Trios are the toughest dynamic. This trio approaching me occupies the entire width of the sidewalk. Assuming that we’ll pass on our respective right sides, either I step onto the street or one of them drops back from the group to allow me to pass. They look young, so the latter seems unlikely. I shift my bag closer to my body. 8 seconds from The Crossing.
I think about neighborhood walks with my parents. Upon seeing anybody coming toward us on the sidewalk, mom and dad would hop onto the vacant bike lane and cheerily wave at the passerby, using their name if they knew them. Passing friends happened often in our suburbs’ post-dinner walk scene. We might do a little dance with the other pedestrians, jumping off and on in reaction to one another until we finally crossed paths with a laugh and well wishes for the evening.
I guess I’ll make room for the trio. There’s just one of me. And they each have at least 40 pounds on me. 5 seconds now from The Crossing.
My friend O comes to mind. It wasn’t until I met her that I started thinking about the foxtrot of Sidewalk Politics. She was cool, brilliant, and both proudly and stubbornly asian-american-female– I adored her. At our university, greek life, and subliminally, racial dynamics, oversaw the main campus walkway. O was navigating us to lunch when she bumped shoulders with a group of students adorned with various bold greek letters. I reflexively turned to apologize on behalf of my friend, but both parties had continued on their way. O turned to me, “I never move out of the way for a white guy. I will for someone of color, especially if it’s a woman.”
It’s a mixed-race trio of guys. I wonder what O would have done. Not that I would have been able to follow the same principles— I never managed to adopt her resolve for making a statement. The gap is closing. 5 seconds out now. I could still pull out my phone and pretend I didn’t see anyone to make room for… no, millennials and gen Z have been chastised for this behavior since as soon as we were old enough to be blamed for anything. I wonder if the trio would budge for me if I stare forward with a set jaw.
C was the tallest guy I knew. His head would poke out above any crowd, and as he navigated through the mass of bodies, he encountered little resistance. I learned the down-sides of this one day when C descended into his chair beside me, exasperated, “what do I do if I’m walking home at night and there’s a girl walking alone half a block in front of me?” “What?” “Like, my strides are longer than hers so if I keep going I’d end up walking progressively closer to her. I don’t want her to think I’m trying to approach. And if I speed up to pass or slow down behind her that’s also creepy. Should I cross to the other side of the street? Is that weirder?”
I wonder what street privilege I have. Where am I in the sidewalk ecosystem? 3 seconds from The Crossing.
I decide I’ll hop off this time. I check over my shoulder for traffic. Multiple cars are coming.
2 seconds from The Crossing.
I look back at the trio. One said something funny and the others are turned toward him, laughing.