Please Watch Where You’re Going…Because I Can’t

One of my favourite places to navigate is my university campus. People are reasonably polite. The place has a distinct community college atmosphere, which means there are few large crowds. Generally, fellow students respect the “stick to the right side” rule, so even heavy foot traffic flows quite smoothly.

Every now and then, though, someone will surprise me. I was climbing a near-deserted staircase, staying as far right as possible so I could follow the railing (I love railings, they make me feel safe and loved and whatnot). As I climbed, I heard someone approaching from above, though I found it odd that they were climbing down the left side rather than the right. Thinking that they were probably taking advantage of how empty the stairs were, I continued on my merry way (it would seem I’m always merry—who knew?). As she drew closer, though, I realized she wasn’t going to move. Rather than shift left a little—she was on the wrong side, after all—she chose to let us collide. Only as we did so did I notice a familiar clicking sound—she was texting. As I swayed, clutching the railing for dear life, I began an apology. Talking right over it, she said, “Watch where you’re going!” and stormed off. Well, darling, I would, but…

In an age when distracted driving is an epidemic and texting lanes are a thing, it’s becoming harder to trust that people will respect basic rules of foot traffic. I’ve always been used to bumping into people who refuse to move. That’s not going away. There will always be oblivious people who are too wrapped up in their conversations, or their phones, to notice what’s happening around them. Almost everyone I know has done this a time or two (I’m not blameless myself) but there are some who take it to extremes. Take a stroll through West Edmonton Mall sometime; you’ll see what I mean. Things are getting more dangerous, and I blame two things: mobile phones, and general apathy. People are so ready to assume that, if they’re not watching where they’re going, everyone else will compensate. As my city squabbles over bike lanes, I fling myself to one side as soon as I hear a cyclist approaching on the sidewalk. More than once, one of these cyclists has nearly knocked me over. No one is in such a tearing hurry that they can’t slow down for five seconds while they pass a pedestrian who can’t even see them.

“But Meagan,” you say, “people don’t always know that your blind! Most people can watch where they’re going, so how can you blame them?” I can blame them because of a little thing called visibility. If I’m standing around, sans mobility aid, then yes, I can understand people’s inability to recognize that I can’t see them. My eyes are relatively normal-looking, so it’s hard to tell that anything is wrong with them. They dart about in a frantic manner, but some people mistake this for extreme shyness. But if we are standing with canes out or dogs at our sides, there is very little excuse not to notice us. If people are paying attention to what is directly in front of them, they will definitely spot us. The girl who collided with me on the staircase was breaking an unwritten rule, and wasn’t aware of her own surroundings. This is a toxic combination. I do my best not to get into people’s way, and I apologize at least half a dozen times a day. It’s all the rage in Canada, don’t you know.

I have no problem with people bumping into me because it’s crowded, or because I accidentally cut them off. People bump each other all the time. It is not necessarily wrong or rude to do so. I’m not saying that people should throw themselves out of my path in case they brush my elbow. I am, however, saying that people could stand to pay more attention. If you know that you’re a bit distractible while texting, then move to one side, finish your text, and go your way. Don’t expect everyone—people who can’t see you, especially—to flow around you like an accommodating current.

Please, put your phone away and watch where you’re going…because I can’t.

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4 thoughts on “Please Watch Where You’re Going…Because I Can’t

  1. a very poinyent post megan! if I’m climbing stairs and if there is a rail on either side of the stair case I will climb the stairs holding onto the left hand rail if I’ve got my cane in my right hand. Conversely, if I’m going down the stairs again I will hold onto the left hand rail while my cane’s in my right hand. I’ve never really had people tell me to watch where I’m going if that was ever to happen it may have happened when I was a child and running around. I never text when I am walking somewhere or talk on my phone when I’m walking unless it’s just within my house. my usual lapse in concentration while walking is sometimes when I am talking to myself which as I often say every birthday I am going to try and give up such a habbit but it never happens lol. while on the subject of concentrating when walking I moved out of my parent’s house 3 years ago and now live alone. I do however go across the road to my parent’s house for some meals. If somebody’s mowing their lawn or there are other neighbourhood noises happening or if there’s work being done somewhere I will not cross the road while somebody’s mowing the lawn as these sounds often make it difficult for me to know when it’s safe to cross the street. It’s not that I am deaf by any means it’s just louder sounds are harder to note when the road is safe to cross

  2. You posted what I have been thinking since I started using a cane. I wonder why they can’t understand it means I may, or may not see you. One woman actually told me to watch where I was going.

  3. watch is a word used loosely as is look. my mother once told me to keep my head still when I was crossing the road out the front of my house but I shake my head to look and listen for traffic

  4. Pingback: Don’t Mess with the Stick | Where's Your Dog?

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