Kiss My Sass: Walking

Sophia Ottoni-Wilhelm, Columnist

Last Thursday I was headed to Mudd to pretend to do work when I spotted a girl about 20 yards out, fixated on her cell phone and swerving dangerously back and forth as she moved toward me.“She’s going to look up, she’s going to look up, she’s not going to run into me,” I thought to myself. I thought wrong. She rammed right into me, iPhone first, even though I had been actively hugging my side of the sidewalk. Oh, walkers and bikers of Oberlin, you leave so much to be desired!

I could write about so many things this week: The situation in Egypt and Syria is heating up, the United States is clashing with North Korea over just about everything and China and India are locked in a border dispute — but, as I walked to Mudd with a small, iPhone-shaped bruise forming on my sternum, my mind wasn’t on any of those things. I was wondering about sidewalk etiquette and why there seems to be so little of it on this campus.

I talked to a few friends about my experience and asked if they had any stories of their own. Separately each friend brought up the same scenario: As you approach a group of friends who are walking in a line, taking up the entire sidewalk and refusing to budge, do you stand your ground or not? As you get closer and realize they seriously aren’t going to give, you have no choice but to walk around.

“What are the odds of four Oberlin students not catching on to the situation?” commented College senior Chris Campbell, shaking his head and recalling that such a thing had happened to him that very day.

Evan Tincknell, College junior and unusually considerate human being, puts his foot down: “Regardless of their awareness, it still seems inconsiderate. If you’re walking with your friends in a line towards another group, you fold in and pass. My roommate and I often notice and wonder what would happen if we didn’t fold in. Would our groups weave through one another or would we just collide?”

Tincknell posed an excellent question, but sadly I was the one to discover the answer.

A couple of years ago, knights would ride their horses on the side of the road opposite their sword hand so that they would be ready to throw down if anyone attacked. Perhaps I should adopt this practice to protect myself from awkward people. Does anyone have a broadsword I can borrow? Actually, don’t answer that. I’m sure you do.

It’s one thing if walking behavior is awkward, but it’s another thing entirely if it is intentional. A couple of weeks ago I overheard a person say that they enjoy walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk because they like to challenge the status quo. First of all, this is some excellent logic. While you’re at it, take a stand against all that crap about driving on the right side of the road, too.

But seriously, who the heck are you? You can take a radical position about so many things that actually matter: deforestation, human trafficking, the shrinking size of DeCafé’s smoothie cups. Take a leaf out of my book — pick your head up and see the light at the end of the tunnel: that light is your opportunity to not be an awkward, rude human being.