Single File, Please

A Lesson in Walking Manners

Essay and Photos by Patricia Zick @PCZick

Walking, hiking, exploring on foot—no matter what it’s called—gives me great pleasure. I especially enjoy trails out in nature with only the trees, sky, and hopefully, water tableau serving as the eye candy to soothe my inner voices of doubt. It’s lovely to see others out enjoying the same vistas. It’s a thrill to see children learning and enjoying the surrounding environment.

But there’s one thing that simply defies explanation, except to say that some of those out walking are so absorbed in their own enjoyment they don’t understand the unspoken rules of the road. Perhaps they are unwritten as well, so with this post I hope in my small way to rectify their lack of awareness and knowledge.

Single file, folks, when someone walks toward you on paths or sidewalks made for only one or two people. I’ve been walking on bridges, narrow mountain trails, city sidewalks, boardwalks with a foot drop off the side, and on rocky or root-infested trails when folks coming toward us remain walking side-by-side, talking, and not caring that I’ve had to stop, or where possible, step off the side to let them pass.

I decided a few years back that I would not leave the path or sidewalk when encountering these unconscious folks but would instead stand my ground on my side even if it meant I stopped walking. Sometimes they get it. Other times they just squeeze closer to the person connected to them by invisible string.

Recently, on a stroll on a beach boardwalk over fragile sand dunes, we had to stop several times as others decided to continue their stroll two- or three-abreast. There was no way we could step off the boardwalk because it had been built over protected sand dunes hosting nesting shore birds, some of them endangered species.

I write this post to enlighten folks who can’t understand why leaving the side of someone for a second, a mere second, won’t end the relationship, won’t harm the environment, won’t stop the conversation. But it just might prevent destruction of fragile habitat, keep me—who suffers from neuropathy in my feet—from stumbling if I’m forced off a path, or perhaps, it would just simply be polite.

Here’s my solution. When out walking or hiking in public places, be aware of others and surroundings. When someone approaches, leave the side of the loved one and fall back to single file.

No harm, no foul. Only gain.

Published by P. C. Zick

I write. It's as simple and as complicated as that. Storytelling creates our cultural legacy.

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