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BT has managed to get things up and running here once again (not that we really blame him for the outage, which was admittedly systemic and not individual, but we imagined that a rather delayed shockwave resulting from last week’s nearly forgotten quiz might have thrown a kink into something or other), and thus I’m back in the cafe, pondering what of value I can report from this new geographic vantage.

One thing that I’ve discovered is that my years in New York — where I thought I’d become quite the urban pedestrian — did nothing to prepare me for negotiating London sidewalks. A major part of my clumsiness here has to do with the mix of resident and tourist traffic on the walkways, which results in very different types of traffic jams from those in the Big Apple. There, tourists walk slowly; they walk four abreast; they stop in decidedly inconvenient locales to consult maps and guidebooks and generally stare up. The best means of dealing with said tourists is, of course, a muttered snarl (or a snarled muttering) as one dodges quickly around the obstacle.

Here, of course, I’m part of the problem, and it’s a significant one: tourists (like myself) tend to follow their non-UK senses of direction and order by sticking to the right side of walkways, while residents veer left. The jam-ups come, then, not in the slowness of looky-loos walking in the same direction one is headed, but from the imminence of collisions with those headed at you — when I make the mistake of veering right, I veer right into the path of the oncoming Londoner who is properly veering left.

A resident pal insists I’m making too much of this, and suggests that there’s less order in the sidewalks even than that: that the residents have long since adapted to the rightward leaningness of the tourists and have learned to weave, resulting in what appears to be total discombobulation for those who have not yet learned the city’s walking style. Perhaps it’s the crosswalks, with their lovely pavement-level assistance (look left, you fool!), that have led me to expect readability in a phenomenon that is, finally, illegible.



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