Today, I was walking along a somewhat narrow sidewalk in Century City. Now, this sidewalk wasn’t as bad as a lot of the ones in Hollywood, where you can barely squeeze two people across. There was easily enough space for four people to walk side-by-side comfortably. But here’s a little thing about sidewalk etiquette: when you’re in a group walking four-wide, and the sidewalk can only fit four people, your entire group consists of big fucking douchebags. This only changes if you, seeing somebody coming from the opposite direction (or being aware enough to know people are approaching you from behind), make room for the other pedestrians.
Having been in LA for several weeks and accustomed myself to the self-absorbed nature of this town, I’ve pretty much gotten used to this kind of thing. It’s not quite as annoying as people who very slowly merge into lefthand turn lanes and make me miss a green light, but it’s pretty irritating. Here’s how I’d handle it back in Chicago: as I approached the person nearest me, I’d slam into them with my shoulder, intentionally whacking them a little harder than necessary. I’m not sure this is a “Chicago thing,” per se. I’m just not a very nice person, and I believe very strongly in certain types of human decency.
But here’s how I’ve handled it here so far: I shy away and walk in the grass, or stand around like an idiot and wait for them to pass me, then resume my walk. This has happened to me almost every time I’ve been out walking (which hasn’t been often, thanks to this sprawling horror of a city), but why do I shy away from being as rude (ruder?) to them as they are to me? Because of the Columbia College mantra: “When you’re in LA, don’t piss anyone off, because they could be your boss someday.”
Back to today: I was walking, fresh cup of coffee in tow, to my car, when in the opposite direction came a four-wide group of yuppies eating ice cream and having an enjoyable conversation about, I assume, money and the virtues of capitalism. As I approached, the person on the end nearest me looked away from the conversation, looked right at me—directly into my eyes, even—then turned back to the conversation. He didn’t move or swerve to avoid me; no, I ended up in the grass, again, in order to avoid him and not spill my coffee.
I stood there for a moment, my “Hulk smash”-style rage boiling. I turned around and looked at their backs as they continued to walk in that “la-de-da, I’m so great” way, and I made a decision: fuck every single one of them. I’m sick of being a less-than-nothing toad. If, someday, I’m a candidate for a job and I happen to run into a guy that I smashed into and spilled both coffee and ice cream on, and he recalls the incident and refuses to hire me—fuck him, because I don’t want to work with people like that anyway.
More importantly, that led me to the decision that I’ll be who I am, because being that person is way better than being the monkey-boy to some fucking tan surfer dude. Will it lose me jobs? I don’t think so. You know why? Three cubicles away from me, the assistant to a lawyer sits there and screams at his boss all day long (his boss screams back). He is who he is, and he’s making a living, and they have a mutual respect for one another because the lawyer wants to be a ball-buster but the assistant will not allow his balls to be so thoroughly decimated.
So there you have it: I’ll bottom out in a year and return to Chicago.