I consider myself a professional pedestrian.
My mother was a fast walker and I spent my childhood trying to match her seemingly effortless, long strides as we powered around our neighborhood. Once I hit my final height of 6'0" I found that I, too, was a fast walker; my size-10 feet pound the pavement with purpose; the sidewalk is my own personal catwalk and I'm the Amazon walking a dangerously purposeful line as I hip-sway to my destination.
I've lived in downtown Seattle for about 10 years and while I've always had access to a car, I find it more enjoyable and efficient to walk and/or take public transit. For the last three years, I've worked in a gigantic office building in the Financial District, which means there's a LOT of people here during the day and many of them come in from the suburbs to work.
Now, watching these swarms of people, it occurs to me that there's not a lot of walking going on in the suburbs because they don't seem to be very good at it. Although, to be fair, while Seattle itself has a lot of pedestrians, I don't know that I'd go so far as to say they know what they're doing either when it comes to navigating sidewalks, doors, elevators, and escalators.
I chalk this up to a seeming lack of peripheral vision.
I could make an analogy about how this applies to our society in numerous ways (politically, energetically, and spiritually), but for today I'm going to focus on how it relates to pedestrianism specifically and my mounting irritation generally.
I just want everyone to pretend like they're a car with functioning mirrors.
Imagine the sidewalk (or any thoroughfare designed for people - like a shopping mall or grocery store) is a freeway. Would you stop suddenly in your lane to gawk at something on the side of the road? Would you cut across two lanes of traffic without first checking your side mirror or deploying your blinker? Would you drive down the left side of the road into oncoming traffic? Of course not.
Yet I see this happen literally dozens of times per day; people who can (apparently) operate a car and get to work cannot for the life of them keep it together when walking in a (mostly) straight line, to say nothing of entering an elevator.
Walk four abreast? Sure, why not? I want to carry on a conversation with my bestie while we go get lunch.
Check my email while crossing the street against a flashing, red hand? Sure, why not? The cars are required by law to watch out for me anyway--I'm in the crosswalk! Fuck cars!
Charge into the elevator the minute the door opens, without first waiting to see if anyone is coming OFF? Sure, why not? I've got a meeting to run!
Hundreds of people ambling along, firm in their belief that I (and all the other people around us) will keep tabs on all active personal-space bubbles, will gladly stop or walk more slowly or give way as they swing their extra large backpack off their shoulder, will gracefully say "No problem" as they cut me off while waiting in line to enter the bus.
Now, don't get me wrong. All the veering and wandering and going the "wrong" direction isn't technically the problem--I'm not the traffic police, after all, and people are certainly at liberty to amble in any direction their hearts desire. My problem is that I don't believe they're interested in taking accountability for where they're going by actually using their eyes and remembering that they're surrounded by other Real People who also have Valid Directional Wants.
I break pedestrian rules and laws when necessary, but that's because I pretend like I'm on the freeway or playing a first-person shooter game. I'm looking ALL AROUND ME for things I might bump into or trip over. I don't put my head down and focus all my attention on my iPhone; even when texting, it's important that I keep my head upright, scanning for potential obstacles. Checking over my shoulders before "changing lanes." It's fun. Like when I used to play Quake 3 Arena.
Because who looks like a complete asshole when they suddenly swerve to enter Starbucks and cut off the person right behind them? The person not using their peripheral vision, that's who.
What's the deal, Peripherally Impaired People? Are the rest of us so miserable that you refuse to sense us RIGHT THERE BEHIND YOU? So boring, so unimportant in the Big Scheme of Your Life that you can't respect the space of those around you and take responsibility for where you put your feet? Is that email really so life altering that you can't be bothered to check your blind sport before you cut me off?
What, no hand wave? No "Excuse me?" Really?
All I'm suggesting is that we all pay a little more attention to what's going on right here, in front of us, and all around us. That we all take accountability for where we put ourselves and how we treat the people around us while we get there. That we acknowledge we are surrounded by real people with actual feelings and desires, who would most certainly appreciate just a small serving of consideration.
I know I would.