Open Letter to Certain Pedestrians of New York City

(and, I suspect, other places where walking is the prevalent mode of transportation)

Let me preface this by stating that I am one of you. I’m a pedestrian. Like you, I can, but don’t usually, drive. I take some cabs and busses and subway trains. But mostly I walk.

A portion of my fellow urban walkers are very interested in traveling from points A to B in an alert and socially conscientious manner, using their wits and grace to put down solid numbers in the blocks-per-minute column. To you I offer only kudos and my eternal encouragement.

However, many (many) more of you are clearly more interested in your electronic devices than perambulation. I’m of course referring to those who rely only on peripheral vision to narrowly avoid collisions; whose latest masterpiece of acronyms and misspellings is far more urgent than putting one foot in front of the other in anything resembling a predictable trajectory; and those who choose to stop suddenly in a blatantly Pavlovian response to any electronic gurgle or spurt their digital device may utter.

To those who can’t muster the basic social skills necessary to avoid crashing headlong into complete strangers, I would like to put to you a very simple fact that is both frank and true.

It is not my job to watch where you are walking.

Those who are guilty of violating this maxim may consider it perfectly reasonable and completely important to squint at a tiny handheld, head down, double-thumbing the keyboard, while expecting muscle memory to see you through the labyrinthine spray of other human bodies in our fair city.

I’m here to attest, however, that it takes more than a semi-voluntary series of muscle spasms and your complete and utter self-involvement to get where you are going.

When you do not actively pay attention to where you are walking, you are forcing the rest of us to pay attention for you. You are turning your job into our job. And that’s a job that I would assume many of us would decline in favor of more gainful employment.

To those who may think this assessment unfair, outlandish or simply old-fashioned, I would offer that the solutions to the problem are relatively simple and far less expensive than literally paying others to pay attention for you.

  1. Assume that any texts, alerts, updates or other notices from your device are not so dire as to have an adverse affect on your life-span. Because the rest of us would lay down good money on that bet and wouldn’t mind at all if you could wait the 10 or 15 seconds it will take you to get the fuck out of our way.
  2. Consider checking in, friending, commenting, updating, etc. only while seated. Not only will this allow for the remaining population to go about their business, but who knows, you may get an extra kick in the Klout when you’re able to give your full and undivided attention to selecting the perfect combination of filters for the Instagram you just made of that cute dog, artfully frothed cappuccino, or, most likely, yourself.
  3. Just ignore it. Pretty please, with sugar on top. Ignore every bloom and ping and klaxon your device may issue. Hey, why not mute that fucker? Check it later. Like when you’re inside your home or office and not while you are participating in the great social contract that is Pedestrianism. It’ll be a swell surprise — every swipe like tearing into so much 99¢ Store gift wrap. Because like I said, the chance that you’re going to get a text about your imminent death is so mathematically remote as to be impossible (see also, “You Are Not Going to Win the Lottery, You Fool”), and in lieu of receiving that specific message, nothing else is so important that you can’t fucking watch where the fuck you’re fucking going.

These and many other solutions may occur to you should you decide that you’d rather not have to owe the rest of us some sort of renumeration for all of the attention we’ve paid in your stead.

In closing, I would simply add that we can always just quit this job you’ve forced upon us. We can choose to stand our ground or maintain our path at your expense instead of our comfort, and we would ask you, please, do not appear surprised, or worse, annoyed, should we choose not to participate in your solipsism.


P.S. If you’re reading this on a mobile device while blindly navigating pedestrian traffic — well — thanks, but you’re a schmuck.