I like to think I’m aware enough of my own limitations. I shouldn’t have passed my cycling proficiency, my dad would describe my swimming style as “like someone doing an impression of a drowning man”, I’m not much use in a fight, I should read more, I should know more, I can’t operate scissors well enough to cut along a straight line, my main cooking technique is ‘whack it in the microwave for three minutes’, my public speaking technique is ‘mumble everything into my shoes and then sit-down before anyone has realised I’ve finished’, I went through a stage of trying to make happy hardcore and it was crap. However, it’s true what they say: with great humility comes the ability to boast about, like, one or two things. And, aside from being the best - and only - writer in the UK, I have exceptional spatial awareness and I am one of the most considerate pedestrians of my generation.
Unlike you. If you live in a city - and that city is, let’s face it, probably London - then I’m sorry to break it to you, but you are always in my fucking way. Here are some instances when you are always in my fucking way:
When you walk slowly
It’s a classic gripe to be annoyed at slow-walking people, but frankly solo slow walkers have my eternal sympathy, mostly because I am one. In my vision of the future, all movement will be automated, instantaneous and free for everyone, but in the meantime, if you’re trying to get from A to B without the aid of a vehicle and your limbs can’t propel you forwards as quickly as other people, it’s really annoying to be a slow walker. It means you get to listen to more podcasts, sure, but it also means you’re either perpetually late, or having to compensate by leaving for stuff earlier. So if you dawdle along in front of and slower than me, don’t worry, I get it, you’re fine by me. I will not be putting you ‘on blast’.
But: if you amble your dipshit head-in-the-clouds carcass in front of me in a completely erratic fashion, not adhering to the unspoken but universally understood (EXCEPT, APPARENTLY, IN LONDON) ‘pedestrian slow lane’, no doubt blaring some degenerate filth through your headphones, merrily strolling forwards at a 45 degree angle right and then suddenly flopping left when I try to overtake you in the space you seemed to be vacating, flailing your inconsiderate limbs in a way which seems to be intentionally designed to stop me passing.
Obviously, as per every hack rom-com intro ever, you deliberately do this on a day I’m running late to something I really need to not be late for. “Um, instead of taking it out on some care-free life-lover who’s just bopping their head to the beat of the street, maybe you should have ensured you left earlier if it was so important?” Um, maybe they should move their ugly, jangly ass out of my way and not treat public space like their bedroom or a wholesome advert for Diet Pepsi. Fuck off.
When you walk slowly in a group
Twice as bad as solo walkers. Maybe more times as bad, depending on how many people are in the group. I made quite an unqualified statement at the beginning of this article about how good I am at spatial awareness and consideration, but here’s an example of how great I am: when I’m walking in a three, I always hang back, behind, in the middle. I sacrifice my ability to fully partake in the conversation, because I know, when the time comes, someone will either be coming in the other direction, or they’ll be walking behind us more quickly, and they will need to go past. It’s a lonely life of self-imposed solitude, but someone has to do it, and I never shirk my duty.
Even in duos, I’m the guy diligently surveying the horizon, ready to speed up, slow down or stop - whatever it takes to fall in single-file - whenever someone needs me. The other day, I had a walk-and-talk with my boss, and it turned out he was that guy too. We didn’t bond about it though, we both just kept attempting to single-file at the same time, which meant we would essentially stop in front of people and seem like like we giving them a guard of honour. But we meant well, and we did well.
Other people though, god, you do my fucking head in with your Reservoir Dogs-meets-footballers-linking-arms-for-the-national-anthem shit. All one (one) of you needs to do is surrender some space, momentarily, extricate yourself from the banter and let me through. But you can’t manage that, can you? There is no amount of exasperated “excuse mes!” someone could increasingly pathetically yelp that could get you to budge. No. Instead, I either have to fling myself into onrushing traffic or walk behind you in procession, listening to your inane yammerings.
Are couples who hold hands worse? Yes. Yes they are. Even though there is numerically less of you, it’s the height of indulgence to impede others just because you want to inflict your tawdry relationship on the world. “I simply can’t let go of my dearly beloved for even so much as a second, such is the strength of the bond that binds us, my heart will surely wither and die!” Grow up.
When you walk quickly in a group
Infinitely worse. This is only aggravating (and very aggravating) when you and your pals are determined not to individually pass, but to do it collectively, at once, like some sort of human snow plow. You are a sick group who feed off one another’s disregard for other people’s mobility issues, and you ought to be permanently separated.
When you’re stationary
Someone stood still isn’t innately annoying, but it is - for obvious reasons - when they’re stood directly in the middle of the pavement, absent-mindedly having a bit of a stop-and-think, or a scroll through Google Maps, or to stick their thumb up their ass.
