“Is it safety issues, intimacy, individualism? Like there is no way I have something in common with this stranger, not even the speed of walking?”
These are questions Daniel Koren asks himself at the end of his “walking race.” It’s a race he—and probably more of us than we’d like to admit—runs in his head whenever he finds himself walking next to a complete stranger on a busy street.
Emmy-nominated composer Koren, along with Vania Heymann, a second-year student at Bezalel School of Art and Design in Jerusalem, filmed one such “race,” in which Koren was in fact the lone contestant, along New York’s Fifth Avenue:
Koren is hardly the only person to bring this phenomenon to light…
Consider WikiHow’s entry titled, “How to Avoid Someone”—a rather sad set of step-by-step instructions that advises the would-be avoider to, among other things, “walk quickly.” The author explains, “This will show that you’re a busy person with places to go, and that you have no intention of lingering around to catch up with the person you’re ignoring. Walk with your arms at your sides and your head held high, like you’re staring ahead at your next goal, even if you’re really not going anywhere special.”
A Whirlpool employee also opened a dialogue on the subject of how to interact with strangers on the company’s Forum page by posing a question regarding what is acceptable behavior when walking past a stranger. The answers ranged from a suggestion that the questioner should “smile casually” and then, look away, to one responder’s advice to “speed up to avoid eye contact all together.”
Why is it that we can’t walk together? What is so fundamentally uncomfortable about sharing the same sidewalk?