It takes a certain art to pass people on the sidewalk. I don’t quite have it.
If I am passing someone from behind, which happens often because I walk quickly, I have two options. The first is to awkwardly push past or walk around on the grass. The second is to dramatically slow my pace and wonder how a single person can occupy the entirety of a sidewalk where three can walk abreast–and whether this might have something to do with the fourth dimension–and whether I might to enter the fourth dimension in order to get around them. No matter how far behind I walk, this usually leads to anxious glances behind at me and my grinning and looking harmless. “No, no, I’m not a creepy stalker.” From here, we usually continue until our paths deviate, they slow down to the point at which I have to pass them, or they stop taking up the entire sidewalk.
I have fewer options if I’m passing someone going the opposite direction, but at least they do not make me feel like a creepy stalker. On the contrary, I fear that these people are creepy stalkers. Strange males have a habit of making eye-contact at the last possible second. But they do not make friendly eye-contact, accompanied by a smile; they make weird, sustained eye-contact. It is the sort of eye-contact one would expect from a certain vampire who liked girls, but also wanted to drink their blood–or from Gollum. So I have to invent new strategies. My flatmate and her friend agree that I walk with my head down, as if examining the nuances of the pavement ecosystem. Frankly, I think everyone should do this. Tree roots are fascinating–fascinating enough to lure me in front of on-coming cars. I’ve also tried walking looking up at the trees, but that makes it hard for me to make eye-contact when I’m actually making conversation. I also bump into people.
So if you hear someone behind you, and look back but cannot make eye contact, that is probably me. Worry not, I’m not a stalker, just someone contemplating the physics of passing.