28 August 2006

Of Dogs and Brushguards and Erratic Pedestrians

So it's Monday, and I'm taking a rest after a longer run on Sunday. And while I'm getting ready to do some dissertating today, I'll still take a moment to compose another of my customary day-off posts. Realizing that I usually write about things that I see that are interesting or unusual, today I want to prove I'm not always given to such a gee-whiz attitude by providing a short list of the things that bother me the most on my runs. I guess I'm feeling a little peevish today -- must be the humidity. Anyway, here are three, in no particular order:

SUVs. I know, with gas prices over three bucks a gallon you'd think that the owners of these things would be due for a little sympathy. Besides, parking's got to be a major pain, too. But in my experience, putting someone behind the wheel of an SUV here in the urban confines of Brooklyn seems to embolden them in regard to traffic laws, making them more liable to run red lights, ignore stop signs, exceed the speed limit, and make illegal turns. Furthermore -- and this is especially frustrating to the perambulating amateur with a digital camera -- half the interesting buildings and storefronts seem to have an SUV parked out front, making it nearly impossible to get a good photograph without the vehicle taking up half the shot (see the picture from Bensonhurst below). And most perplexing to me -- what's up with half the SUVs having those brush guards on the front? Are that many Brooklynites going off-roading on the weekends? Or is it just so the pedestrians and bicyclists they mow down won't chip the paint?

Pedestrian drift Most of the time I feel quite a bit of solidarity with my fellow runners, joggers, strollers, amblers, striders, walkers, shufflers, roamers, and urban wanderers. And I also like to think of myself as particularly respectful of others sharing the sidewalk, since I realize that most of them are going about their daily routines in their own neighborhoods while I'm the interloper. However, negotiating a crowded or narrow sidewalk is much more difficult when others don't follow predictable trajectories. Some folks, of course, just kind of stagger, and others make sharp, unexpected turns or stops. But among the most frustrating is the otherwise straight-line walker who will drift from one side of the sidewalk to the other right in front of me for no apparent reason, usually when I'm trying to pass them and there's an obstacle (mailbox, tree, illegally parked SUV) preventing me from taking an alternate path. Still, the worst of all are those people who are engaged in another task (taking out the trash, sweeping the sidewalk, etc.) and clearly see me coming, then walk directly into my path as if I wasn't there and just stand there squinting as if in disbelief that there is indeed some guy about to crash into them. You know that dream, where you're standing in the street and a car is bearing down on you but you can't move? It's like that, but in reverse.

Temporary or semi-solid obstacles You know, like from dogs. I can usually negotiate telephone poles, mailboxes, trash cans, used-clothes donation boxes, wooden pallets, traffic cones, no-parking signs, fire hydrants, and whatever other items are typically found on or along city sidewalks. But I've already seen my share of people who are out walking their dogs and then let them do their business right in the middle of the sidewalk, with little regard to either fellow pedestrians or the city's laws concerning such things. Granted, this isn't in every neighborhood, and I've so far managed to avoid any direct hits. But the odds aren't in my favor forever, I'm afraid.

Anyway, I suppose I'll qualify these complaints by noting that they're relatively minor, and that the great/interesting/fun/weird/unusual stuff I encounter far outweighs these minor inconveniences. It's just that people often ask things like "aren't you afraid of running in 'bad' neighborhoods?" or whatever, so I just wanted to briefly explain the things I truly do dread on my runs.

Two more pictures from yesterday's damp foray into Bensonhurst and Gravesend:

65th Street

78th Street (note the huge vehicle!)


At 12:05 PM, Blogger christina piluso said...

This is one of my favorite posts. On Saturday's run, I was in a fairly crowded area. A guy was walking across the sidewalk (perpendicular to me), so in anticipation of where he would be by the time I got there, I moved to the left. What does he do? Looks up, sees me and stops dead in his tracks so I almost collide into him. I realize it isnt necessarily his fault or anything, but it drives me CRAZY trying to dodge people meandering and kids darting all over and those 6 foot long tripwires that they call dog leashes.

At 1:31 PM, Blogger Gary said...

Thanks, Christina.
I know, it's a weird thing to talk about, since we (runners) are pedestrians too. But I'd swear, half the people out there are drunk at any given time, given the way they move. And don't get me started about the leashes -- I've been lucky so far, but have almost tripped a number of times...


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