Thursday, August 13, 2009

People, People Everywhere

Some morning rush hours when I arrive at the foot of a long and narrow fenced-in entryway that leads to the front door of the Staten Island Ferry Station in Manhattan, I am confronted by this great, onrushing wave of commuters who have just arrived from Staten Island. They come at you so quickly and in such a thick, relentless mass of churning legs and arms that you doubt whether you can ever get by them. But the thing is, and I’m really not overdoing this, you must, if you want to be sure to board the departing boat on time.

I think I have figured out how to overcome this difficulty, but before revealing my solution, let me share with you two other strategies that have proven to be utter failures.

The first is to plow straight up the middle of the surging crowd and to stride as immovably and confidently toward them as they do toward you. Not advisable. You either bang right into someone who is just as determined as you, or, more frequently, you successfully make it through but not before bruising both shoulders and nearly cracking a couple of ribs.

The second is to appeal to a deeply ingrained, almost atavistic turn-taking impulse. In this case, you venture cautiously into the crowd, graciously attempt to set an example by patiently letting a few people rush by you, and then make a grand gesture indicating that your turn to proceed has arrived. The theory is that by modeling courtesy and politeness, others will see you and follow suit. This is, of course, a bonehead tactic of the first order to which New York settlers are especially susceptible. They have completely forgotten that they are now living in New York City and that no New Yorker is going to step aside for you. These are the same people who while facing down red traffic lights dare careening cabbies to beat them to the intersection!

So, how does one get through the crowd to the waiting ferry boat? As in so many competitive sports, you make prudent use of the extreme sidelines. Short passing plays in football, sacrifice bunts in baseball, that jump shot from the corner in basketball, all make strategic use of the sideline. Come to think of it, perhaps the best sports example of all is the jockey who steers his horse toward the rail to shorten the distance and to squeeze through the crowded field. Anyway, as a sporting pedestrian desperate to get to your waiting boat, you stay to the extreme left or right (actually I have a distinct preference for the left), and then you slink almost invisibly but steadily ahead. Works like a charm just about every time. The exceptions are those cases when there are so many commuters coming off the boat that the extreme sides are just as jammed as the rest of the entryway. In that case, your options are exhausted. Wait patiently until the mob has passed and then run like hell for that blasted ferry!


  1. Or, arrive 5 minutes earlier and just walk in.

  2. Oh, you think you're so smart. But, of course, you're right, that would work if only I could get there 5 minutes early everyday. I'll keep trying.