Again, there are degrees of severity. If you give everyone else fair warning, and stop in a time of relative quiet, that’s one thing. You’ve made yourself an obstacle, but it’s one thing, at least. But if you stop, suddenly, inexplicably, in front of me - because something’s just occurred to you, or you absolutely have to check your texts this very moment, or your ass is feeling distinctly unthumbed, and so I have to immediately take evasive action not to slam into you and drop all my shit - then I invite you to look up this word in the dictionary, because the meaning has clearly been lost on you, you two-bit chump.
Here’s another example of how great I am at consideration: if I’m walking somewhere, and it’s busy as hell, and I’m suddenly overcome with the feeling I’m going the wrong way, or the desire to post an excoriating tweet, or the urge to tease my thumb up my back passage, then I wait. I treat the street like a road, and realise just as you wouldn’t pull up the handbrake on the motorway, you can’t just stand still apropos of nothing. And so I scan the immediate surroundings for nooks, crannies, lampposts, bus shelters, quiet side-roads, a bin if needs be, taking whatever detour needs be that I don’t disrupt the flow of people, because I care. There’s no better way than to describe me or my general vibe than this crucial word, which you. must. learn.
When you’re stationary in a group
Don’t really even need to expend many words explaining why this is annoying. There are places where they are to be expected: milling around the West End, in the smoking area outside a pub, posing for a photograph - often in front of inexplicably nondescript buildings (and it’s not just ‘tourists’ who do this, since relocating to south London, I’m regularly finding myself having to sidestep art school students ‘rap-squatting’ en masse outside Asda) - these are all annoying, but the clear, blatant and most obstructing case is ‘anywhere on the Underground’.
As the arteries of the Tube heave under the pressure of an ever-expanding number of commuters, every time you and your pals decide to ‘hang out’ or think you can be ‘momentarily indecisive’ or ‘collectively not work out how the Oyster card machines work’ and clog up any walkway, platform or entrance, you bring the entire interconnected Underground system to a complete standstill, you utter dipshit.
When you’re stationary in a couple
Again, pointedly worse than more people. Two lovers, stationary to enjoy one another’s company for a hot second: don’t involve me in this deeply unseemly act like an unwilling and irritable voyeur. Do I want to feel like I’ve just intruded on a tender moment by apologetically asking “Can I just get through…?” because you’ve decided to mack off or cuddle or gaze into their eyes or any other indecent act in the middle of Oxford Street? No.
When you’re on public transport
“But you already complained about public transport!” Frankly, not enough, bucko. There are myriad ways you use the space on public transport incorrectly. We’re not just talking ‘puts their bag down in the empty seat next to them’ perfunctory level one basic rudeness. Oh, no. We’re talking ‘tries to barge people out of the way in a busy Tube carriage to get to the exit before the train’s even stopped, knocking everyone else off balance’ level of major/minor annoyance. We’re talking ‘holds the handrail with their elbow at an incredibly unnecessary and intrusive 90 degree angle’ level annoyance. We’re talking ‘edging slightly ahead of me on the platform to guarantee themselves a chance at getting on the next Central Line train, even though I was here a full 10 seconds before’ level of annoyance. We’re talking ‘if you wear a backpack - and it isn’t full of your most prized/all of your worldly valuables just your Kindle, a pair of headphones, your gym kit and the remnants of a squalid meal deal - and you don’t take it off, you deserve to have someone report it as a suspicious package and have it destroyed in a controlled explosion in front of you’ levels of annoyance. We’re talking ‘I’m a slight and considerate guy so I’m a fully fledged believer in the manspreading phenomenon and if you waft your disgusting nuts next to me, I phone up Crimewatch to give your description for heinous offences’ levels of annoyance.
When you’re a toddler
I appreciate that not everyone reading this will be a toddler, but for those of you that are: fuck you.
Kids - ‘school trips’ in particular - are terrible, because you have to be kind and considerate and wait diligently while they’re bundled in one-by-one, while a stressed TA anxiously counts heads, hoping Little Tommy Jerbs hasn’t wandered off to ride the Emirates Sky Car on his own again, otherwise there’ll be another lawsuit on their hands. And kids take fucking ages to get their act together and are generally some of the least urgent members of society, living as they do entirely in their own heads, where everything is better and the floor is lava and the train is magic and and their friend Ricky’s dad has invented the PS7 and he can’t let anyone else see it but he’s invented it just ask anyone - but at least they’re usually accompanied by an adult who is equally sick of their bullshit and wants them to hurry the fuck up. I’m talking about ‘kids’ here, who I term as ‘children over three who are beginning the long slide towards Not Being Cute Anymore.’
Children under three are ‘toddlers’ and somehow we’ve not only made it socially excusable but encourageable to revel in them taking tiny snail-pace steps everywhere. Tiny steps on and off public transport, tiny steps up staircases, tiny steps around the shoe shop - everyone else cooing around you and applauding your tardiness. It’s not on, lads. Especially when I know - and don’t think I haven’t noticed - you can turn the speed on when you want. When I’m anywhere with a confined walkway, you’ll come careening around a blind corner like a Total Wipeout contestant, directly at knee-height, and I’ll have to chuck myself against the shelves in order to avoid giving you accidental concussion. I’m sick of it, and you tbh. Also, they often need prams. Fuck prams.
