I’ve learned lots of things from living in NYC. I learned more about tenant rights than I ever thought possible. I learned what tourist spots to avoid walking through in order to maintain my sanity. Of course, I can’t exclude the
expensive priceless education I’m receiving at NYU. But one of the most useful skills I’ve picked up is how to avoid being approached by people on the street.
For those of you who don’t know, each day is a war and the battlefield is the sidewalk that has pedestrians, scooters, baby strollers, sometimes umbrellas, the homeless, and the inevitable “entrepreneurs.” These entrepreneurs vary from selling rip-off Statue of Liberty souvenirs to more legitimate bus tour tickets, but the result is still the same: unless you’re deliberately seeking out these products they just tend to get in the way and you end up having your foot rolled over by some power-walking mom with a stroller (or some other form of sidewalk casualty).
When I was back in my hometown this weekend I visited the mall. I was never a mall rat. I preferred to go to a dark movie theater and snack on popcorn and Bunch a Crunch than walk around for hours in a bright, crowded space. One of my least favorite things about the mall is the numerous people who work at the kiosks and will just walk right up to you and put some lotion on your hands and then start talking a mile a minute until you either buy their product or awkwardly back away and then speed off to the next safe zone away from kiosks. However, this time no one approached me. I didn’t realize it until I was in my car and realized my hands were a little dry.
I attribute my “Don’t try to sell me anything” attitude to the following:
1. Speed walking – It makes it hard for someone to approach you if you’re gone before they even take their first step.
2. Avoiding eye contact – They can’t shoot you the puppy dog eyes if you’re looking straight ahead or down at the ground.
3. Earbuds – You can’t turn your head when someone calls out to you. If you can’t turn your head, you cannot give them the green light to come talk to you.
4. Food – 8 out of 10 times* chowing down on some noms while walking will keep people at bay. Bonus if it’s a Chipotle burrito or a Chop’t salad and you need both hands to eat and can’t take a flyer.
5. If all else fails, blurt out your financial burdens. One day someone was approaching me and I couldn’t run away, my iPod was dead, and I had no food. I just said to them “I’m on my way to my unpaid internship and I’m running late so if you want to talk to me we can do an Aaron Sorkin walk and talk but either way I need to keep moving.” The predator looked disappointed and told me that it probably wouldn’t do much good to talk to me and wished me a good day.
Note: These tips will work on clipboard-wielders that work for charities as well. That sounds harsh, but spend one good weather season in NYC and you’ll understand. I’m (mostly) a good person – I think.
*This statistic is based on an estimate of how often I eat food while walking and having no one talk to me. I’m pretty bad at math, though, so it might as well be made up.