The Sidewalk Victory

Story by Katie Thurbon

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I had a personal triumph today. After only being here a week, I have already mastered navigating the sidewalks. Now I know this doesn’t sound too impressive but let me tell you a little about how the streets work here.

First of all, not many people have cars, relative to the percentage that do in the States that is. Therefore, there’s always a lot of foot traffic on the sidewalks. One would think this would result in a certain amount of courtesy between fellow pedestrians (or maybe that’s just my naïve Midwestern view) but that is definitely not the case.

No one really seems to move to the sides when they’re passing each other to attempt to get out of each other’s way. If someone is walking right smack in the middle of the sidewalk, that’s where he or she keeps walking no matter who or what comes at him or her. At least, most people do. There seems to be some sort of hierarchy system.

My señora always stands her ground. Even when I walk next to her and we’re about to pass another couple walking the opposite direction, she doesn’t move over to give me more room. She expects me to step in directly behind her or else run the opposing couple right off the sidewalk, I suppose.

It seems to me that, as a foreigner, it is my responsibility to get out of the way. Locals have the “right of way” and then among them it seems the elderly might have the upper hand. This is all speculation, though.

So while I’ve been wondering what would happen if I chose not to move (I suppose it’d be something akin to a game of chicken), all week I’ve been swerving left and right to avoid ramming into anyone. Until today that is.

Today was especially crowded because there was some celebration where people brought bouquets of flowers to adorn the outside of a church (my señora tried explaining it to me several times but I still failed to grasp the reason for this). As a result, there were twice as many people walking around town as usual.

I went out to get some ice cream with a friend, and on our way back home we caused a Spanish couple walking towards us to split and walk around us. For once, we were the champions of the sidewalk!

My friend agreed he’d also been waiting all week for such a thing to happen.

Of course, in the aftermath of our celebration I almost ran over a tiny old Spanish lady and I was put back in my place but still, I had the tiny victory (and my ice cream) to console me.