Comparative culture

Steve Edwards' website

Small-town Irish female pedestrian oblivious

I disappointed myself today, having become angry — again — about the way that a woman here in Ireland walked oblivious to my space on the sidewalk.

Having decided, lately, to really try to keep an inner peace and restrain an irrational anger, I had not wanted to feel that way. And, after all, I really should be well-accustomed to the phenomenon, and I know very well that the poor oblivious lady hadn't any idea that she might offend me by her ignorance.

Okay. There's that word. That's an angry word, okay. So we're talking about the real topic now.

I'm using "Ignorant," by the way, in the standard English as opposed to the Irish-English sense. In Ireland, ignorant really connotes something more negative — rude. But I mean "unaware," "oblivious."

I was walking along Parliament street, down in the Irishtown part of Kilkenny — but it could have happened in any part of town, any day; it happens every day, in various ways.

A woman was on-coming; she was in the dead-middle of the sidewalk. I had to step around an object that lay against the wall of the building to my right. I did so with plenty of foresight, giving her plenty of time to observe my change of trajectory and alter hers — a couple of inches would have made all the difference. But no.

With her eyes fixed elsewhere in space-time, but with me a mere few degrees to the periphery of her central line of sight, she kept explicitly to her pre-existing trajectory. She did not alter her direction even by a toe's-width.

Her arm brushed against mine. No harm done, but it made me angry. (Okay, maybe if she'd been a woman worth bumping into, I'd not have been upset. But it's never the sexy woman... maybe that's a clue....)

I should be well used to it. I really ought not let the phenomenon upset me. Oddly, I never even noticed the tendency until after I'd gone to live in the Netherlands a second time — the Netherlands, where pedestrianism is a finely-tuned impromptu orchestration, a choreography of people anticipating where the others are walking, sometimes arrogant but rarely unaware.

I know what it's like here. I ought not let it make me upset.

— May, 2009