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Nina In New York: Get Out Of My Way… Please

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Credit: Improv Everywhere

Credit: Improv Everywhere

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This column originally ran on March 17, 2011. Nina Pajak will be on vacation for the next two weeks. Until then, we’re taking a look back at some of our favorites, along with some of Nina’s most popular articles.
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By Nina Pajak

Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported on a study into Pedestrian Aggressiveness Syndrome, which got a lot of people talking. I’m sure the research was super scientific and junk, but all anyone needs to do to understand this concept is to spend a few days people-watching in Midtown during the work week. It’s the nexus of where pokey, distracted, confused tourists meet entitled, busy, important Rushy Rushingtons. It’s a recipe for…SIDEWALK RAGE. Dun dun dunnn…

See Also: Top 5 NYC Tourist Traps | NYC Sees Record Tourism In 2010

According to the Journal, you know you’re afflicted if you display behaviors like “muttering or bumping into others…and acting in a hostile manner by staring, giving a ‘mean face’…” Interesting. That kind of sounds a lot like walking to me. No?

But it’s not just about whole families of tourists walking across the width of the sidewalk at a snail’s place, weaving erratically as they attempt to stare at a map and take in the sights all at once. I mean, yes, now that you mention it, that infuriates me quite a bit. But they’re tourists, and most of us realize that this isn’t the easiest city to navigate or negotiate. So as much as we sigh audibly as we dart around them, we cut them a little slack.

There are worse offenders.

There are the smokers who wave their cigarettes around willy nilly, completely unaware of how many people are brushing by within close proximity to the lit, ashy end. And those who blow smoke out of their mouths directly into your eyes as you pass. That makes me mad.

There are those who carry comically large golf umbrellas on crowded sidewalks, under scaffolding, and into subway stations, barreling through with no regard for the rest of us normals with our single-serve drugstore umbrellas. Double rage points for golf umbrella users who simultaneously walk with their eyes glued to their phones. This makes me madder.

Escalator hogs who stand on the left make me kind of mad, but not as mad. People who bump into you and look as though you ought to apologize make me super mad. People who sneeze and/or cough on your face as they walk by make me the maddest, but I try to remember that some of those actions are involuntary. A special piece of my rage is reserved for people who speed up to pass you, cut in front and then immediately slow down. Similarly, those who seem to feel it’s extremely important that they stand in front of you at the crosswalk and be at the head of the pack, but then don’t move when there’s a clear opportunity to cross. Just…why?

Where was I? I’m all worked up. Something about…something…

Sure, this study has some merit. It certainly has us examining our own behavior. But we’re jammed together here, strangers all swimming along in our various directions just trying to get where we’re going on time without contracting some sort of skin condition. It’s small wonder it results in anger. Frankly, I applaud us for being as restrained about it all as we are. Let’s not focus on the negative all the time! We’re doing great. You’re doing great!

Just please stay out of my way.

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Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

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