That's the sound of me walking through a crowd - constant apologies as I always go the wrong way.
27.07.2008 - 31.07.2008 25 °C
I knew arriving here that they drove on the other side of the road. That's pretty common knowledge. As such, I've been pretty afraid to get behind the wheel of a car, so far avoiding it completely. Luckily, I haven't gone anywhere yet I've had to drive.
What I wasn't expecting was that I would find that walking here would be something that I would end up having trouble with.
In North America, you walk the same way you drive - you keep to your right and people coming the other direction pass you on your left. Anywhere in North America that I went, if I was approaching someone I would move over to my right, and they would move to their right and we would pass each other without incident. If you want to pass a slower walker, you pull out to your left, get by them (passing them on your right, their left), and then pull back in front of them, just like passing a Ferrari passing a Yugo on the highway.
There is only one time that I recall when these rules failing me in North America. I was a teenager, cycling on a bike path in my hometown of Burlington, Ontario. A cyclist was approaching me, so I moved over to my right. Unfortunately, the other cyclist decided to move to his left, and before I could make an adjustment, his bike smashed into mine. I crumpled like a piece of paper jammed in an old laser printer displaying the error message "PC Load Letter."
I got up, woozy, and looked at my front tire, which was no longer shaped like a circle but rather like a Möbius strip in an M.C. Escher painting. The other cyclist looked up at me and said, "whoa, dude. I had a dream that this was going to happen last night!"
I was too shocked to ask the obvious question, "if you knew this was going to happen, WHY DID YOU LET IT?" Instead I stared at him blankly for a moment, and then started the long walk home, dragging my now useless bike behind me.
Coming over to England, I figured that like driving, things would be the reverse of North America. People would keep to their left, and pass other people on their right. So the first day, I was out walking and when that first person approached me coming in the opposite direction, I moved over to my left. They moved to their right, and we soon found ourselves face to face.
"Sorry," I said, moving over to let them pass. Sure that it was a one-off incident, I continued on my way only to find the next person I came across did the same thing - moving to their right and forcing me to make an adjustment and make my apologies. "Excuse me. Sorry."
"Okay, I see. They drive on the left but walk on the right! No problem, I can do that," I told myself, and the very next person I walked up to went against my new rule, and moved to their left.
I have since discovered that there seems to be no rules about which side to pass people on when it comes to walking in London. Perhaps there are just too many people on the sidewalks here to come up with any hard and fast rules - it's every man for themselves. Much like a New Yorker trying to walk through the gawking tourists all staring at billboards in Times Square or a running back splitting the defence, you just have to find your seems and work your way through, constantly adjusting.
Even the tube stations add to the confusion. While they have rules and signs posted, the rules are different depending on what station you are at. Sometimes you keep left, sometimes you keep right. Sometimes you run down the middle of a stream of people on either side of you. The only real rule seems to be to head towards the escalator that is going in the direction you want to go, and hope that nobody hits you.
So, I guess I will just...
...unless I should...