I wrote this article back when I was studying Professional Writing & Editing at the CAE in Melbourne. It was written for a project and it’s meant to be a humorous rant. It’s one of those pieces I’ve been reluctant to publish because I may come off as a little crazy… But I am crazy so I’ve decided to live with that.
Please note that the statistics quoted are valid as of 14 December 2008. I realise that’s a while back now, but I don’t think I need to update them for these purposes.
I’m also posting this on my life/being human blog (http://littlewhitetruthsblog.blogspot.com.au/) because it’s definitely a nod towards those little quirks and pet hates that we all have, the ones that make us human.
To all you dastardly dawdlers…(footpath rage accelerates)
Over one million disgruntled pedestrians have now joined the Facebook group ‘I Secretly Want to Punch Slow Walking People in the Back of the Head’.
Inconsiderate walking behaviour has long been an issue close to my heart, so you can imagine my glee over being able to vent my frustrations when I found the gripe group earlier this year. No longer must I suffer stragglers in silence. And, as membership swelled, I felt vindicated to see just how many people feel strongly about this issue.
The vast membership is significant; it’s very rare that any group achieves such high numbers, let alone one that isn’t related to some specific cause. (Facebook doesn’t release group statistics but, as an indication, ‘Barack Obama (One Million Strong for Barak)’ remains just shy of its target.) So interest in the walking group suggests that footpath rage is fast overtaking road rage as a social dilemma.
Of course, some may have joined as a joke, along with such other associations as ‘Denny Crane for President’ and ‘What would Chuck Norris do?’; but humorous groups like these are lucky to attract 5,000 members, so there must be more to it. The founders of the walking group have clearly exposed a social nerve, and it’s a nerve that signals broader issues, including inconsiderate public behaviour in general – particularly on thoroughfares.
Let’s consider what’s meant by ‘slow walking’. This isn’t about tolerance; us speedsters are generally sympathetic to the pace constraints imposed by such factors as age, pregnancy and pram pushing. And we understand that some people enjoy a leisurely stroll. But the notion of ‘slow walking’ runs deeper: it relates to those mindless moochers who refuse to keep to one side of the footpath, who dawdle erratically with no consideration for the rest of us, and who seem unable to just get out of the way.
There’s a certain lack of awareness to slow walkers, an inherent thoughtlessness, and they carry general characteristics and behavioural patterns. They often travel in packs (walking three or four abreast) when dilly-dallying in pairs or single file would suffice. They’re the random swervers, the ones who cut you off – again – just when you’ve finally spotted an opening through which to pass them.
They’re the couples whose interlocked hands block a person-sized space, the people who linger in the centre of the grocery aisle with their trolleys, rather than placing themselves to one side. They’re the ones who push through to the vanguard at the traffic lights and then proceed to walk at 0.2 kilometres per hour, the ones who thwart your passage when you’re rushing to make the little green man – even though their light is red and they’re not going anywhere.
Several repeat sightings of weasel waddlers confirm they are the same people who can’t get it into their heads to keep left on the escalator, the same ones who stop in the middle of the street to gasbag, or to decide whether the restaurant door they’re obstructing – along with the entire footpath – is the door they want to enter. And the self-involved nature of dawdlers creates an inability to hear ‘excuse me’.
One suspects that, if you stuck a slow walker on a bike, they would be the ones taking up both lanes of the road when peddling with their lycra-clad pals, or the ones who don’t understand the concept of ‘bike lanes’ in general (thus forcing entire lanes of traffic to merge right – just for them).
Yesterday I was rushing home, desperate to use the bathroom (know the feeling?), when I got stuck like a pinball behind two amblers on their mobiles. They happened to live in my building and, when we finally reached the lift, guess which button they pressed? Level one! For the love of… Take the stairs.
Should we, as a society, really have to tolerate this kind of behaviour?
Think I’m self-indulgently ranting about nothing? Perhaps. But so many people feel rage over this issue, and not just those who’ve stumbled across the gripe group on Facebook. People expect a certain level of consideration from others – and why shouldn’t they? Society is acutely bothered by those who conduct themselves with such blatant disregard; you should see the comments on the group website – particularly those from inhabitants of New York, London and Tokyo (unsurprisingly the cities worst hit by the slow walking phenomenon). Many members have detailed what they’d like done to idlers and, without going into graphics, for some this involves choice orifices and heavy artillery.
For those of you (probably dawdlers) who can’t understand these levels of frustration, have you ever been stuck behind a slow vehicle on the Great Ocean Road? And how do you feel when that driver, despite your rampant tailgating and fiery honking, doesn’t seem to grasp the purpose of slow vehicle turn out lanes? Exactly.
This isn’t just about frustration. The point is, such drivers encourage dangerous behaviour in others – tailgating, harebrained overtaking, distracting horns and slamming fists. The same applies to slow walkers. Yesterday a dallying flock of schoolgirls created the situation where people were forced to walk on the road to overtake them; some even jaywalked to the other side in despair, weaving through oncoming traffic.
Hardly safe, is it?
I raised the slow walking issue among friends and received an impassioned response. We had some brilliant ideas to combat the problem, such as dividing the footpath into fast and slow lanes, and fining those caught transgressing. Is this suggestion so outrageous? We keep left on highways unless overtaking, don’t we? And public swimming pool lanes are divided by speed.
So to any dalliers who still question the importance of this issue, I ask you this: just how many times have you and your brethren affected someone’s day? How many people have missed their trains because of you – perhaps on their way to some crucial appointment or job interview? Just how does your behaviour impact other people’s daily lives? Some of us like to walk quickly to get some exercise, to ensure punctuality, or to squeeze an hour’s worth of errands into a forty-minute lunch break. Spare a thought for us. Please.
In the end, I think the intense irritation society feels towards selfish slowpokes boils down to the simple fact that, in the vast majority of cases, this disgraceful situation is so damn easy to rectify.
Keep left, think straight, move aside.
* Statistics are current as of 14 December 2008.