View Full Version : On the Teeming Sidewalks, Nudge, Counternudge

November 1st, 2003, 09:23 PM
November 2, 2003


On the Teeming Sidewalks, Nudge, Counternudge


I moved back to New York in July, after three and half years in the politely repressed kingdom of Connecticut, where you just don't touch people. Not unless there is a reason that both parties, if asked, would call "good."

But in New York, that kingdom of self-absorbed passive aggression, I've been forced to relearn the art of a well-placed shoulder, elbow or heel delivered to a stranger's body - usually mine, usually wordlessly and never eye to eye.

The meaning, of course, is simple: Though you do not exist, you have managed to get in my way, so - boff! - take that.

The most popular medium has been the shoulder nudge; the location, the sidewalks around Times Square, that primeval swamp of passive human aggression.

You know the shoulder nudge. At about three paces, you and the guy walking toward you each realize that someone needs to move, though you are both hemmed in by the protean mélange of tourists and hucksters. At two paces, you each reassess, taking into account the other's size, affability and any force multipliers like briefcases, or a hedge trimmer that could quickly ruin your day.

At half a pace apart, you, the Connecticut rube, turn your shoulders 45 degrees to avoid contact; the other guy just bangs into you square. As if you hadn't done enough.

Grocery-laden babushkas barrel though crowded Q trains with more courtesy. But I learned my lesson. From then on, I began calibrating how far to turn my shoulders, and whom I would purposely counternudge. Approaching Iowa tourist? Fine, 45 degrees. Over-caffeinated train-bound office jockey? Maybe 25 degrees, but he needs to slow down. Oblivious Midtown lawyer on cellphone? Five percent. If that - the guy needs to be taught a lesson.

But this isn't a macho guy thing.

"What you have to realize is that often they are not unintentional," an English friend told me. We were on the otherwise vacant corner of Baltic and Smith Streets in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, and a woman had just brushed by, knocking my hand off my hip. Apparently I was too much in the middle of the sidewalk. I didn't know whether to apologize or ask her what the hell her problem was.

For the first few weeks, I thought maybe I was too sensitive. Or too slow. But then Canadians - Canadians! - started telling me about their passive-aggressive counternudging tactics.

"When I first got here, I would be like, 'Oh, excuse me,' but now I just keep on walking," said Sandra Eng, a 5-foot-tall architect from the famously gracious province of British Columbia. What she lacks in physical stature she makes up for in shoulder-strap accouterments. "I make sure I put the sharp end of my bag right here," she said, pointing to her hip, "so that if someone runs into me, they'll get stuck."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

November 4th, 2003, 09:14 AM
I just turn the 30 degrees to avoid it, but I also set myself. It is amazing when you see the surprised faces on people as they get spun off what they think is an easy-hit shoulder.

I have also been directly challanged, and done one of two things. Set my own shoulder and sent them spinning (I am stronger than my skinny frame would suggest) or I avoid it at the last minute sending them sprawling forward when they anticipated resistance.

I love the last one.. ;)

March 9th, 2010, 05:24 AM
Well, here's an interesting if impractical solution:

Flashback: What Happened To Those Moving Sidewalks?

http://gothamist.com/attachments/arts_jen/movingsidewalks.jpg (http://gothamist.com/2010/03/08/flashback_moving_sidewalks_where_ar.php?gallery0Pi c=2#gallery)



Did you know that the first time a moving sidewalk was proposed for New York City it was 1871? It was brought up again in 1902 for the Brooklyn Bridge, according to EphemeralNY (http://ephemeralnewyork.wordpress.com/2010/03/08/the-moving-sidewalks-the-city-never-built/), after which it was debated in the newspapers. Eventually Mayor Seth Low spiked the idea, forcing generations of pedestrians to use their own two legs to get anywhere. Until 1910, when the idea rose from the dead! This time, they were to replace the subway system... which sounds like a highly unenjoyable, fume-heavy experience.

To backtrack, in 1871, the idea came from local wine merchant Alfred Speer, who patented the first "endless-travelling sidewalk"—his idea was to build an elevated one moving along Broadway. It was suggested that boring "stop 'n' chats" would become a thing of the past as one would just have to "step on the passing sidewalk to be carried rapidly beyond sight or hearing of his tormentor." Cause of death on this one: no financial backer.

New Scientist (http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20327200.200-how-the-moving-walkway-nearly-overtook-the-metro.html?full=true) reports that by 1902 New Yorkers were fed up with the rush hour crush; one commuter calling it a "daily torture." So Bridge Commissioner Gustav Lindenthal figured some high-speed moving walkways oughta do the trick, and proposed a looping system with 4 walkways on the Brooklyn Bridge, the fastest containing benches that would whisk pedestrians across the river. It's suspected that Brooklyn Rapid Transit had a hand in burying the idea, as they had a monopoly on the borough's public transit at the time.

Still, proposals came in, with moving sidewalks suggested for the Williamsburg Bridge, Wall Street, and as mentioned, in the subway system. The New York Times even wondered "why this improvement was not considered when this present [subway] system... was built". And in 1932 a similar idea (http://gothamist.com/2008/01/11/train_of_the_fu.php) involving an elevated tube system was proposed.

Take a look at the moving sidewalk in action, in Paris in 1900. And if you think the idea of incorporating those into the city is crazy, check out what the world thought 2008 would look like back in 1968 (http://blog.modernmechanix.com/2008/03/24/what-will-life-be-like-in-the-year-2008/).



March 9th, 2010, 07:50 AM

Besides school lessons, other educational material is available for TV viewing. You simply press a combination of buttons and the pages flash on your home screen. The world’s information is available to you almost instantaneously.
TV screens cover an entire wall in most homes and show most subjects other than straight text matter in color and three dimensions. In addition to programmed TV and the multiplicity of commercial fare, you can see top Broadway shows, hit movies and current nightclub acts for a nominal charge.

Not TOO far off there! ;)

Dwellings for the most part are assembled from prefabricated modules

Uh huh.

Other conveniences ease kitchenwork. The housewife simply determines in advance...

DON'T go there! *finger waggle*

The single most important item in 2008 households is the computer...

Computers also handle travel reservations, relay telephone messages, keep track of birthdays and anniversaries, compute taxes and even figure the monthly bills for electricity, water, telephone and other utilities....


Money has all but disappeared. Employers deposit salary checks directly into their employees’ accounts. Credit cards are used for paying all bills. Each time you buy something, the card’s number is fed into the store’s computer station. A master computer then deducts the charge from your bank balance.

*chuckle* yep.

Computers not only keep track of money, they make spending it easier. TV-telephone shopping is common... ...Instead of being jostled by crowds, shoppers electronically browse through the merchandise of any number of stores.

Uh huh!

But I notice no mention of pr0n!!!!! :eek:

March 10th, 2010, 03:04 AM
Hahahahaa - the 'moving sidewalks' were to be THAT crowded in 18-whenever? How about that lady being helped by an "MTA" employee onto the sidewalk. Precious, what a world we could've lived in.