Just across the street and down the block from the PATH trains to the city, there's a bar on the corner, and like most Hoboken joints it has plenty of outside seating so that patrons can enjoy the views that Hoboken has to offer (namely attractive people of the opposite sex). I think its called Hobson's. Anyway, they did some construction work on the sidewalk in front of this bar last winter, and as a result, there's about a 2-foot wide slab of concrete that is angled up just a few inches to make a smooth connection between the lower slab on one side and the higher slab on the other. Not really noticeable to the naked eye, especially if the naked eye is checking out all the patrons of the bar as it walks by.
Now, if you're walking towards the trains, you'll usually step right over without even noticing the decline. But as the trains empty at the end of the working day, the majority of the crowd streams past this bar walking towards the incline.
What's the significance? The incline makes people trip, regularly and mercilessly. Walking home at night, I almost always make it a point to watch the people in front of me, and almost never do I see everyone smoothly sail over this undulation.
I've never seen anybody actually trip and fall, its just enough of a change in the slope to make you catch your foot for a second and start forward with the other foot a little too fast in order to compensate. A forced shuffle, if you will.
Here's the kicker. I heard two guys on the PATH train once, talking about this part of the sidewalk. They were, in fact, on their way to Hobson's, and the one was describing to the other how they would wait to get the table right in front of this sidewalk abnormality, so that they could watch people trip over it again and again. Well...at first I thought it was just one twisted guy showing his friend some low-ball entertainment. Its not. Its a malaise, I tell you. Tonight, for the umpteenth time, I walked past this spot, and sure enough, the table right there was filled with a group of guys (different guys), all watching in gleeful anticipation as the crowd from the train approached. They may even have been taking bets on who would trip, I'm not sure.
You can tell, though. The people at this table are not there to simply people watch. They are there for the clear purpose of people-tripping watch. They sadistically enjoy it.
I'm not saying I'm better than them. I might find some bit of amusement in it myself some day (doubt it). But I do love the feeling of looking the group right in the collective eyes, and firmly planting my foot on the incline and walking over it like it wasn't there. I may be their sole cognizant disappointer.
I'll probably never know.
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