How to Walk in New York and Other Commonsense Rules

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New York City is home to 8.3 million people, with more visiting from out of town every day. This concrete jungle may be where dreams are made of, but it is one chaotic place to live. Don’t get me wrong, I love living in the greatest city in the world, but sometimes I really don’t understand what goes through people’s minds on a daily basis. The simplest tasks, such as walking down the street, become stressful, and I really have no clue why I feel like the odd one out. It seems like I learned an entirely different set of life rules growing up in a New England town, and I greatly wish New Yorkers would adhere to them as well. There are some common rules to live by that I thought were universal, or at least widespread in the United States.


You’re on the subway, and it’s packed, and an elderly person gets on. Do you get up? Well, that would be the polite thing to do, perhaps even the moral thing. But in New York I am constantly infuriated that elderly, disabled, or pregnant people are forced to stand on a crowded subway car because others refuse to give up their seats. While I’m stuck standing to begin with, there’s really nothing I can do. I can’t force any of the other young people to stand up, so I shake my head and grumble to myself. Maybe you had a long day at work, or maybe you’re tired, but really, let someone who is less fortunate than you take a seat.


My mom always told me never to stare at people while they’re eating. I never really understood why she insisted, but now that I’ve experienced what it feels like to be stared down while I’m chowing down, I completely understand. NYC is home to many restaurants with window seating, and instead of casually glancing in while walking past, passerby literally stop, stand, and stare. I’m not a zoo animal, here. I’m just simply trying to enjoy my lunch before heading back to the office. For some reason, New Yorkers (or, tourists, who knows?) are really interested in the food I’m eating. Yelp was created for a reason. Please use it.


Now the last thing that really irks me in New York, is walking. That may sound silly, but sometimes walking to school can be one the most stressful moments of my day. Why, you ask? Several reasons. First, whatever happened to the common sense rule that you walk on the right side of the sidewalk? Not down the middle, not on the left, on the right! Maybe you’re a tourist from England. If that’s the case you are a bit excused. But the rest of you? Come on, people! And the same thing goes for stopping in the middle of the sidewalk. With the dozens of people sure to be shopping in SoHo at any moment, you really can’t just stop in the middle. Move over. It’s that simple. And before you get mad at me for complaining about people who may have a genuine health problem and need to stop, or walk slowly, the answer is simple. Just most over. Walk all the way to the right. Let those of us who actually have somewhere to be go by. And then we’ll all walk together in an organized manner.

So whether you live in New York, or you’re just visiting, please remember to be respectful to those around you. Our lives will all be a little bit better if we can remember what we learned as a child and apply them to the world we live in now.

Featured image courtesy of [Jack Siah via Flickr]

Christina Teoli
Christina Teoli is a founding member of Law Street Media and a graduate of New York Law School. Contact Christina at



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