I did something this morning that I seldom enjoy – and didn’t enjoy today either: I went on a Saturday morning to St. Lawrence Market.
Oh, I love St. Lawrence Market. It’s close to where I live, and I love shopping there. But not on Saturday mornings. It’s busy then, but more to the point, many of the people in it are engaging in the most dilatory and directionless obambulation. I know exactly where I want to go and how to get there, but between where I am and where I am going are a pick-and-mix of populace who are there simply to walk around and look around – to stroll hither and thither, or thither and hither, or hi–thither. To look left and walk right, and vice versa. And, at random moments, simply to stop on the spot.
Of course they have every right to go there and look around and shop around for entertainment. And I, on the other hand, who know what I want and know where to get it, can go at times when my much more purposive perambulations are pursuable with much less interference. Except, of course, when I forget to buy cheese on Friday and have to go back and get some on Saturday morning before heading out of town. (Because one simply cannot head out of town without cheese.)
I won’t say that obambulation is my very vexation. Well, I won’t won’t say it – I am one who usually chooses where to go and efficiently goes there, and when people cruise the city’s footroutes in less predictable and more leisurely ways it can momentarily frustrate my course, but I know that when I am in tourist mode I often walk likewise, and I know I live in an area popular with tourists; the things they like about it are the things I like about it. So there you have it. And there. And… over… th–here!
But I will say that obambulation, the word, is – for whatever I think of what it names – a quite enjoyable word. It has a sound of bim-bam-boom, like pinball bouncing off bumpers, which is similar to how some people navigate St. Lawrence Market. But beware of getting too close to Obama in how you say it: it’s from ob- – as in obstruct, object, obnoxious, and obnubilate – and ambulation, which is to say ‘walking’. There is also the related verb obambulate and adjective obambulatory. It doesn’t mean ‘walk obstructively’, though (let alone ‘walk obnoxiously’); it really just means wandering back and forth. A synonym of obambulatory is itinerant.
Which means that you could also say my regular itinerary in the market – first to Domino, the dry-goods store downstairs, then perhaps to The Roastery, then up the stairs to White House Meats (stopping at Olympic Cheeses and Scheffler’s Deli as needed), and ending at Urban Fresh Produce – is also obambulation, in one way of viewing the word. But it’s not really a back-and-forth wandering – there is no hither-thither looky-loo strolling. When I am in the mood for that, I go to the art gallery.