Getting PATHological

You may not be a morning person – I am. I enjoy nothing more than getting up early and getting something accomplished. After a brisk walk to the train and a ride into the city, my day is well started. Which is why I am frequently amazed at the shambling masses who take to the underground walkway known as the PATH. Most of my fellow walkers are harmless enough. The ones that drive me around the bend come in two groups: the coffee-walkers and the wireless-device-checkers.

You know who I mean.  The former are the ones you know who can’t simultaneously pat their belly and rub their head . . . who can’t chew gum and walk at the same time.  By weighing their physical presence down with an additional 20 ounces of hot liquid, a cardboard cup, and a plastic lid, their get-up-and-go got up and went.  Like a rudderless sailboat caught too close to shore, the coffee walker ambles along, slowly, without direction, distracted by the liquid gold in hand.

The latter is a . . . latter-day phenomenon.  Why can’t we return to the days of the 10 lb. bag phone, if nothing else?  You’re not going to check that puppy while you’re walking down the street.

Just like the idiots driving their cars and talking on cell phones, these nerf herders bask in the glow of their wee screens.  It’s like a drug – the light comes on, the head rocks forward and all momentum is lost.  When I heard about the University of Utah’s study that found cell phone drivers clogged traffic, I wondered how it would apply to pedestrian congestion.  How many hours are sacrificed when, say, 10% of the walkers in an enclosed space, funneled in large numbers in one end and spewing out of various orifices along the alimentary canal that is the PATH, are checking e-mail or looking at text messages they received?  Let’s go, people – it’s only a couple more minute until you get . . . somewhere and then you can pull over to the side of the path and indulge yourself.

For those dealing with drivers and phones, check out Car Talk’s bumper sticker campaign:  Drive Now, Talk Later.  For now my only hope is that a coffee-walker will run into a wireless-phone-checker, like the old Reese’s “you got your chocolate in my peanut butter” commercials, and their collision will be like two asteroids pulverizing each other.  Who knows, there might even be a good lawsuit out of it.

    David Whelan

    I improve information access and lead information teams. My books on finding information and managing it and practicing law using cloud computing reflect my interest in information management, technology, law practice, and legal research. I've been a library director in Canada and the US, as well as directing the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center. I speak and write frequently on information, technology, law library, and law practice issues.