I traveled recently to New York City, experiencing again the sidewalks between Grand Central and Columbus Circle, right through Times Square. In the process of coming and going, I was subjected to the concourses of La Guardia and DFW Airport.
Using powers of astute observation, I think I have found the secret to achieving world peace.
It lies not in resolving centuries-long religious conflicts, economic struggles, wars or famine — but in fixing the anarchy that besets the sidewalks and other pedestrian byways we use everyday.
It’s Really Pretty Simple
Could we all just agree to walk sensibly — and in the proper lane? Is it reasonable to think we might collaborate on a simple set of rules that would make the task of walking a single block in New York or London a real joy, rather than full frontal combat? If so, world peace could not be far behind.
Where else but on the sidewalks of a big city — and I must admit that I’ve found London and Edinburgh worse even than New York — is it okay to behave so indiscriminately? And, what possible purpose is served in an airport concourse or major urban walkway by striding right down the middle, and not on the left or right?
Just Stay on Your Side, Okay?
Let’s all just agree to a few simple guidelines. Every country has rather specific rules about which side of the road you must drive on. It isn’t optional — and for obvious reasons. It would wreak danger and havoc if cars in England just decided at a whim that they would drive on the right instead of the left — or, worse yet, just carve their lane right out of the middle of the road. And, in the U.S., deciding just for fun to drive on the left instead of the right would rather promptly elevate the term “head-on collision” to full — if brief — consciousness.
So, would it be too much to ask for people simply to walk as they would drive in whatever country they are in? Just stand back sometime and watch the chaotic cacophony of pedestrian traffic on any major city sidewalk or airport concourse. Imagine, just for a moment, how much more orderly it would be if people would stick to one side or the other as they try to get somewhere.
Special Rules for the Slow-Pokes and the Clueless
And, while convincing people to walk down one side or the other on a pedestrian thoroughfare is a radical enough thought, imagine if the slow-pokes who have to gawk or the clueless who are lost would just pull over to slow lane and let people on a mission pass them by in a polite and orderly way.
Do We Need to Draw You a Map?
It might be interesting to draw dotted lines down the middle of sidewalks in major cities or concourses at major airports around the world. Might people actually stay on their side — be it left or right as determined by the driving rules of whatever country they’re in — and not zig-and-zag across the walkways as though it was actually okay to run into people? Might it be an ever so subtle hint that a sudden stop right there in the middle of a sidewalk causes people to run into one another, flaring tempers and disrupting anything vaguely resembling an orderly traffic flow?
World Peace and Unbounded Bliss
It’s just not okay to be a bad walker — any more than it’s okay to be a bad driver. In fact, it’s rude. It leads more directly than we might imagine to the intemperance than threatens world peace.
World peace really is achievable, if only we go in through the back door. Reaching consensus on how to make sidewalks and airport concourses more civilized ribbons of movement would show what mankind really is made of. It would awaken us to the realities of order and respect. It would be an achievement so monumental as to render the achievement of world peace mere kids’ stuff.
And, once we carry out the simple things like orderly sidewalks and world peace, then we might attack the issue of Midtown Manhattan gridlock. Again, the solution is simple. Pedestrians should walk when the little light says “walk”. When it starts blinking, they should resist the urge and simply stay put. Just wait a moment. When it turns to “walk,” cross the damn street.
Having sat in cabs in New York traffic for the past 30 years through sometimes 18 traffic light cycles in a single block, all just waiting for pedestrians to complete whatever thrill they get from walking against the light, it’s pretty simple to conclude that people, not cars, are the major contributors to congestion and gridlock — neither of which contribute to world peace.
Once we have internalized the profound revelation that how we comport ourselves on the walkways of this world correlates to how we all get along, we will have achieved whatever state lies beyond even world peace. It will be, as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi promised, “unbounded bliss.”