This entry originally appeared on my disability blog, I hate stairs.
Some of the most interesting social behaviors occur on public sidewalks. Lately, my wheelchair has spooked pedestrians into reacting with the oddest of behaviors: a move I will call “The Fake Detour.”
The Fake Detour goes a little something like this. I’m traveling down the sidewalk at a normal speed (maybe fast walking) when I begin to close in on a pedestrian in front of me. I slow down enough to maintain a comfortable distance, usually about 5 to 10 feet behind the person in front of me. The pedestrian in question then commences The Fake Detour by straying from the sidewalk and stopping, as if to observe a sign or something on the ground or as if to stop to think. Once I pass by the person, he or she will continue back on the sidewalk, now safely behind me.
I hypothesize that the subject (1) is aware that I can travel at a faster speed than him or her, (2) perceives that I desire to travel at a speed faster than him or her, and (3) is compelled by feelings of empathy and or insecurity to remove him or herself temporarily from the sidewalk, leaving my path unimpeded.
I further hypothesize that the majority of subjects commit The Fake Detour out of feelings of insecurity rather than those of empathy. It is as if they think I am a stalker on wheels, determined to catch them in a secluded area where I will undoubtedly inflict irreparable damages to their toes and shins. To date, I have only defended myself from this deceptive maneuver by increasing the distance between me and the pedestrian in front of me. But my defense is no longer enough. I am now considering a counteroffensive measure. It’s simple. I will counter The Fake Detour with The Fake Detour, engaging unsuspecting pedestrians in psychological warfare.
To those who will say, “But what about the ones who move out of empathy for you?”, this is my reply. There will be some unavoidable casualties.
Freedom isn’t free.