One foot in the street

One foot in the street

Why don’t people walk on the sidewalks? At least around here, there are a lot of people who walk in the street, despite the fact that there’s a perfectly good sidewalk. Even when I lived in Steubenville, Ohio, I noticed the same thing.

Yes, I know that in many areas, especially modern suburban tracts, there are no sidewalks. The lawns go right to the street. The street I grew up on was like that. And yes, I know that in many places the sidewalks have fallen into disrepair or in the winter they are covered in ice and snow, making them dangerous and impassable. That’s not what I’m talking about.

In both Salem and Peabody—including the street right outside my house which, if not a main thoroughfare, is fairly well traveled by speeding cars—in places where the sidewalks are in good repair, I nevertheless constantly see people walking in the middle of street. I even see people pushing strollers with a child hanging off on the street-side of the buggy, in the midst of traffic. We’re not just talking young toughs proving their alpha male status, but people of every age and demographic.

Why is this? I’m tempted to ask the next people I see doing this, but I’m afraid it will come out as an accusation of ineptitude. Which it might be.

Do you see people walking in the street instead of on sidewalks where you live? Do you do it yourself?

N.B. About the title of this post: I have a friend in college, Carol, whose very colorful Italian grandmother had all sort of wonderful malapropisms and sayings. For example, if she wanted to convey that you were on the wrong path in life, she would say, “You’ve got one foot in the street.” I think the meaning’s clear enough.

Incidentally, all of her very Italian children married Irish spouses, much to her chagrin, and at one holiday everyone was laughing at all the Italian jokes bandied about. Everyone, that is, except Grandma, who simmered at the besmirching of her heritage until she could take it no longer and burst out: “I got the joke!” All present realized that perhaps they had crossed the line, but encouraged her to go on. Which she needed no prompting and thus intoned: “Irish people…. smell like a dog!” No one laughed. I don’t think she expected them to. However, no more Italian jokes were made in her presence.

If Carol ever reads this, I want her to know that I still think of her grandma from time to time and it brings a smile to my face and reminds me to pray for her.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli