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Here and Now

Walking's now standing-room only

June 05, 2003|Steven Mirkin | Special to The Times

ANGELENOS like to think of themselves as connoisseurs of congestion, treating the subtle differences between ordinary rush-hour traffic and a full-on SigAlert like oenophiles at a wine tasting. But the 405 at 5:04 has nothing on the aisles of Staples Center just after the final buzzer has sounded. The once-cheering fans silently start walking to the exits as if on a death march.

The same scene is repeated at the Greek, the Bowl, the Pantages, Sundays at malls and the opening weekend of blockbuster movies -- an enjoyable outing ending with a scene choreographed by Fritz Lang.

How is it that people who can merge from the onramp to the fast lane with the grace of a ballerina executing a jete have trouble with the concept that a doorway is for entering or exiting a room and not a frame for posing while on the cell phone?

There are numerous explanations -- after all, a car can cost upward of $20,000, while scientists have estimated the chemicals in a human body to be worth 89 cents on the open market. Let's face it: We're just more comfortable as commuters than pedestrians. But none of this can justify why there's always someone who (probably because she never got to play Juliet in high school) decides that there's no better way to recap the evening than to stand and trade opinions with a friend in the aisle three rows below.

To say nothing of the odds that when you're trying to leave a party, you'll end up behind a believer in the Beverly Hills right-of-way: The person with the most expensive outfit or car always goes first. So if you drive a Honda or wear Abercrombie & Fitch instead of Dolce & Gabbana, you're not going anywhere.

Then there's the matter of simple courtesy: You would never park in the middle of Wilshire Boulevard to chat with the person in the next lane; what makes you think that those of you who congregate in front of the fountain at the Grove are any different?

People emerging from the parking structure, trying to get to a restaurant, heading to the movies or just trying to get some shopping done are forced to squeeze past these fountain talkers. A few steps in any direction would make everyone's life a little easier.

Remember the political adage: The only things in the middle of the road are yellow lines and dead armadillos. This applies just as well to arenas, stadiums and amphitheaters. Those steps you're standing in front of? People use them to get to and from their seats. Unless you're an usher, there's no reason on Earth for you to stand there.

Perhaps it's time to put our foot down and simply ask, "Can't we all just move along?"

Other cities have taken great strides in this regard. Few people have a good word for the French these days, but even Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has to admit it's a pleasure to walk the streets of Paris.

Pour their wine down the sewer, question their bravery, deny them the naming rights on fried potatoes, but those French sure know how to promenade. Get them behind the wheel, though, and thousands of years of civilization are flushed away.

In the interest of restoring international relations, how about this cultural exchange: We'll take the Champs-Elysees; they get the Orange Crush.

Steven Mirkin can be contacted at

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