further amplified when the offending meanderer is on a cell phone. Not only does their trajectory fluctuate but their momentum abruptly shifts to half their snail’s pace.

New York State DMV regulations require drivers to pull off the road to use their cell phones. Ideally the rule should also apply to sidewalk pedestrians (although the existing law is ignored and useless). As a bonus, they could also get a coffee at any of the gazillion Starbuck’s at the same time.

But no, cell phones strip away all multi-tasking abilities. The phone goes to the user’s ear, and a vortex engulfs them. Surrounding people suddenly vanish into thin air. The caller is transported to a sandy beach on a tropical island, holding a shell to an ear with one hand and a frozen margarita in the other. A gentle sea wind blows and it sways them blissfully, to and fro, like the emerald tide itself. Only the sound of seagulls and mermaids sings through their empty head.

But outside the vortex a storm brews. Bodies are flung in one direction or another. Others alter course and escape to the opposite bank. I search for a trajectory read of any kind. I see one foot moving forward to the left, supported by shoulders angled in the same direction.

But evasive calculations must also include the cellular-user’s sudden bouts of self-awareness. When this happens, and the vortex dissipates, the user temporarily sees the flung and fleeing bodies and reacts with an about-face. They now abruptly step to the right with increased momentum, and collide full-force into yours truly.

I then look for the nearest Starbucks to nurse my wounds.

"I just don't feel close to you anymore."

"I just don't feel close to you anymore."

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