Thursday, September 4, 2008

David wonders when to wait while walking

Long-time readers of IDDx may remember previous entries Kevin and I wrote about awkward and/or strangely captivating interactions we had while walking in or around our med center. Today, another such scenario occurred, enabling me to complete the epic Really, Really Narcissistic Walking Post trilogy.

Allow me to explain…

After class let out this afternoon, Kevin and I started down the main walkway that leads from the med center to the primary bus stops and side streets that many students use to get home after a long day of edumacation. After a few minutes, we noticed Emily, one of our friends, walking behind us. She was close enough to recognize without difficulty, but far enough away that a wave wouldn’t necessarily grab her attention. I proposed waiting for her to catch up, but Kevin, who hates people, suggested we follow the Anti-Blackhawk Down Rule and leave every man behind.

This choice seemed fair, as Emily was a good hundred yards behind us and appeared engrossed in a phone conversation. Still, the event raised the question about proper Waiting While Walking etiquette that we inevitably beat into the ground. Specifically, how close must person A be before it becomes appropriate/expected for person B to wait for A to catch up? It’s probably a bit excessive to just wait for any person close enough for a positive ID. That might entail several minutes of waiting, and who knows if the other person is even interested in joint ambulation. On the other hand, it’s far more interesting to talk with a friend than it is to walk alone, so erring on the side of social interaction is always a plus.

Clearly, the decision is nuanced. Much depends on how well one knows the lagging party. If your girlfriend or close buddy were behind you, you’d definitely wait regardless of distance, but the Wait Zone diminishes significantly for mere acquaintances. Also relevant is the distance left to travel; if you’re a few steps away there’s little need to linger, but if you’ve got a mile to go both parties might enjoy a companion. Finally, there’s something to be said for avoiding the really awkward “Yes, I saw you look back, recognize me and then act like you didn’t and keep walking as if nothing had happened” scenario that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy (you’ve been spared, Jess…).

In the end, we concluded that the threshold distance is just close enough that the two people could communicate without resorting to strained yelling. If the rear party can flag down the leader without shouting too loudly, the person ahead is probably close enough to wait.

We attempted to test this theory with some “Can you hear me now?” trials, but one of those safety beacon things started beeping right where Kevin was standing. So, like any good scientists, we scrapped the experiment completely and just assumed we were right.

And by that time, Emily had caught up anyway…


K said...

When I heard the beeping I thought "John" might have been behind me.

John said...

I don't know which "John" this is supposed to be or why one of us is beeping, but I am offended.

themedschoolblog said...

Haha, great observation! I would also like to throw in the fact about acquaintance level. If you "kinda" know someone at 100 yards and see another good friend at 100 yard, do both merit a wait? Or do you compute friend-level also?

Ben @

Jesse said...

I don't need your mercy, and I hope you die.

See you tonight!