Sunday, August 14, 2005

Taxonomy of NYC Pedestrians

I've been working on a taxonomy of New York City walkers for a while. Taxonomy may not be the right word. How about, Seinfeldian List? Enjoy.

The Slow Walker

Slow Walking is the plain vanilla walking disorder. It usually leads to, or appears in conjunction with, the more flavorful pathologies listed below.

The Waddler

The Waddler waddles down the way with a distinctive side to side motion. This affliction is prevalent among the large-of-girth, especially after a meal, as well as youths hamstrung by super-wide, crotch-at-the-knee jeans.


Veera randomly veers from one side of the sidewalk to the other. Try passing her. She'll veer you into a lamp post, hot-dog cart, or oncoming traffic. Not to be confused with the Waddler.


Frogger is harmless to all but himself. He jaywalks across busy two-way streets, often getting stuck in the middle. Splat.

The Bee

When exiting a building, the Bee makes a bee line for the inside "fast" lane of the sidewalk and camps there, though he's not an especially fast walker. Like his car-bound relative, he never signals nor checks his rear view.

The Doorman

Don't be fooled by the innocuous-sounding Doorman. He delights in flinging doors open with maximum force, intent on causing maximum maxillofacial damage to unwary pedestrians in his way.

The Short Stopper

A normal walker in all appearances, a Short Stopper randomly stops in the middle of the sidewalk as if responding to an internal game of freeze tag. A variant of the Short Stopper is the Short Stopper Shopper. She stops when she sees something shiny and new in a store window.

The Impaler

On dark days, when the forecast calls for rain, keep an eye out for the Impaler. He wields a long, sharp umbrella pointed generally at the ass of the person in front of him or the crotch of the person behind. In either mode, he repeatedly jabs as he walks. The cries of his victims range from the piercing shriek of the merely-skewered, to the pathetic lamentations of the disemboweled.

The Super Gay Fake English Umbrella Fop

Yes, sometimes you really do see a guy walking his umbrella like some silver handled cane, swishing it forward in flamboyant arcs and making pert stabs at the ground with every other step. Say good day to Super Gay Fake English Umbrella Fop.


Three-a-Breasters are vile creatures who attempt to walk 3 abreast down the sidewalk (the rule is two, people). Often these are wide-eyed tourist nuclear families, so one tries to cut them some slack.


Spawn of Hell, walking among us, are the Four-a-Breasters.

The Caddy

The Caddy is usually male, always a miscreant. He unfurls his six foot golf umbrella at the first hint of rain. The Garfield parade float disrupts traffic less. Hobbies include parking his Hummer H2 in compact-car-only parking lots.

EL Toreador

At intersections, el Toreador thrusts himself out into the street, daring traffic to stop so he can cross against the light. As he tiptoes across, he imagines passing taxicabs kissing the fabric of the red and gold brocade cape his mother mode for his first fight at the Plaza de Toros. He must really be anxious to cross! He must really be a moron not to notice that his antics actually SLOW DOWN oncoming traffic, delaying motorists and fellow pedestrians alike.

Son of El Toreador

Toreadors who are too old to enter the ring themselves pass along the tradition to their offspring. Rather than putting their own bodies in harm's way, they lead with their stroller. Natural Selection in action? Si.

The Englishman

The Englishman walks on left, passes on the right.

The German

The German is that fellow you passed half a block ago, who, now that you're stopped at an intersection, catches up to you and cuts in front. He often has a dress-shirted business buddy in tow (whom he engages in the most banal aural-sex imaginable). Neither one EVER notices when the light changes, so you pass them both. AGAIN. (If this sounds like a cultural smear, Germans, get over it. Waiten sie your turnensie, ya?).

The Mexican

Carrying a distinctive red vinyl pizza warmer, or pushing a cart laden with celophane-wrapped conference-room breakfast food, the Mexican is easy to spot. He's in such a hurry, and his legs are so short. He's so funny.

The Center

Tall and of muscular build is the Center. He wears nice track pants, expensive running shoes, and an NBA jersey. He looks like speed and athleticism incarnate — walks slower than a clock before quitting time.

The Jawa

A person with hair, veil, hood, or headdress that blocks his or her peripheral vision is a Jawa — especially prone to veering, waddling, stopping short, etc.

The Slow Walkie-Talkie

The Slow Walkie-Talkie slows to 3/4 or 1/2 speed when talking, be it to a cell phone* or a person walking along side. Apparently, the same belt that drives his jaws drives his feet. Diverting power to one, necessarily robs the other. Of course, a pair of SWTs walking in tandem maintain a constant (slow) pace since one or the other is always talking. When tracking a pack of SWTs, one is likely to encounter a more exotic variant, the Swivel Necked SWT. This is an SWT that tries to converse with one of his fellows a rank or two behind. First you'll notice an awkward craning of the head, as the Swivel Neck tries to face his interlocutor. This is followed by an even further slowing of gait and erratic direction changes as his feet attempt to follow his face.

The Quiet, the Loud, and the Angry

That quiet person walking slow, listing to one side** is just plain crazy. Do not seek to engage him. Ditto if he's walking fast, flailing his arms, and shouting at no one in particular. If he's a little more coherent, and angrily asking rhetorical (one hopes) questions about why he or she shouldn't beat the fucking shit out of this or that fucking motherfucker, he may not be crazy, but he's on his way. He hasn't yet fine-tuned his one-world-goverment conspiracy theory, but he will.

The Commuter

The Commuter has each leg of her journey timed to the half-minute: walk to car, drive to train, train to city, subway to near office, walk to office. Stay out of her way. She stops for no one and no thing, discarding baggage the second it becomes "excess" (coffee cup, newspaper, broken umbrella, broken heel, shoe, best friend).

The Flapper

The Flapper is a fast walking Waddler who flaps one or both arms in wild sideways motions as she walks. Attempting to pass her is asking for a sharp elbow to the solar plexus.

Loosus Caboosus

Loosus Caboosus can be identified by the solidly stuffed backpack attached to his back like a reverse battering ram. When agitated or confused, he undertakes quick rotating maneuvers aimed at knocking over those around him. He thrives in subway cars, airport gift shops, and, one would assume, china shops. In another hundred thousand years, his defensive backpack will likely develop skin, which will hopefully prevent such mishaps (assuming his non-backpacked brethren survive the interim).
* Often there's no one on the other end of this person's "conversation". 
** I believe "to one side" is superflous as that's what it means to list, but how else to clear up the ambiguity of "An inclination to one side, as of a ship"1 with "To make a list of; itemize" 
1American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

No comments:

Post a Comment