New Sidewalk Sport in Toronto

Submitted by Bill Lucas on Sat, 01/03/2009 - 02:04

Torontonians have taken up a new sport on their downtown sidewalks:  <b>chicken</b>.  They walk straight toward you as you head in the opposite direction and do not indicate at all that they intend to move over before colliding with you.

Normally, especially in a city as nice as Toronto, people coming toward you allow you "your" half of the sidewalk and will indicate so by angling over to the side as they approach.  In a December visit, however, I noticed several twenty- and thirty-somethings seemingly intending to walk right into me on crowded sidewalks.  I did not move over, of course, as I was already on "my" half and I had my wife right next to me.  Maybe because I'm 6'4" and was wearing the 1930s-Chicago-motorcycle-cop-style leather jacket I got at Export Leather on Spadina a couple years earlier (also preferred by <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tie_Domi">Tie Domi</a>), all of the opposing walkers eventually moved over before running into me.  Interestingly, most were looking me right in the eyes as they approached, as if they were consciously looking for a flinch.  That's why I think it's a game right now.  If they were really going to obnoxiously run into other pedestrians as someone in New York City might, they would look past you as if you didn't exist and would not move out of the way at the last second.

They last time I encountered sidewalk chicken regularly was in Boston in the 1980s, where the rich people in furs  would walk a straight line down the sidewalk expecting the plebes to get out of the way.  There it was more ingrained in the psyche - it was "their" sidewalk.  In Toronto it's just a sophomoric phase, I'm guessing.