John B Keane: Roadblocks have a right to the road too

THE OTHER day I was idly gazing out of my window watching the scene beneath, when my attention was drawn to a woman who pushed a pram containing two tenants in the infancy class. When the woman came to the corner of the street she discovered that her way was blocked by two gentlemen who were holding a conversation of a serious nature. On the other hand, it may not have been serious at all, but from all available evidence, it would seem that the conversation was, as I have suggested, of some importance.

THE OTHER day I was idly gazing out of my window watching the scene beneath, when my attention was drawn to a woman who pushed a pram containing two tenants in the infancy class. When the woman came to the corner of the street she discovered that her way was blocked by two gentlemen who were holding a conversation of a serious nature. On the other hand, it may not have been serious at all, but from all available evidence, it would seem that the conversation was, as I have suggested, of some importance.

When the pram was held up for a good while one of the gentlemen moved a little to one side but the other made no move at all. The result was that the woman had to go out on the road and proceed round the obstacle. If it were me I would have gone back the street for about a distance of twenty yards and then gone straight ahead, thereby shortening my journey on the one hand and on the other knocking the obstacle out of my path.

Easily said, however. A woman with a pram which has two kids in it is no match for a grown man. Why I mention the incident at all is to show that there are certain people who never seem to be able to get out of the way of others. If you take time to watch you will agree with me. These people who won’t budge form a sizable portion of the world’s population. They are, however, commoner to Irish roads and streets than to any other part of the world. This is not because we are behind the times or anything like that. It is because we relish conversation more than other nationalities and because we are loath to part with a partner who may be subscribing generously to the exchanges.

We tend to park ourselves, so to speak, in any old place at all when there is news available. If you are a man who likes to walk the streets you will often notice a man and, indeed a woman, chatting to a partner oblivious of the fact that they may be holding up other pedestrians. They remind me of boulders in the middle of a swiftly flowing stream. The water cannot flow over or flow under. Therefore it must pass at either side. It is exactly the same way with the flow of people. They cannot go over or go under therefore they must go around, even if this means going on to busy roadways and risking their lives.

There is no law that I know of whereby these blockers of streets can be made move on. If one is bigger and stronger one cannot force a way through and push them to one side.

Generally, however, they are large, leisurely individuals of immense height, girth and weight. It is next to impossible to shift them when they establish themselves in a particular spot.

Those of you who drive motor cars will be most familiar with them. The classic pose of the obstructor is to be seen in its severest symmetry on busy roadways. Just as masterpieces of sculpture are supported by plinths and pedestals so also is he who adorns the roadway. His plinth is his bicycle. He leans on it in the centre of the roadway while he listens to whoever it is he has met on his travels. There is more, however, to his pose than merely leaning on a bicycle.

Having placed the bicycle firmly on the roadway with one wheel at a right angle to the other so that it will not move under his weight, he then leans on the saddle and handlebars with both elbows.

That is just the first move. Then he looks up at the sky to see if it will rain. He then extends his posterior, not for comfort as one would suppose, but rather to cause a bigger obstruction. The next move is to push his cap well back on his forehead, thereby making it clear to other road users that he is to be treated with caution. It can now be said that he is a major obstruction. It is alright when a car passes by. It is easy for the driver to give him a wide berth. The trouble occurs when there is another car coming from the opposite direction.

Then one of the cars has to stop in order to let the other one go by. To be fair to our friend he is not unaware of the approaching cars. He adjusts himself to let the motorists see that he is not unmindful of their predicaments. However, the only movements he makes are token ones.

Personally speaking I think his presence is good. He helps to slow us down and reminds us that he has as much right to the road as we have.