-Graphics Editor/Amanda Palma

What’s the protocol for walking by a person? Come on, I can’t be the only one who thinks about this. When you’re walking down the street, and someone is walking toward you, when do you establish eye contact? Is there an exact number of feet that dictates pedestrian etiquette? Is there even a pedestrian handbook?

I just looked it up and there is a handbook; however, it speaks more about the law than the customary code of polite behavior. Walking by a person can cause real anxiety because there are many things to consider: timing, speaking, ignoring and more. I can go on for days!

I mean, if a person walks by you, do you smile in acknowledgement? Like a smile that says, “Hi, how are you? I’m just trying to get through life on this sidewalk too. I totally know the feeling. Okay, have a great day!” And do you wait to smile, or do you smile first? What if you smiled first and the other person just looks at you with stoic irritability? Because that’s happened to me before, and when it did I was like, “Welp! I guess I shouldn’t smile anymore. But why didn’t they smile back? Is their day that bad they can’t exchange a one second smile with a complete stranger?”

I think about it so much that if I have to walk a long distance, I make sure I put my headphones in because the person walking directly towards you can see that you’re totally into some song, and won’t bother with attempting eye contact. People don’t like eye contact! I walked by someone once and they were literally looking at the sky. Who looks at the sky? At least look at your phone and make it more believable. I have been guilty of looking at my phone on purpose, all to avoid the eyes of the person walking toward me. Isn’t that sad?

What kind of world do we live in that people like me avoid eye contact when walking down the street? All I can think about are the fancy olden-times in Jane Austen novels when everyone in those small villages walked by each other, gave eye contact, and were like, “Hello there, how are you? Hoity-toity, and all that jazz.” Well, let me tell you something. There is zero jazz out there in the harsh streets of the twenty-first century. Zero!

I’ve tried to look busy when walking, but I could see the stare of the other person in my blasted peripheral vision. Oh, peripheral vision! The one good thing in this disorienting disorganization of dancing down the street. If I walk and can see that the person is looking at me, I tempt fate, look at the person and smile. Sometimes I get a smile in return. And that’s all we want anyway, right? I mean seriously, I can’t be the first person smiling at everyone on the street. I’d just look weird. Be safe, smiling pedestrians!

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