A Walking Paper

Dear Ambulatory and Ablebodied Public At Large,

Hi. Um… hello? Down here. No, not there, here in the wheelchair. Yeah, that’s it - hi there! Can I have your attention for a minute? Thanks much.

As summer arrives in Toronto, so do the tourists and after a few weeks of navigating the meandering throngs, I’ve been reminded of something I’ve wanted to do for a while, namely offer a Walking Tutorial. And those members of the general public who permanently reside in our fair city (or any other city, come to think of it) and therefore might be inclined to smugly think this lesson/lecture/rant does not apply to them can sit right back down again, because the idea for this post first sprouted in my mind during the winter. When there are no tourists. So sit. Comfy? Let’s get started.

If the door to a public building (store, office building, etc) you are approaching mysteriously opens, your instinct to assume that the gods have seen fit to remove all obstacles from your way and head straight for it is misguided. You will discover this when you collide with the business end of a wheelchair/scooter/walker. See that red button with the wheelchair symbol above it? Or the larger grey circle also with a wheelchair symbol? That means it’s an automatic door opener and that the person with the mobility device rudely blocking your way has pushed aforementioned button, because that’s the only way they can get in or out. Unlike you, who can open one of the other doors. Or, if that’s not to your liking, perhaps you can wait until the person using the mobility device has passed through the door.

And while we are on doors… If you approach a door more or less neck-and-neck with a person in a wheelchair and get to the door first, it’s a nice gesture not to let the door slam shut in their face. Instead, try holding it open. This also applies when there’s a person with a stroller, a cart, carrying something heavy or simply when you get there a bit ahead of another person. It’s called courtesy. Look it up.

This is a note to the three young studs I encountered the other day - I use the term 'studs' because I'm sure that's how you view yourself. Walking abreast, taking up the entire sidewalk and playing chicken with a woman in wheelchair, refusing to step to the side and thereby forcing her out on the uneven bricks by the curb does not prove you have cojones the size of soccer balls. It just proves you’re assholes.

If you're in a store or say, the St. Lawrence Market, and there are aisles that form intersections, don't blindly wander across without looking both ways first. I'm sure you don't drive that way - and if you do, please let me know, so I can stay off the roads - or even cross streets like that, so why on earth would you do so inside? Similarly, don't step back without checking if someone is behind you or walk backwards without taking a peek at your rearview mirrors. You don't have rearview mirrors on your head, you say? Then try turning your head, using your peripheral vision or - here's a thought - turn and walk in the forward moving manner. Revolutionary, I know, but you should try it.

Backpacks are wonderful - they can contain all kinds of things and you have your hands free. Large purses and bags to go over the shoulder are likewise amazing for their capacity to hold the junk that we all feel is necessary to carry when we leave home. I have absolutely no quibbles with you carrying large receptacles for your stuff. What does give me pause is the tendency you have to sling said receptacles over your shoulder without looking behind you. May I point out that said large, heavy receptacles filled with stuff moving at high speeds backwards and towards your shoulder/back is at the exact perfect height to smack a seated person in the face? Or a child, now that I think of it. Please look before you sling in public!

Oh, and one more thing. This isn’t specifically related to the development of ambulatory skills, but while you're meandering around on the streets accompanied by a canine individual, may I humbly suggest that you pick up after your dog! Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get dog feces off your tires when you can’t reach them? Or what it does to your floor that you likewise can't clean yourself? Fuckwit.

I sincerely hope that this little talk might have the effect to increase your attention to your surroundings, which would enable me to dial my degree of vigilance from hyperextremeserious to merely intense. Now go about your day and please, remember to Pay Attention.

Thank you