There is something deeply irritating about the way people walk around on campus. Crowds of students take up the entire sidewalk. Classmates stop in doorways or in front of stairwells to have conversations. Some even come to a complete halt in the middle of a sidewalk or a hallway to read something, oblivious to the impact their pause has on those around them.
The worst case of pedestrian traffic holdup comes as a result of people walking around while staring at their phones instead of watching where they are going. This is more obnoxious than most people realize, and it should stop.
There are three types of pedestrian cell phone zombies. The first type continues to move, but at a significantly reduced speed compared to someone unhampered by the new drama on Facebook and able to focus on their destination. This type slows everyone down, but at least they are easy enough to manage because their movement is predictable.
The second type presents a different kind of challenge. They also continue to move, but with less coordination than their turtle-like counterparts. These phone users serpentine back and forth across the sidewalk because having their eyes on their phones makes it impossible for them to walk in a straight line. Their motion eerily mimics that of a car drifting across the lane when the driver is drunk or talking on the phone. It is doubtful that this type of pedestrian could pass a field sobriety test while staring at their phone because they are clearly incapable of walking in a straight line.
The final type of person who texts and walks actually comes to a complete stop in the middle of the flow of pedestrian traffic, indifferent to the possibility that the person walking behind them—who in all likelihood is also looking at a phone—will plow into them if they cannot change course in time. This type is by far the most aggravating. The responsibility to avoid collision should be equally shared by everyone on the sidewalk, not solely taken up by those conscientious enough to watch where they are walking. Asking everyone else to pay attention to their surroundings is not such a high expectation. It is such a small request, in fact, that nobody should even have to ask.
Phone use on the sidewalks is not really about walking slowly or crashing into people, though those things are annoying. It is about people not being aware of their environment and not being respectful to the other people who need to use the public sidewalk. It is about courtesy. It is about taking responsibility for avoiding a collision just like everyone else. It is about realizing that the world does not revolve around the text message that just made the phone buzz.
It is about students, while decrying the stereotypes placed on young people by older generations, also confirming those stereotypes. How can anyone dispute millennials’ addiction to technology when most of us cannot even make it from the SCC to Usdan without checking our phones? Though pedestrian phone users often resort to such multitasking because they are busy and trying to be efficient, it appears to everyone around them that those people just do not care about what is happening outside their personal bubble. It makes them look glued to their phones, unaware and antisocial, whether that is an accurate representation of their personality or not. The easiest way for Brandeis students to show the world that they are engaged is to put down their phones every once in awhile. On campus walking paths, this will have the added bonus of making the sidewalks less of an obstacle course.
A world where people can put away their phones for all of 10 minutes to walk from point A to point B without crashing into anyone else or slowing down their peers does not feel like too much to ask for. Bottom line: keep moving or park it on the side. The rest of us need to walk here, too. No texting and walking.