I thought it was a myth. It's a dyed-in-the-wool reality.
There really are two speeds when you're walking the streets of New York: "New Yorker" and "Tourist."
Both areas are chocked full of tourists. In less than three weeks, I've already been in the background of 18,433 photos of family members visiting Times Square, including four where I actually held up "bunny ear" fingers behind people I didn't even know.
Walking to and from my office -- as I come to work, go to lunch, and head for home -- I bump into tourists. Literally. I'm usually walking at a fast clip rushing to find a quick sandwich shop or hot dog vendor so I can get back to my desk; they're usually staring up at the NASDAQ sign on the ABC News studio. (Useless trivia: My office is directly above the ABC set where they broadcast Good Morning America. I keep jumping up and down on my floor hoping to dislodge a ceiling tile onto George Stephanopoulos's head).
So invariably you have to learn the pedestrian equivalent of defensive driving -- you anticipate what's going to happen and plan escape routes for when a tourist stops in mid-sidewalk or inexplicably reverses course because they want to get just one more picture of the huge "Lion King" sign. You look for the telltale signs: The expensive, but not too expensive, camera slung around the neck. The shiny-brand-new Yankees cap. The New York Subway Map clasped firmly in the right hand, but never quite refolded properly. When you see these signs, you try avoidance, or at the very least keep a safe distance to avoid a catostrophic collision.
I mentioned this great performance piece in a previous posting, but Manhattan Hillbilly fan Catherine Stotts forwarded me the video, so enjoy:
As for me, after eight weeks I'm now moving at New Yorker speed. Except when I walk past the Wall Street Journal newscrawl . Whenever I first come out of the subway, I always stop dead in my tracks to read -- just like a tourist.