A couple of years ago I started encountering a new obstacle while I was out dog walking: people who walk right into me while they’re looking at their cell phones.
I don’t mean talking on their cells. I mean they’re looking down at their phones, texting, for entire block lengths. Maybe even miles. Not only are they not looking where they’re going, but people who are tweeting highlights from Teen Mom 2: The Reunion Special tend to weave a lot too. They’re hard to navigate around.
I’m not the only one who has noticed this new walking hazard. It’s gotten to be so bad that talking and walking and/or texting and walking made an appearance in the book “On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes” in the chapter dedicated to taking a city walk with a blind woman (in order to experience the city through senses other than sight). Author Alexandra Horowitz writes, “I saw examples of cell-phone walkers weaving, violating the time-honored stay-to-the-right street rules. Most critically, they were not checking: they did not look up.” Horowitz’s blind walking companion shared that she had been in a number of full body collisions with cell phone users who did not look up in time to see her walking nearby (with her white cane!).
So back to my dogs walks: There I am, walking towards the phone-focused with my dogs and trying to avoid a collision by moving from one end of the sidewalk to the other. The weaving is all kinds of awkward, not to mention I look like I pounded a six pack of Zima in between dog walks.
Finally, I came up with a new, more effective approach. I just stop and stand still.
I wait until the person on the cell phone is a few steps away from bulldozing me and then I say, loudly, “LOOK UP!”
Which they do, because I just startled them so bad that their butt cheeks seized up.
Of course I only do this with dogs that are super people-friendly and with people who look like they’re not armed. If the dogs aren’t comfortable watching someone jump out of their flops, we just step right off the sidewalk and escape the cell phone zombies by walking in the street (with people who are doing the same thing with their phones, only they’re in cars**).
But I really do love the “Look Up!” moment and try to squeeze it in whenever I can. Just for funsies.
Not only is it effective, but every single time I do it, I think of Steve Martin in this scene from The Three Amigos and I laugh, laugh, laugh.
Please enjoy it here:
Almost everything I know about dog walking, I’ve learned from Steve Martin.
OK, maybe just this one thing.
**On a serious note: Today while dog walking I watched a woman driving the wrong way down a one way street in front of a hospital. She weaved around the cars coming straight at her, while I waved at her in an attempt to point out the huge “DO NOT ENTER” sign that she was passing. She didn’t notice. She was too busy looking down and texting.
We all need to stop texting and driving. In the past few years I’ve had to alter the way I dog walk because so many drivers are totally unaware of me and the dogs walking in crosswalks. People are driving with their heads in their laps. Most of us are guilty of doing this. We all need to stop thinking we’re the exception to the rule and can text and drive safely. We can’t. No one can. And we could wind up killing someone. Werner Herzog’s short file “From One Second to the Next” is a hard look at the consequences of our bad behavior.
Please be safe out there everyone. Look up!