Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Mild Case of The Big Bad Wolf

October 15, 2011 – A Mild Case of the Big Bad Wolf

I pass between two rogues on my way to the bus stop. Making my way down the streets is always a tricky bob and weave here in Peru.
People don’t move aside. They walk slowly in the middle of the sidewalk and vacillate erratically from one side to the other which makes passing a complicated and risky business. Sometimes they’re talking on the phone oblivious to anything but the conversation. Sometimes they stop dead right in front of me to fix their bags or think about where they are or assess the barometric pressure. Sometimes they’re just standing in the middle of the sidewalk waiting for a bus. If a group is walking they take up the entire sidewalk and don’t move aside for an approacher. Here there is no spatial awareness. None.
A lot of times I’ll be taking up as little space as I can on one side of the street and the person coming towards me on the opposite side decides to move over. Directly in my path. No one taught them that the quickest way between two points is a straight line. I don’t think they care about quickest ways. And I’m sure they don’t care about straight lines. I move to avoid a head-on collision. It’s just how it goes. The trick to walking is to pretend I’m not paying attention at all and then people move out of my way. This seems counterintuitive, I don’t know why it works, but it does. The fast and efficient part of me finds this incredibly frustrating. I want to hand out walking tips to everyone I pass. It’s that OCD part of me that want to make order out of chaos.
Be Predictable: Make a practice of staying on one side of the path while walking rather than weaving randomly from side to side. Watch your arm motions, or you may end up giving a black eye to a silently passing walker, runner or biker.

In proper (and predictable) fashion these two rogues don’t move together to give me more space but rather separate so that I pass between them. Whatever. I don’t worry about the path of least resistance. Any path will work just fine. Right at the parallel juncture the one to my right leans in close to my face and says, “Señorita, que bonitos ojos tienes (what pretty eyes you have)!”

I was taught to say thank you when given a compliment. However, this is not a compliment. This is a peacock feathering, a street-side pick up line, a complete load of crap. I am wearing a hat and my eyes are downcast. It’d be much more apt for him to say, “What pretty eyelids you have.”
I pretend invisibility.

Then I laugh. After I’ve turned the corner and only internally, to myself.
My! What big eyes you have, señorita!

I suddenly feel like the Big Bad Wolf.
“Rogue,” I say in a fictional reenactment, “Beware! I’ve just eaten your grandmother and if you say another word I’ll eat you too.”


  1. Here in Cusco, where I've lived for 2 1/2 years, the people have exquisite spatial awareness. I have never met any of the situations you describe. In fact, if someone unintentionally gets in my way, he or she is the first to offer a "perdon", "disculpe" or "con permiso".

  2. It must be a big city thing, Rinda. That's all I can think.