Missing Persons was wrong. The problem isn’t that nobody walks in LA.
No, actually, the opposite is true: On warm days like the ones we’ve been having lately, nearly everyone gets out and does a little perambulating. No, the problem is that when people in Los Angeles choose to use the sidewalk, they do so while forgetting or being wholly ignorant of the rules of sidewalk travel.
Seriously: My resolution for the second half of 2011 is to try to be a little more cognizant of my fellow pedestrians, which means staying alert and making sure to share the concrete with everyone. And, frankly, I think some of my neighbors could use a little refresher on sidewalk etiquette as well; the sidewalks here tend to be narrower than in other metropolitan areas, and it’s a bit more of a challenge to maintain proper respect for the people around you. As such, hereare some answers to a few of the more frequently asked questions about sidewalk etiquette:
Right now I’m walking down a Los Feliz street with a friend. We’re walking side-by-side and having a chat. I can see another couple walking toward us, also side-by-side. What should we do? When a pair of couples walking abreast approach one another on a narrow sidewalk, etiquette dictates that both couples should, for the time it takes to pass one another, proceed in single file. This prevents the more deferential couple from having to walk into the street, or onto the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the curb, an area often littered with animal feces and other filth. By walking single file, you may be forced to temporarily abandon conversation, but frankly what you were saying wasn’t very interesting, so really we’re all better off.
I own a dog. As I enjoy obeying the letter of city leash laws rather than the spirit, I walk him on one of those Extend-O-Leash things that allows him to walk up to 60 feet ahead of or behind me. How can I best use this to irritate people? Since many Angelenos love dogs, it’ll be difficult for you to annoy your fellow pedestrians, but effort will bear fruit. If possible, walk alongside your dog but as far from him as possible, so his leash is stretched across the thoroughfare like a tripwire in a jungle adventure film.
Is it ever appropriate to give someone The Shoulder? You should only bump someone with your shoulder when you physically have no other place to direct your body. If it’s impossible to get around someone without walking into an obstacle — like a wall or a mailbox or a Greenpeace canvasser — you may have to do some bumping.
It’s very important that I convey to a friend, in as few characters as possible, the fact that I just figuratively laughed out loud as his most recent joke. How should I proceed? Text messaging while walking down the sidewalk is what ethicists call a “double-edged sword,” since doing so makes people want to attack you with a sword. The preferred practice is to step into an out-of-the-way segment of sidewalk to send your text (“omg jerk just had dog leash stretched across sidewalk like tripwire in jungle adventure film lol”).
My friends and I are having an important conversation while standing around. Should we take up the entire sidewalk and refuse to move for anyone who walks by? Absolutely. This way, everyone who walks past you will know just how very important your conversation about which fashion designer or chef or mailman or whatever will be kicked off some stupid show this week.