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Meet the new Boston Drivers: Boston Walkers

With nowhere to drive they’re on foot now. And equally aggressive.

06BostonWalkersAlly Rzesa/Globe Staff

Remember when Bostonians out for a stroll would greet each other pleasantly, even if they were strangers? OK, me neither. It was never really like that. But even by Boston standards, life on the sidewalks has gotten rather frosty.

No eye contact. No little nod. No smile-brows. We move through public spaces like zombies, three-quarters of our faces hidden. The rare “I come in peace” wave is for neighbors only.

“I haven’t smiled at anyone in a month,” said Jack Roche, a Fordham University student living in his childhood bedroom in Brookline. “You look at people and run into the street. You think they’re an enemy and they think you’re an enemy.”


Anyone could be a carrier.

Governor Charlie Baker has ordered all Massachusetts residents to wear masks in public if they can’t maintain social distance. That edict goes into effect today, but already you were supposed to be covering your face in some 60 cities and towns, including Boston.

Even so, a not insignificant portion of the populace has been parading around mask-less, a flagrant violation of the rules that has upped tension and triggered an us-versus-them mentality. Masked vs. Unmasked.

Ally Rzesa/Globe Staff

Sidewalk rage erupted in Cambridge recently when a 43-year-old father walking with his young children allegedly pulled a knife on a jogger to enforce social distancing.

Even short of alleged armed encounters, COVID-19 anxiety has turned Boston walkers into Boston Drivers. Tailgaters, weavers, space savers — they’re all still with us, only now on foot.

1. On I-93, the Tailgaters rode your rear bumper, so determined to bully you out of the lane that’s rightfully theirs that they’d rather rear end you than reach their destination 45 seconds later. Now, even with nowhere to go, they’re still in a rush, this time at the grocery store. Reincarnated as cart-gaters, they’re ignoring the 6-foot spacers in line outside the store, inching ever closer. In the dairy aisle, they’ve got no time for you to finish safely choosing your milk. Don’t expect a “pardon my potentially infectious droplets” as they lean over you. Coming soon: personal horns.


Ally Rzesa/Globe Staff

2. Oh, the Zig-Zaggers love weaving in and out of traffic. So much so that they’re up to the same game on the sidewalks and in the parks, brushing right past you with their germ-filled exhales, coming up from your left or right before you even know what’s happening. And then — whoosh — they’re out of sight, unconcerned about any possible devastation left in their wake. Use yah blinkah!

3. The self-appointed cops: On the road they’re in your car’s rearview mirror, elbows bent and hands raised in “what-the-heck-are-you-thinking?” position. Sometimes they’re right. What you are doing is idiotic. But not always. On foot, they’re social distancing vigilantes, sometimes calling out actual wrongful behavior, other times self-righteously enforcing rules that don’t exist.

4. In vehicular traffic, the Ingrates can’t be bothered to acknowledge the magnanimity you showed by letting them make a left turn in a busy intersection. No smile or little wave. On foot, they’re just as thankless when you step into a driveway or the street so they can safely pass. Hey pal, I’m being polite here; a little recognition would be nice!

5. Back when it snowed in the winter, and we had somewhere to take our cars, they were Space Savers, entitled folks convinced that public asphalt was their personal property. They’ve taken that mentality with them, and now become enraged when they go outside to enjoy nice weather and find others out there, too. How are they supposed to safely stroll with all these interlopers around? You’ll know them by their social media photos documenting how many people are outside. Taken from outside.


Ally Rzesa/Globe Staff

6. Choose a lane, buddy! On the roads, they were Lane Straddlers, selfishly hogging the road so they could decide, at their leisure, which lane was the most advantageous. Now they’re walking two, three, or four abreast, blocking entire sidewalks, yet unaware that they’re preventing others from getting by. Or at least pretending to be.

7. The Nice Guy means so well. In heavy traffic, he’s the one who stops to let you cross in the middle of the street, a beneficent move, even if he does unwittingly wave you into oncoming traffic. On the sidewalks, he’s so eager to admire the baby or say something nice that he comes within 6 feet, and removes his mask to show he’s smiling. MASSHOLE!

Beth Teitell can be reached at beth.teitell@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @bethteitell.