You know those people who walk into a room and immediately start looking around? They assess the well-established situation into which they've entered; how many people are present, how do they know one another, how deep or meaningful is their conversation? Is it okay to walk up and augment the discussion? If they don't know them already, when is a good time to introduce themselves? Wait for a pause. Scan the room. Assess. You know those people?
Well, I'm not one of those people. I am, in fact, the opposite of those people. I am the person who walks into a room talking. When I get uncomfortable, or enter a new situation (usually one and the same thing), whatever minimal social filter I have toiled to strengthen in my adulthood diminishes greatly. I get loud. I get intrusive. I forget to use my "inside voice". I am not proud of this character defect, but it is a part of who I am. I'm working on it. In fact, if I ever walk into a room you're already in, I'll probably be more than happy to tell you about how I'm working at it in detail. At full volume.
Which brings me to the topic of this post. This is a list of things I say out loud every time I ride the subway. Seriously. Every. Time. And it is important that I publish this post on the World Wide Web because there is a chance that one day I'll fail to utter these phrases under my breath, and will accidentally say them full voice. And at the wrong person. Who will stab me. For good reason.
That's not how we do things, here. - One time I actually said this too loud to a couple who was strolling along on a sidewalk in Midtown. I think my actual phrasing was, "Fucking tourists," but it's the same general idea. The woman heard me and responded, rightfully, "We LIVE here!" I wanted to fire back, "Than why on earth are you walking so SLOWLY?" but it was Valentine's Day, and my girlfriend and I were having a nice homemade "Taste of New York" tour date together, and I didn't want to ruin the romance by cutting someone. So I remained silent and avoided further eye contact like a good New Yorker.
Since then, the phrase has morphed into "That's not how we do things, here." It is usually reserved for those offenses a New Yorker is unlikely to commit, but a tourist or a newcomer would. Pausing in front of the turnstyle to look for your Metrocard is a great example. Seriously? You didn't know where you were headed beforehand? You forgot they tend to charge for these types of things?
Another time I'll use this phrase is when someone just stops on the sidewalk or subway platform. No shifting to the side, no looking around, just... stops. The vast majority of the time this happens, I am unclear as to why. What I am certain of, is I walk a lot faster than the person committing said offense, and was usually right behind them at the time it was committed.
Don't babysit the doors if you ain't prepared to hustle. - That's right. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the fury of my commute, I drop in the word "ain't". I'm gangster like that.
This phrase passes over my lips on a daily basis. I will never fully comprehend this mentality. People will guard the subway door with their life, refusing to give up even an inch of ground so they can be the first to exit when it comes time for their stop. And this part I understand; I do it, too.
The problem lies when the exit comes, and they proceed to mosey along like they're on the streets of a small Midwestern town window shopping on a Saturday morning. Why did they guard the door, then? There is no way this person doesn't know they walk slower than everyone else. Why didn't they cede ground at the beginning and be one of the last people off the train? I honestly don't get that part. I am hoping someone will explain it to me before I get assaulted for saying it out loud. I definitely think that would count as "starting the fight" and am equally sure I could end up doing time. Unless my judge is a fast walker. But who am I kidding? I doubt judges even take the subway, and the ones that do probably ain't prepared to hustle at all. Word.
Turning signals! - Contrary to what you might think, I honestly do try to be a decent and polite person. Really! I hold the door for strangers, say "Bless you." when someone sneezes, and always try to promote hugging (especially when all that's expected or reasonably appropriate is a handshake. Not on my watch! C'mere, you!)
One of the things I do is try to walk even more quickly than normal on crosswalks, even if I have the right-of-way. I am sympathetic to the driver (I am one on occasion), and I know how annoying it can be when someone takes their sweet-ass time crossing the street. Don't they know the driver has someplace hella important to be? Don't they know who the driver IS?
And so, I will frequently pick up the pace for a car trying to turn onto (or out from) the street I'm currently crossing. But without the use of a turning signal, I often have no way of knowing the driver's intentions. And since they've refused to use one, I almost always assume their car is simply not equipped with that feature. Like they traded in leather seats and a bitchin' stereo (stuck on a station that is usually trying to convince me of how much I adore Latin music) in lieu of that pesky lever that will let someone know they intend to turn.
