Sidewalk lanes for slowpokes?

The shopkeepers’ association of London’s Oxford Street has proposed creating a separate lane on the sidewalk (pavement in UK English) for pedestrians who are walking more slowly than the general foot traffic. They suggest that tourists and windowshoppers ought to hug the sides of the buildings, allowing area office workers and errand runners to zip by.

Oxford Street at Christmas time is a massive, heaving wall of flesh. The Wrenaissance Man and I once made the mistake of going shopping on an early December Saturday on Oxford Street. It was so crowded, we had to hold hands to avoid being separated and lost from each other. Old newsreel images of the Tokyo subway at rush hour might give you an idea of the scene. At one point, he stepped into a tiny bit of open space in the scrum, which began closing immediately around our clasped hands and pulling us apart. I said a loud “Pardon me”, and pushed on through, receiving a kick in the backside and a curse from the restrained and ever-polite Londoner behind me.

The notion that they can control the randomly generated movement of human atoms is pretty hilarious. If Oxford street weren’t so very long, converting the central portion from a bus/taxi/transport lane to more pedestrian space might be a better solution. Of course, that would force all the motor traffic onto the narrow, twisting side and backstreets, creating further havoc.

Trailing spouse issues: Working abroad

Joann S. Lublin’s Your Executive Career column at the Wall Street Journal highlights ways some spouses are able to pursue their careers while following their mate on an international assignment.

The article is very interesting, with one BIG caveat: Almost all the options described in the article are available more or less only to couples where both partners are high-level executives. Mid-level employees, or junior-level workers getting an important first assignment, will have a difficult time getting the same level of assistance from the transferred spouse’s firm. For obvious reasons, those lower-level employees will not be able to insist on, or make a “dealbreaker” issue of their spouse’s work status. Even senior-level employees may find it tricky to negotiate.

The first couple described worked for the same company, which found a way for the trailing spouse to work remotely as a part of a US-based department. This is not news: companies have been trying since the early ’90s to find ways to keep both members of a dual-employee couple together and working during international assignments.

Another difficulty is that even though companies are more willing nowadays to make a strong effort to obtain a visa with work permit for the non-employee spouse, work permit issuance is more dependent on agreements negotiated between governments, and may not be flexible enough for a corporation to get an additional free-floating work permit application.

I have seen more international commutes occurring than during the ’90s, when we lived in Norway. This is especially more common with European couples. Employment regulations that make it difficult for workers to obtain a “permanent” position also make it undesirable for those workers to leave behind a permanent job for a spouse’s two-year foreign assignment, so it is wiser to have the internationally placed spouse go on a singleton basis, and return for visits home during the work period.

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