Saturday, March 24, 2012

Walk Unafraid... and Unstupid.*

I've mentioned before that I work retail.  More specifically, I work retail in a mall.  This means that I spend an awful lot of time dealing with crowds of people.  This means that I spend an awful lot of time being really really frustrated at the appalling percentage of people who have no idea how to conduct themselves in public.  Somewhere along the line little things like etiquette, situational awareness, and the capacity for simple thought went out of vogue.  I miss them.

But today's rant/helpful guide is focused on one specific thing: walking.  Sounds simple, right?  One foot, then the other.  But my day-to-day has taught me that an appalling number of people are either unaware or unconcerned with the greater nuances of walking in a public space.

And so I bring you:

How to Walk In Public Without Being a Moron

Rule #1:  Watch where you're going, dammit.

Does this seem obvious?  I thought so too.  But experience has taught me otherwise.  Do us all a favor.  Put your phone down for a second (or at least don't get mad when we laugh at you if something like this happens to you).  Stop reading the receipt from whatever you just bought or searching through your purse for your keys or whatever the hell you're doing and look at where you're going and what's around you.  We'll all be happier for it and you'll be less likely to wind up in a fountain.

If you need to do something that diverts your attention for more than a few seconds, stop walking.  Which brings us to...

Rule #2:  Watch where you're STOPPING, dammit.

Places that are not OK to just stop suddenly and have a conversation/look for your keys/drool on yourself:

• entrances, exits and/or doorways of any kind
• the middle of the sidewalk
• any aisle or walkway not wide enough for people to easily get around you
• the top or bottom of the escalator
• right outside the elevator

Would you just stop your car in the middle of an intersection?  No.  Because your car would get hit and you would wind up in a neck brace paying for someone else's car repair.  But the fact that pedestrian collisions don't (usually) end in fiery balls of twisted metal is no excuse to act like an idiot.  Take a few steps out of the doorway or past the end of the stairway.  If you're in the middle of a mall, step to the side of the foot traffic area.  In short, get the hell out of the way.  Other people have places to go and having to suddenly change course because you are unaware that other people exist isn't fun.

Rule #3:  It's a small world.

You're out with your five best friends.**  You're walking.  You're each about a foot away from one another and you're weaving together and apart like some sort of semi-sentient giant amoeba.  You're doing this at a glacial pace.  I HATE YOU.

I know we all like our personal space, but sometimes you have to suck it up for the sake of not being a jerk.  Other people will want to move around you, and you taking up as much space as possible and moving to and fro in weird, unpredictable ways makes that annoying, if not impossible.  Be aware of how much space you're taking up.  (There's actually an old Goofus and Gallant strip that deals with this, but I can't find it.  Oh well.)

By the way, this goes for those enormous monstrosities we call strollers nowadays, too.

Rule #4:  Watch your kids.

Kids are fast.  Kids do not understand (or much care for) logic.  Kids, while aware that other people exist, often don't give a shit because they're laser-focused on any one of 400 other things at any given time.  So if you're in charge of a kid in a public place, keep them close.  Hold their hand.  React in some way when they dart out in a random direction suddenly, trip someone, or just up and run away from you.  (Honestly, I wonder how more kids don't wind up kidnapped or accidentally falling into meat grinders with the way parents seem to ignore them, but that's another post for another day.)

Sure, you're not going to catch them every time.  But even trying means that you're teaching them how to exist in public, and that would really do wonders for the next generation since so many adults ambling around now are basically a lost cause.

Rule #5:  Passing lanes aren't just for drivers.

There's sort of an unwritten rule of escalators:  walk left, stand right.  Some people like to walk up or down the escalator for extra speed.  Some people like to coast.  Obeying this simple rule makes both kinds of people happy.

Do you like to walk slow?  Do you just mosey along, letting your mind wander as you saunter along?  If so... well, I just don't understand you.  But more importantly, be aware that not everyone shares your zen world view and open schedule and please get to the side.

Are you a speed demon?  Do you zip to and from your destinations like you're training to be the first carless NASCAR champ?  (This is more like me.)  If so, be aware that not everyone is in such a rush.  Look for courteous opportunities to pass slower walkers, and don't bump people as you zip by because you're too busy rushing to pay attention (remember Rule #1!).

There are probably a million more ways we can all be less annoying to our fellow bipedals, but these are sort of my top five.  These are the things about which I mutter under my breath while zipping and weaving through the crowds on my lunch break.  Got any other suggestions/pet peeves?

*Post title is a bastardized R.E.M. song title. I'm sorry, Michael Stipe.
**You clicked that?  You fool!  You're welcome for the earworm.