"Turning signals!" is just a lowbrow way of saying, "Good day, Sir (or Madam, as it were). If you would be so kind as to, in the future, should this situation arise again, notify me of your intent to redirect your vehicle, nothing would please me more than to clear the roadway for you in a swift and expeditious manner, thereby increasing the painlessness of your trek." But it comes out the other way. Because by that point, I'm usually annoyed at them for not using the thing to begin with.
What happens at either end of the escalator should come as a surprise to no one. - I posted this on Facebook once, and was surprised at the sheer lack of response. That may, of course, have something to do with it not being as funny as I think it is. Welcome to my world.
But the fact is, what happens at either end of the escalator should come as a surprise to no one. Escalators have been around for over a hundred years. Despite our childhood fear of one day getting sucked under one of them (this will never, and has never actually happened [UPDATE: Okay. Rarely.]), offenders continue to behave as if the behavior of the moving staircase is totally unpredictable.
Here in New York, we have a walk-on-the-left-stand-on-the-right policy of escalator etiquette. It greatly reduces the number of stabbings per year. Unsurprisingly, I am always on the left side. For 80% of the escalator trip, I feel a sense of community with my Left-Side brethren. We're in this together; a working, living, thriving chain of people moving in tandem to a common goal. A strong sense of support and - WAIT JUST A GODDAMN SECOND. WHY DID YOU STOP? DIDN'T YOU KNOW WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN? IT'S THE SAME EVERY DAY! IT DIDN'T CHANGE!
...and that's the end of the escalator ride. It accounts for 10% of the time I'm annoyed. The other 10% is the beginning. People seem unprepared for what is about to happen. "Oh, look! An escalator!" they seem to say, before walking in that direction, "I should approach it slowly in case it randomly changes speed at strange intervals or suddenly becomes stairs." And so I'm in a position of being among Slow Walkers at the beginning, and Stoppers at the end. That 80% in the middle, though? Gold. Serene gold.
Don't worry, Sweetheart, I've got game. - Remember when I said before that I am often the guy babysitting the subway doors so I'm the first one to exit? Well, this phrase is the one that someone is most likely to hear, simply because of my proximity to the offender.
When I'm standing at a subway door, waiting to leave the train, it is because I have direction. I have a purpose. And, most of the time, I'm prepared to hustle. But sometimes people think they know better than me. Sometimes, people stand right at my back, a little too close, as if to be saying to me, "Don't babysit the doors if you ain't prepared to hustle." Being the person who said that to them earlier in the day, week, or same train ride, I can understand their plight.
But I've got game. I'm prepared to hustle. I walk faster than you. So don't worry, Sweetheart. Rest assured, you will get where you're going and will not be impeded by me in the slightest. So back off a little bit. You're breathing on my neck.
Get it done, Pokey. - I realize that many of these phrases are mere shorthand for the rules I've stated before. Actually the reason I started this blog to begin with. But I'm finishing this post with this particular phrase because it happens to be the one I'll actually repeat under my breath, regardless of if I'm on foot, on a bus, a subway or in a car. Like a mantra. Which then makes me like a crazy person. Which then makes me fit right in to New York.
"Get it done, Pokey." is not dissimilar from Adam Sandler's "T-t-t-toDAY, Junior!" from that timeless classic, Billy Madison. It is directed at conductors, drivers, bike riders, cashiers and (mostly) fellow pedestrians. They don't seem to understand that there are people behind them, or otherwise stalled because of them. I enjoy smelling the roses from time to time. Hell, on rare occasions, you'll even catch me loping (though not often. My gait does not lend itself to moseying, strolling, sauntering or other euphemisms. My friend Andrew calls it my "Wilderness Stomp" and that he knows where I am at all times in Astoria because of how I walk. I'm comforted by that).
But if I'm behind you, and you're walking abreast on the sidewalk, and you're texting, and eating, than I have a list of things I need you to read before you ever leave the house again. It's a set of suggestions to help you avoid getting stabbed, too! And to prevent you from stabbing me! This mutually beneficial win/win guidebook can be found at www.iwalkfasterthanyou.blogspot.com. Just don't read it on your phone while walking in front of me. That's not how we do things, here.