Saturday, April 24, 2010

I often experience when walking, whether for exercise or to class, an uncomfortable moment when I realize that someone is coming toward me, also walking, and we are going to cross each other. I have to decide in that moment if and how I am going to acknowledge that person.

Think about it.

Do you A) smile, B) wave, C) ignore, D) both A and B, E) give the acknowledgement nod, F) give a “hello” or G) dig for your phone or something similar to be preoccupied with to make C feel less rude?

Those are obviously not all the choices available, but I’ve found those to be my most common “go to” actions in such a situation. There are an infinite number of factors that go into that decision, but the decision must be made, and often very quickly. Sometimes I walk away thinking that I picked the perfect option, but other times I feel like the smile and wave was a bit much, or I remember why the person looked familiar and I feel bad for getting so preoccupied with my iPod.

When I got a bike last summer, I realized that passing another cyclist is far less complicated, possibly due to the faster pace of the activity and, thus, the shorter amount of time that it takes to pass the other person. Also, sunglasses make a big difference. It is much easier to continue people watching while also ignoring the passerby when wearing sunglasses.

Yet another scenario: let’s say I am sitting on a particular bench along the Trinity Trails. The section along University Drive across from the Botanic Gardens, more specifically. Let’s imagine that as I have a view like this:

As I am sitting on this bench on a warm afternoon, bikers, walkers, joggers, and dog-walkers all pass me by. Who acknowledges me, and who does not? Who feels the need to shift focus to the side to nod, smile, wave, or speak? Also, how do these people interact with one another when they pass? These are the phenomena that I study.

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