"She caught my eye well before things went unstable: a large, tall woman, bronze-skinned and gray-haired, wearing patched and washed-to-pastel-softness coveralls, sleeves rolled back and unzipped from next to waist over a funny-looking pressure suit, what you could see of it crisscrossed with tiny lacings, striding through the crowd with worried determination. Clearly a matriarch from some back-of-beyond mining/refining enterprise, or senior crew from a small ship that rarely hit the bright lights. Her gaze was fixed, avoiding looking too much at the too-wide horizons and teeming crowds of a full-size Smitty's World business thoroughfare as she plowed along at ninety degrees to the prevailing motion, and if sheer willpower and doggedness alone where enough, surely they would have all screeched to a halt and parted like an anthropomorphic Red Sea.
"Unfortunately, that's not how slidewalks work.
"She didn't fall at the first belt, just taggered a little sideways, bit her lip and trudged on, still moving forward, starting to angle across the people walking in the same direction as the moving way. No one tripped until the second belt and then it all went to pieces. A clump of construction workers, dusty and unkempt, joking and horseplaying, clearly just off-shift, fiailed to see her and they all tumbled down in a know. I saw her fall, mouth just opening to yell, and then a string of crtease on skids moving the other way hid the accident from view. By the time they were clear, the emergency horns were quacking and the whole mess was slowing down.
"There's only one traditional slidewalk in all of the dug-out maze of Smitty's City, built, they claim, in crazy admiration for a writer named Heinlein, and if it's not down for a couple of hours every day over some mechanical failure or foot-traffic accident, it would be a wonder for the newscasters to report. Today would not be that day."
All that in response to a woman very like the one described except for wearing a muumuu instead of coveralls, seen stepping through heavy automobile traffic on my way home from work. She made it without incident, thanks mostly to courteous drivers, or at least drivers too fastidious to want a stranger draped bleeding across the hood.
4 weeks ago