Chicago sidewalk

At first glance, the headline seemed to suggest one of those bogus trend stories, like man-dates and that hot new body shape: the potbelly.

"Get Out of My Way, You Jerk: Researchers Study 'Sidewalk Rage,'" the Wall Street Journal banner blared.

"You don't need a car to get road rage. For many people, few things are more infuriating than slow walkers—those seemingly inconsiderate people who clog up sidewalks, grocery aisles and airport hallways while others fume behind them."

I normally would have rolled my eyes. Really? Except … I identified.

I admit it: I tick off, in my head, a list of pet peeves while walking.

Such as:

+ People who stop in front of door to … take your pick: fish for their keys, put on their gloves, text, sext (wait – that's another bogus trend.)

+ People who walk against the turn arrow signal, smug, defiant.

+ People who hock loogies in the middle of the sidewalk (Seriously. If we must, look for a planter or a drain or something—and for God's sake, can't we be discreet?)

+ People who walk …. very … slowly…. into .. the crosswalk … after the light…has turned … green.

+ And, my all time biggest: people who walk four, five, six abreast on the sidewalk, hogging an entire walking lane, refusing to fall back to let someone pass, daring you to run into them—a game of sidewalk chicken—so that you have to slither by on the side, arms and back against a building wall.

Is Chicago worse than other cities? I have no idea (though I will say, at least according to my entirely unscientific, anecdotal, observations—that the cliché about Canada being friendly holds true. On the streets and the sidewalks, people were, in my experience, unfailingly civilized.) Sure seems like a lot of people here didn't get the memo, though.

Reading on, I wondered if I was rager. Well, there was a time, I'm embarrassed to admit, that I exhibited certain borderline behaviors, according to the article. Muttering. Shaking my head. Mean Face.

No longer.

The truth is, as with so much in life, I can't control a thing other people do or don't do. And, to quote the self-help cliché, the person who suffers most from such silly instants of anger is … me. I'm sure they could care less. Anyway, am I so perfect? I'm sure I've violated my own code at some point.

No, these days, I'm all Cosmo Kramer, Serenity-Now. I walk around the five-person flying wedges. I put away mean face when … *&^%$ IDIOTS! … sorry—that was a slip—ahem, when fellow travelers, plunge into the crosswalk against the light. I try not to wince when people do the snog-and-spit. And I walk on ….


Photograph: Vincent Desjardins / (CC BY 2.0)