I’ve become a human pinball on the nine-block stretch of Roosevelt Avenue between my apartment and the express E stop. No matter how I walk, slower, faster, on the right, on the left, I end up in everyone way. Or rather, they end up in my path. The breaks between clusters of pedestrians is skewed where normally I can speed up and maneuver, here the gaps are a shade off and I end up with someone inching into me head-on with no care in the world like a human snail.
It’s not like my former neighborhood where the meandering was a case of obliviousness/self-absorption or my work neighborhood where stopping and starting tourists are both oblivious/unaware.
My working theory is that the average height in Jackson Heights (dad joke: should be Jackson Shorts) is far less than that of European and All-American tourists and transplants, so legs are shorter and gaits are clipped. I could try adjusting to the same speed, but my feet just won’t have it. I say this mostly because I’m also a giant on the subway with even low-heeled boots. In the Bay Area last week, on BART in particular, I was reminded how tall West Coasters are.
I was also reminded that despite associations between California and health, smoking is dangerously cheap there, and I guess everywhere except here (though I should not smoke at all a non-vacation pack will generally last me three weeks, which I just can’t get worked up about health-wise at the moment, despite this ad campaign). Cigarettes were only $7 a pack in the same tourist neighborhood where I paid $18 for a six-pack of beer and a single can of pre-mixed margarita. Then again, NYC is an punishing outlier with its $13 price tag. (For what it’s worth, a pack of Camel Lights was only $8 in Ridgewood a few months ago, and likely illegal.)
Because of the painting being done this week, I’ve been forced up and out my place roughly one hour earlier than usual, planting me in center of prime rush hour. This morning at 74th St., there were three MTA workers in orange safety vests directing human traffic in and out of the trains, one step away from the Japanese herders. I’ve never encountered such a thing in NYC. I’ve also never witnessed so many commuters pushing on before letting riders off first.
There are clearly customs that still need figuring out.