I have always lived in the suburbs, where I drive my car everywhere I need to go — the supermarket, the gym, the radio station — but in a big city like New York, there’s no need for a car, because everything’s either within walking distance or a short subway ride away. Besides, there’s no place to keep a car there because on-street parking is an enormous hassle, and the cost of a garage space is more than the mortgage on my house.

So, while in Manhattan on vacation, I walked a lot and noticed something I hadn’t seen before — people on the sidewalks weren’t fat. It’s probably because they walk so much. Maybe the fat people were inside the busses or omnipresent yellow cabs, but even when I rode the subway, I didn’t encounter a lot of overweight people.

Walking in a big city is slightly hazardous for me due because of my phobia about grates. I don’t know when it was, but at some point in my youth, I must have read a story about a kid who was walking along on a city sidewalk when a grate gave way and he plunged into the darkness, never to be seen again. Ever since then, when I’m in a city, I treat grates and manhole covers (and anything other than pavement) the way Jack Nicholson treated a tiled floor in “As Good As It Gets.” They are to be avoided at all costs, for fear I’ll fall in.

My wife and daughter know about my phobia and play along because they know my heart will start racing if I see them walk on a grate, too. This makes it a challenge when we’re all on the sidewalk, trying to stay together while simultaneously maneuvering around every portal to a never-ending dark hole.

It’s amazing we ever get anywhere downtown.

Read part one here and part two here.