When you’re in the supermarket
Toddlers aren’t the only supermarket offenders. Here’s a, frankly, obscene scene: I’m admiring the selection of ready meals, deliberating over which one will be the least dispiritingly intestine-damaging for the cheapest cost, when you idle over. You want to look too. Fine, fair enough, I step to the side to let you nuzzle in, so we can both deliberate over the packaged curries. You immediately take the entire space I was in. Now I can’t see shit. I seethe a little bit, but acknowledge that it was my own politeness that led you to assume you could just have my space. Then you decide you don’t want any of the ready meals. You want a healthier life. You want to look at the next fridge down, where I’ve been stood, waiting. But instead of walking around me, and stepping in any direction that might allow us to exchange places, you walk at me. You want me to incrementally escort you down the entire aisle, observing your terrible ready meal choices. And there are so many of you, appearing from every side and angle, all trying to nudge me in different directions, not letting me peruse my ready meals, making me do a real undignified jig around the frozen food section. And you’ve all got big fuck-off baskets crashing into my knee, too. Also your prick infant toddlers are all trying to smash into my other. Go away.
When you’re in the pub
Pubs are busy. Or popular ones are, at least. I understand why the bar’s busy. I get it. I also get that queuing at the bar is the preserve of criminal wrong’uns and the certified perverse. That doesn’t excuse anyone standing at a busy bar after they’ve been served. I can’t order around your engrossing conversation about ‘a post-Brexit consensus’ you meat-headed oaf, take your Amstels and fuck off.
When you’re on a bike
All cyclists have a Google Alerts set up for the phrase ‘all cyclists are fucking twats’ so they can find you and spend several days complaining that they’re a persecuted minority, that there are only a handful of annoying cyclists and that you are a disgusting motorist pig. Here’s what I say: there probably are loads of great considerate cyclists, but I don’t notice them, because they are considerate - unlike the rest of you insolent wankers, furiously ringing your pathetic little bell at me when I dare attempt to use a zebra crossing; furiously ringing your pathetic little bell when I misinterpret the ‘green man’ as a signal for me to go and you to wait; furiously ringing your pathetic little bell because I’m obstructing the pavement when you’ve decided it should - along with the road - also be a cycle lane; furiously ringing your pathetic little bell when I’m trying to smash your Apollo to pieces on the bus because you’ve put it across a row of seats like it’s a tired child. In the hierarchy of ‘annoying vehicle users’, I’ll concede that you are beneath ‘motorists’, but only slightly. And unlike motorists, I have total impunity to criticise you, because not only am I not one myself - but I’m also not legally allowed to drive, so ha!
When you’re in a car
Hey cars… I’m walking here!!
Just because your mode of transport is a fair bit more fatal when it comes into contact with mine, does that mean it should take precedent? In the eyes of the law: yes. In my eyes: no. I should be allowed to interrupt traffic anytime, anyplace.
When I’m walking slowly and you’re walking fast
Where’ve you got to be in such a hurry, pal? In that much of a tearing rush that it’s absolutely vital for you to barge past me, is it Jack Bauer? You think that everyone should give way to you because you planned your day terribly, we should forgo our pleasant jaunt through the city to spend the day skirting the walls of the streets in the off chance you happen to have slept through your alarm? You don’t own these streets, jack-off.
When you’re walking somewhere and I’ve just stopped in front of you with no warning
Look. Sometimes something occurs to me, and the synapses in my brain telling me to stand stock still react before the ones that go “be careful! There might be someone behind you!” Perhaps I’ll remember an urgent email I should have replied to, or I’ll think of a really funny comeback to an argument that I had 10 minutes ago, or I’ll realise - three years too late - that someone I stopped seeing because I wasn’t “in the right frame of mind right now” was actually The One and I’ve fucked my only chance at happiness, or I’ll be overcome by the majesty of London and a pleasing sense of infinitesimal smallness as a single citizen among millions, or I’ll think “I could go for a Big Mac right now and I’ve just passed Maccies”.
Anyway, I’ve stopped - as is my right - and you’ve run into the back of my and blurting out something like “watch where you’re going! Christ” in a tone I frankly don’t appreciate. I was stopping here, and it’s actually you who should have watched where you were going. I’ve stopped going. You’re the one that’s going, dickhead. Watch out for me.
“Aren’t these all a load of contradictory complaints revealing your own lack of consideration? Is this just one long screed where you outline a farcically deluded belief everyone except you has terrible spatial awareness? Is this some thinly veiled cry-for-help, clearly indicative of some internal inability to handle any amount of stress caused by having to accept that other people also live in London? Would it be healthier to be less hyper-aware of everyone else and not to treat the mere presence of another person as some sort of calculated intrusion designed to deliberately spite you?” No. None of this applies. Get better at spatial awareness, London.