Sidewalk pinball

Woke up late, and had a few burritos for breakfast, which gave me gas all morning and into the afternoon. I live alone and enjoy farting, so I figured what the heck, and fired up a big plate of chili and cheese for lunch to keep it going.

♦ ♦ ♦

Out of mayonnaise, and because you can't have chili and cheese without a dollop of mayonnaise, I walked to the store. Trying to dodge all the brain-dead tourists, I didn't notice the little kid until she rammed me in the nuts. But did I keel over in pain? Nope, because I wear a protective cup every day, just in case. I wore a cup when I was an umpire, and it's still my habit. Better safe than sorry. Highly recommended.

And while we're sort of on the subject of sidewalks, there are rules of the road, and there are rules of the sidewalk, and please follow the rules. The first rule, same as driving (in America, anyway), is to walk on the right side of the sidewalk. Don't meander all over the width of the concrete. I always walk to the right when I'm alone, and on those rare occasions when I'm walking with a friend, I'll politely fall back and yield to walkers coming from the other direction. But such good manners are rare.

If this sounds like a rant, yes, it's a rant, and if it sounds petty, please remember that I live one block from Powell Street in downtown San Francisco — cable cars, Union Square, Market Street — so I'm sharing the sidewalk with thousands of tourists every day and night of the year. And some of them refuse to share.

When I walk to Walgreens I'm pirouetting past couples, families, and huge groups of gawkers who all think of San Francisco as a tourist attraction. And it is, of course, but it's also a genuine city where real people lead mundane lives and need to go to the store to buy some mayo so please get out of my way.

The sidewalks are always crowded, like a busy thoroughfare but with humans instead of cars, and with no turn signals or brake lights. Foot traffic moves efficiently, until some idiot and his wife and kids, walking side-by-side of course, suddenly stop to wonder "Which way is Macy's?" although the Macy's sign is enormous and straight ahead. Stopping, they make everyone behind them stop. Would you just hit the brakes in traffic and stop? Why don't they pull over to the side, like you'd do on the highway if you needed to consult a map?

Or, a gazillion people are headed east on the sidewalk, and another gazillion headed west, and some schmuck stops in the middle of the walkway to focus his camera and click a picture of the cable car.

Or, three friends walk abreast, leaving room for only one person to squeeze by going the other way. And they walk slowly, so people behind them wanting to walk faster can't pass them, because the trio is walking side-by-side instead of face-to-back-of-head.

Yes, yes, yes, this is a trivial frustration amounting to next-to-nothing, but it adds up when you're dealing with throngs of bumbling, slow-walking, picture-taking numskull tourists every day. So here's an announcement: This fat slob has had enough.

I'm done with the daily aerobics of dancing through and around the multitudes who don't bring their manners on vacation. I have stopped being kind and accommodating, stepping out of their way, waiting patiently while they talk and gawk and snap a photo. I am now the personification of "No more Mr Nice Guy."

When I'm walking alone, where I belong, on the far right side of the sidewalk, I will walk straight into and through anyone going the other direction, or anyone who stops to look at his map. I've become the lineblocker of O'Farrell Street. It's a community service: I'm teaching etiquette to visitors from Georgia and Timbuktu, by abandoning all etiquette myself.

Driving a car, you can't just ram into every asshole driver on the road. On the sidewalk, you can — especially if you're a big guy like me. Most of my walks are uneventful and without collision, but if you get in my way I will keep walking. I will not slow my pace nor step out of your way. I'm where I'm supposed to be, right side of the sidewalk, so you will step out of my way, or blam!, I will go right through like a bowling ball knocking over pins for a 7-10 split.

At the last possible moment before collision, most folks sense that I'm not going to yield, and step out of the way. It's very educational, for them. But several times I've bumped into and occasionally toppled people. It's turned the frustration into fun, but I'm still a softie at heart, so I do yield to old folks, little kids, and the disabled.

♦ ♦ ♦

I toppled some schmuck in a suit on my way to the BART station, then rode to Berkeley to see Repulsion at the Pacific Film Archive. It's a psycho-thriller by Roman Polanski, all about a frigid woman who starts killing anyone who knocks on her door. I can relate. The movie scared me good, and got me rooting for the killer, because all her victims were such louts.

Speaking of victims, a couple who sat near me at the theater soon decided to sit elsewhere. Man, I was explosive tonight!

From Pathetic Life #2
Saturday, July 23, 1994

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.



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