You know the way some people are motorists, and some are cyclists, and others are, I dunno, innocent bystanders? Well I’m a pedestrian. I don’t walk for the exercise or the love of it or any of that crap. I walk because, for me, it’s the optimal method of getting from A to B. Not just that, there are all those extra little perks: no monthly payments, tax, or insurance. There are no timetables, parking spaces or unbecoming head gear of any type. It’s free like the Luas, except that this train leaves when I say it leaves. And – because there are no strikes, signal failures or traffic jams – it’s only late if I’m late.
There’s just one problem: there are no Rules of the Footpath. Honestly, it’s like the Wild West out there. Seriously, no one would ever dream of stopping their car in traffic, stretching back in the seat and grabbing a little shuteye, while a massive tailback built up behind them. There are traffic cops and laws and shit to stop that. But on the footpath, anything goes. And you know who the worst culprits are…
Okay, it’s not nice to single out any group of people for criticism, especially the old. But, let’s face it, if it were the other way around those moany old fuckers would be on the phone to Joe Duffy in a second. So here goes… Old people are the slowest, stupidest and least considerate pedestrians there are. The moment a thought pops into their head – Did I leave the oven on? When’s Maureen’s birthday? Have I forgotten some insignificant detail of this long, rambling and ultimately pretty pointless anecdote I’m recounting? – their automatic response is to set their bags and baggage down on the footpath and create the largest obstruction possibly, while they have an old think about it.
The other day, I got stuck behind one at an ATM machine. He was scratching his head, tutting and pressing button after button after button. I swear God, if he’d been any younger, I’d have assumed was hacking into the Pentagon.
Recent events have reminded us of all the valuable work done by numerous charity organisations throughout the world blah blah blah. And maybe street collections are an effective tool for fundraising. I seriously doubt it, but maybe… But my God does that preclude the possibility of a little intelligence being used by these people?
It’s rush hour, it’s raining, the place is thronged. Get off the footpath, get out of the way, go back to the drawing board or the etch-a-sketch or wherever you masterminded this little operation and look at what you’re doing here: 90% of the people you’re harassing here are just trying to get home. They go this way every day. You’re just getting in their way. If they were going to sign up to whatever dubious direct debit you’re pushing, they’d have done so already. Besides they’ve already been accosted three times on this street alone, why on earth would they crack now?
What is it that happens to people when they get onto these things? Why are able bodies suddenly rendered inoperative the moment a free ride materialises? At least on the Tube in London, people who wish to stand move to the left, allowing the rest of us to get by. But absolutely no one does that in Dublin. Here people just stand there, two-abreast – all dead eyes and shopping bags – as the escalator snails upwards. Is it really so inconceivable to these morons that there might actually be someone on board wants to get to the next floor at something faster than 2 m.p.h.? Seriously, is it?
Bombing down Grafton Street at the beginning of a heavy rain shower is like walking straight into a video game assault coure. You’re –VOOM! – weaving in and out between people, when – BAM! – suddenly everywhere you turn – CLICK! – maniacal umbrella heads start jumping out of nowhere. It’s a health hazard. Someone really could lose an eye. My view is that if you walk in the rain, you should just resign yourself to getting wet. If the authorities wish to section off Temple Bar or somewhere for all the fancy men to saunter, frolic and skip to their hearts content – by all means, I have no objection to that.
But everywhere outside of that designated area should be like the motorway, where there’s no fucking around.
You’ve just arrived back from somewhere. You’ve waited for your bag. You’ve shown your passport to anyone who’s asked for it. Now you want to get the fuck out of the building as quickly as possible. There’s a group of a dozen or so middle aged guys (returning from a golfing trip or rugby match or something) just ahead of you. As their emerge into the light of the Arrivals area, their loved ones rush forward to welcome them home.
And where do these auld lads and their wives and assorted hangers-on stage this massive meet-and-greet session? Right there at that one narrow gap in the cordon that everyone else behind them has got to get though. There’s a vast, empty concourse around them. But they seem not to notice that, or the stream of 50 weary travellers saying “Excuse me… Sorry… Excuse me… Thanks…” in tiny voices, as if they’re the ones who are creating the disturbance.
This makes me very angry, I must admit.
mass velocity pedestrian crossing
Let no one say I don’t give credit where it due. Irish pedestrians lead the world in this method of getting across a busy intersection. In fact, I think we invented it. Mass Velocity Pedestrian Crossing © is where a large crowd congregate at a pedestrian crossing and – the moment a car approaches at anything less than 50 miles an hour – spills out into the road front of it. The car is forced to stop and, once we’ve got our opening, we just keep pouring more and more soldiers into the breach. A really large scale crossing of this sort – the type you’d often see in College Green or at O’Connell Bridge – is a truly a thing to behold. You have car horns honking, guards roaring and a legion of pedestrians pressing on they were the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. It brings a tear to my eye – I’m not ashamed to admit that.
N.B. When this piece originally appeared in Mongrel magazine a few years ago, I didn’t own a car and was agitating for stricter policing to facilitate speedier commuting. Funny how some things change over time…