Monday, April 23, 2007

Doing the locomotion (a rant)

Yes, I know. This may seem like a bit of an obsession, but once again I find it necessary to hold forth on the habits of the Granadan pedestrian. Gentle readers, I wish I could report that I had attained a state of Zen-like detachment, as far as pedestrian progress is concerned. But this is simply not the case.

I can, however, after two weeks of intensive study, cast further light on the problem. Because one has to understand one's enemy in order to prevail. For anyone intending to travel to Granada in the near future, I offer the following taxonomy of sidewalk denizens. The key variable in understanding pedestrian behavior is age, and the breakdown is roughly as follows:

12 to 30-year olds: pedestrians in this age group do not pose a particular problem. They can generally be trusted to behave similarly to their peers in any other city of the world.

30 to 50-year olds: in this group you will find, primarily, proponents of the sudden stop, the turn without warning, the random dart. Masters of Brownian motion, their main contribution to inhibiting the normal flow of pedestrian traffic is the element of surprise. There is simply no telling what these people may do. What causes the sudden stopping and starting behavior so characteristic of this group? I wish I knew. It could be something as simple as seeing an acquaintance across the street, or a particularly snazzy pair of shoes in a stop window. Or stopping to pay closer attention to one's strolling companion. Adjusting the baby stroller. But - let's be clear on this - as often as not, it's for no discernible reason whatsoever. Entropy rules supreme in this group.

the over 50-crowd: this particular menace to society is distinguished by the tendency to roam the pavement in packs, usually of three or more. The preferred number is four, because only then is it possible to walk in formation in a way that occupies the width of the entire sidewalk. Often sauntering with arms linked, a phalanx of these oldsters yields to nobody. If you let them, they will force you into the gutter. Occasionally, senior citizens may sally forth in groups of three. In this case, it is a simple (and apparently instinctive) matter for them to combine the arm-linking technique with a gentle weaving motion in a manner that makes passing virtually impossible except to all but the most determined.

A related observation pertains to the behavior of your average Granadan shopper. Whether through instinct, or years of practice, as if by second nature, upon entering a store of any kind, the typical Granadan customer will immediately gravitate to the single narrowest part of the store and proceed to stand there aimlessly, thereby maximizing the potential congestion in the store. Be it in the supermarket, or el Corte Inglés, this behavior is so consistent that one has to suspect there is a genetic component that is passed on from one generation to the next.

I am generally not given to violent fantasies, dear readers, but I have to say that, on more than one occasion in the past couple of weeks, I have mentally transplanted some of the worst offenders to the tube in London, or the subways of New York, and imagined the subsequent mauling that they would receive at the hands and feet of people who understand the fine art of pedestrian behavior.

¡Citizens of Granada! Your behavior is neither charming nor tolerable. It is egocentric and oafish, and would not be considered acceptable in any truly civilized society.

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