Five Rules for Walking in Xela
by Seudonimo Anonimo
Walking down the street in Xela is no easy “feet.” As any Quetzalteco knows, Xela is a hopping, major metropolis comparable to any Los Angeles, New York City or London. However, Xela has its own unique set of pedestrian “road rules” that, once clarified, will hopefully help you stay safe(r). By following these rules, you will hopefully have fewer accidents than the chicken bus drivers (you don’t have to try too hard to achieve those numbers!).
First rule: Never take your eyes off the sidewalk.
The first trick to walking around the city is to be aware of the variable heights of the sidewalk: for reasons yet to be explained, city planners in Xela put in steps simply for the sake of going up and down, akin to urban ‘80s aerobics. Moreover, small boulders make surprise, random appearances on the sidewalk, creating an obstacle course that requires your constant, undivided attention.
Second rule: Pay attention to anything on wheels because it’s certainly not paying attention to you.
Of course, there are some dangers to looking down all the time. Pedestrians in Xela do not have the right of way; vehicles, on the other hand, always do. Cars, bicycles, microbuses, and pretty much anything else on wheels will zip past with complete and utter disregard for your presence.
Third rule: Disregard catcalls, sometimes.
If you’re female, prepare yourself for constant stares and catcalls. If you’re not willing to go outside wearing a muumuu, a burka, and hidden under a full umbrella, this will be a reality you’ll have to adjust to. In particular, be careful about catcalls coming from cars. It’s ill-advised to respond to those catcalls, as they can follow you around the corner—and the next. When in doubt, pop into the first tienda, panaderia or lavanderia you can find and wait it out. However, fable holds that one girl heard catcalls coming at her, so she turned around and snapped at the driver, only to realize that he’d been trying to tell her she’d dropped a 100Q bill.
Fourth rule: Xela dogs are not man’s best friends.
The other pests on the streets are of the canine variety. Dogs have the right of way at all times on the sidewalk. Avoid making eye contact and, unless you’d like a colony of fleas to follow you home, restrain yourself from leaning in for a pat. Finally, avoid carrying unwrapped edibles in your pockets, as they won’t hesitate to try to take it from you, possibly taking your cajones with them.
Fifth rule: You’re not the only person on this block.
Unfortunately, the other species you have to share the sidewalk with are humans. The farther away from the Parque Central you travel, the more you’ll be expected to greet everyone you pass on the sidewalk. “Buenos/as dias/tardes/noches” is suitable for “saludar-ing.” Failure to do so will be considered a threatening and hostile approach. Regardless of your relation to the Parque Central, sharing the sidewalk in Xela is a delicate ballet worthy of the Teatro Municipal. If you’re a mochilero/a and you’ve got a wide load, stick to the streets or maybe just take a taxi.
Walking around Xela can be fraught with a certain amount of danger, and you may decide it’s safer to hide out in the room of your home-stay and never leave. However, seeing Xela on foot is very rewarding, even if it is a bit intimidating: just keep your wits about you and your eyes up (or down).