All summer long, they hunker down in sweaty apartments, waiting for winter.
“Gentlemen,” their hand-rubbing leader will assure them. “I know it’s hard right now, what with the sidewalks all clear and what-not, but don’t you fret. Soon the snow will come and when it does, the roads will be ours!”
This pronouncement is generally followed by hoots and howls of pleasure. There is much stomping of feet and celebratory clanking of steins and crack pipes.
The winter walkers are a patient people, and year after year that patience is rewarded. The snow comes. The sidewalks are filled with it and the winter walkers take to the streets like orgiastic soldiers hell-bent on making you late for work.
They don’t walk at the sides of the roads — oh, no! The winter walkers prefer the middle of the street where they can slow the passing traffic to a halt and force all of those fuming drivers to scrape the snowbanks.
The day after a big storm is like a Super Bowl for winter walkers. It might be freezing cold and there may be no place at all that they need to be, but they go outside and walk anyway.
In the streets. Because they can.
What are you going to do? Honk at them? Fool! Honking only emboldens the winter walker. He or she will stop in the center of the street, the wind whipping his or her hoodie like a flag. He or she will glower at you, daring you to make something of this. They will stretch their arms up as if to say, “The sidewalks are full of snow! Where would you have me go? Nossir, I will amble right down the center of this street and you will drive at a crawl behind me, using that time to invent colorful new words to describe your rage.”
The winter walkers are defiant. Smug. Unyielding.
I could throw a thousand more adjectives your way if I wanted to, because every winter, I get email from dozens of enraged people, all with the same complaint flying off their furious fingers. In all capital letters and with a stunning excess of exclamation points.
“WHY!!!!!! WHY ARE THESE PEOPLE ALLOWED TO WALK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD!!!!! DO SOMETHING!!!”
“ARRRRRGH!!! IT TOOK ME THREE HOURS TO DRIVE WALNUT STREET!!! EXPOSE THEM!!!!!”
“I’M A NIGERIAN PRINCE AND I HAVE A TRILLION DOLLARS FOR YOU, BUT I CAN’T GET UP PINE STREET BECAUSE OF THESE STUPID WALKERS!!!!”
For the duration of our eight months of winter, the walkers will move in rebellious zigs and stubborn zags, always keeping the driver behind him guessing as to which way he will go. They amble in saw-tooth waves; in wild ellipses; possibly in parabolas — the geometry of the winter walker is still being studied by the greatest mathematical minds in the world. These great minds write me every once in a while to share their findings.
“I’M TRYING TO GET TO THE UNIVERSITY AND THESE &!%$#@#! WON’T GET OUT OF THE !#@%$! ROAD!!!! DO SOMETHING!!!!”
My friends, there is nothing I can do. It’s January and the winter walkers are at the peak of their power. They are like mad Vikings reveling in their plunder. Winter has only just begun and the feet of the winter walker won’t touch even a freshly plowed sidewalk until late May, at which point they will have to settle for merely crossing the streets at languid diagonals to disrupt traffic.
Is the winter walker tribe more densely concentrated in Lewiston than in other places? It depends on whom you ask. Some say they plague streets anywhere that endures winter. Others insist that Lewiston is their true Kingdom and that Walnut Street in particular is where they go to appease their idols.
You know. By disrupting traffic.
And with that sordid history — and possibly some calculus — in mind, I will list below the very best tips available for dealing with winter walkers:
There are no tips, fool. Were you really expecting tips? Naw, bruh. You’re just going to have to wait for winter’s end like the rest of us.
Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. Send tips for dealing with baby-stepping, centerline-hugging walkers to [email protected]
Find more Mark LaFlamme columns to read at SunJournal.com/Mark-LaFlamme. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)