Walking with my head toward the sky

When you walk through the streets of Manhattan, do you ever notice the people around you? Do we ever take the time to lift our heads and our noses up from our phones and just really see the people or the buildings?

I will admit that on days when I am stressed out or feeling insecure, I will walk with my eyes glued to the screen of my phone, but I do my best to keep foot traffic flowing and avoid bumping into strangers. No one is perfect.

During my brief walk from Bryant Park on 42nd to the Fred E. French Building on 45th, I noticed that everyone walking next to or in front of me was staring down at the screen of their cell phone or behind the viewfinder of a camera. A young girl was moving at such a pace that she tripped into a woman because she never looked up – not once. She never thought to take her eyes off the screen and stop texting to check to see if someone was in front of her.

Texting while walking really grinds my gears. I cannot stand being stuck behind someone who is moving at a snails pace because she has her nose in her phone. In this digital age, it is so important that you look up and take in the sights once in a while. Not only is it rude, but it is actually dangerous! The New York Times, the Washington Post, Fortune Magazine, USA Today... the list goes on. These major journalistic outlets have studied this exact topic and have shown just how dangerous this nasty habit is. Take a look at this video:

NYT Texting & Walking

In Gait & Posture, Eric Lambert found that texting while walking produces navigational errors and that gait velocity is reduced when using a cell phone to text or talk. (2012) When you are looking down, you are limiting what can be seen around your person. You develop multiple blind spots, whereas there would only be one if you walked with your head up and watching for danger. Basically, walking and texting is like you are wearing a blindfold and you are prone to serious injuries. According to the NSC (National Safety Council), between 2000 and 2011, walking while using your cell phone accounted for 11,100 injuries.

There is also the courtesy factor.

It is completely inconsiderate of texters to come to a complete stop in the middle of a busy NYC sidewalk, staircase, or entry-way. Blocking foot traffic in Manhattan is a dangerous all by itself, but then you factor in that people are not even noticing that bodies are moving towards them!

What’s the considerate or proper technique you may ask. Well, you should really pull over to the side of the sidewalk, complete your text, Google searches or whatever you need to look down and view and then proceed down the street. Practicing pedestrian etiquette will allow for others to continue walking without obstruction and will lower pedestrian accident rates.

“Petextrian” accidents have risen to more than 3.5 percent, according to a report by the GHSA (Governors Highway Safety Association). Teenagers make up more than 40% of these accidents because they cross streets while texting and cannot detect the oncoming dangers while being distracted by mobile devices. Of course, driving while distracted or impaired will ALWAYS be the number one cause for accidents, texting while walking is a menace to pedestrians just trying to make it to the end of the next block.

Please, next time you are out, do me a favor – pick your head up and notice the world around you. Notice the world outside of the cell phone!

When I play Grand Theft Auto…

When I play Grand Theft Auto, I remember three things:

  1. Remain calm; it’s only a game
  2. No, the drug dealers will not be able to come and find your whole family for blowing up their warehouses
  3. Try to avoid, unnecessarily, killing civilians…they did not do anything wrong, and unless it is part of a level requirement (when would that happen?), then leave them alone.

I have been playing games inside the Grand Theft Auto series, since 2007 (Freshman year of high school). I won the old, original computer games in a raffle. Then, for the first and only God-Daughter’s Day, I was given the Grand Theft Auto 3-pack (GTA 3, GTA: Vice City, GTA: San Andreas). I have yet to beat Vice City and San Andreas, but my cousin and I play GTA 3 all the time. I remember the first time I ever watched someone play Grand Theft Auto. It was the summer right before my uncle’s wedding. We were in my grandmother’s basement; he turned the game on, and I was promptly asked to leave the basement. I remember thinking, “What is so bad about these video games? I watch television and movies…so, why can I not watch them play this game?”

I screamed at my mother…I remember. I was 9 years old, at the time. Children have no business seeing that level of violence and debauchery.

The game is marked MA (Mature Audiences), but how do we know when exactly we are a mature enough audience? I know some older men and women who still do not enjoy seeing movies with violence or sexual content. Are they not mature? Does maturity mean that we have developed the thick skin you need to play these games? Does it mean we are numb to the violence of Grand Theft Auto? Are we numb to the fact that these men are violent gangsters that run around stealing cars, drugs, money, and shooting people, at the request of others?

The Grand Theft Auto franchise has been blamed for many mass shootings, in the past. Now…not so much, which is good, because as violently disturbing as these games are, it is not Rockstars fault that the Columbine boys became obsessed with the game. Rockstar did not set out to develop a game that would awaken a violent beasts inside individuals. Anger, rage, violence…those things build inside you after a long list of incidents. The game does not create the darkness inside someone, but I do wonder if maybe it opens the gate to certain darkness. That’s crazy…right?

Take me, for example. I am a perfectly normal, non-violent 22-year-old college graduate who just plays this game because it is just that…a game. It is meant to be entertaining – a way for me to pass time.

When I play the game itself, I play music (Justin Bieber’s new album, Purpose is this weeks playlist). The music helps. 99% of the time, when I play Grand Theft Auto, the death and mayhem start to get to me. I start to think to myself, “Why am I killing this person?”

Is it wrong to listen to music like Justin Bieber’s, while playing a game like Grand Theft Auto IV? I mean, surely he must play it himself. He is 21 years old, but – what if he is like the older folks I know that avoid violence and sex in media? I doubt it, but then again, I do not really know Justin Bieber, do I? Not even that, but kids listen to his music. So is listening to Purpose while holding a virtual sniper rifle, while over-seeing a drug deal, a dirty thing? Does it taint the innocence of the music?

So how do we know when we are mature enough for this game? What is the correct age at which we can allow our kids to be in the same room as this game? Is it based on personal preferences, of the kids, or the parents? Do we just follow the game rating association and at 17 we say, “Okay. You’re old enough. Your choice.” When does the flip switch and we say “Let’s go buy Grand Theft Auto today” ?

Fifteen minutes and it is 3 a.m.

My poor boy is sick. I feel just awful that I am all the way in New York, when I am clearly needed in Connecticut. Poor Zachary. I really hope that he gets well soon because nothing is worse than being sick, except for being sick in the summer.

The reason I am writing is because as my insomniac brain struggles to fight its arch nemesis “Sleep”. I am sitting, on my bed, writing small lines of wanna-be poetry, in my head.

Here goes everything:

“Summer”

The window sweats as it rests its weary body

in the sauna called Earth.

The water bottle nervously wipes its brow

as a wet ring grows underneath it.

Just wait until the A.C. gets turned on,

then it will be comfortable.

Please, please, please send me comments and opinions about that piece. As a writer, I must welcome criticisms, of all shapes and sizes, with open arms. And, I do. Please, it can only help me, in the long run.