Me: Hey, Steve, I see we’re incidentally walking directly at each other on the sidewalk. One of us should move.
Oncoming Steve: Nah.
Me: You don’t understand. We’re going to collide. Okay, here, I’ll move to the right. Crisis averted.
Oncoming Steve: And I’ll move to the left.
Me: I don’t think you understand how directions work from opposite angles.
Oncoming Steve: You’re right. Look, we’re going to collide again.
Me: That’s OK. Here, I’ll move to the left.
Oncoming Steve: And I’ll move to the right.
Oncoming Steve: (bump)
It isn’t your fault. No, you’re just walking to class, and you’re innocent. You did all your reading. You double-knotted your shoes today. You even tucked your shirt in. You know, that shirt that doesn’t even really need to be tucked in if you’re feeling especially casual, but you did anyway. You didn’t ask for your happiness to be wrenched from underneath your neatly-ironed chest pocket. Yet, there’s Steve, a stranger in a red flannel shirt and skinny jeans, strolling right toward you, oblivious of his impending collision course.
There’s a thought process here. My first strategy is to call the other person’s bluff. Walk straight, they’ll realize what’s up and move deftly to the side. After all, you’re sort of on the right side of the sidewalk, and that’s how cars work, right? This strategy is made possible by a curious mix of fear and pride. There’s certainly no way I’m moving out of the way first. Whether that’s because I have too much dignity or a complete inability to resolve minor conflicts, I’ll never know.
Eventually the inevitable occurs. Nothing.
Nothing occurs, and it becomes obvious Oncoming Steve over there is equally conscious of the rising issue. By now he’s only about 12 feet away and approaching fast. From there it’s a series of desperate attempts to communicate telepathically and resolve the crisis with minimal actual movement. I study Steve’s face carefully, trying to read his eyes for his next move. I study his hips like I was taught as a sixth grade football cornerback, just in case he tries to juke me. I sort of hope he does.
The moment of truth arrives at about the 8-foot distance. Decisions need to be made here, or I face becoming the laughingstock of the entire sidewalk from here all the way to that big tree over there. I don’t want that. I look into Steve’s eyes. He’s afraid, too. He knows the stakes. With a reassuring smile I let him know everything’s going to be okay. Of course, I’ve no way of knowing, but Steve looks like a nice kid, and I’m sure he has dreams of his own. With a sharp intake of breath, I bite the bullet and veer slightly to my right. So does Steve. Oh god no. It seems he and I are of tragically similar mindsets. With only one more step to go, I make an emergency change in trajectory. I awkwardly swing my leg around and turn back around to the left. So does Steve. Oh god no. With a dull, unenthusiastic bump we lightly collide, mutter apologies and carry on with our heads down. The day is lost.