Friday, June 7, 2013

The Lost Art of Excuse Me

This post has nothing to do with IVF, pregnancy, or motherhood - well, maybe motherhood - but it is more of a recent observation.

Now that I take up more space, strolling my City Mini up and down the aisles of Target, Shop & Stop, and other retail establishments, I have become very aware that people are either ignorant to on coming pedestrian traffic, choose to ignore on coming pedestrian traffic, or are just deaf.

For some reason I have trouble navigating the aisles of stores with my son's stroller. I often crash into display stands (hence the Sprinkle Incident of 2012), underestimate the amount of space needed to make a turn, or get stuck on one thing or another. I try to stick to one side to allow passing or wait for oncoming traffic to go by before perusing the 900 brands of cereal available before making a commitment. I like to think I am aware of my surroundings and respectful of my fellow shoppers, but I don't feel like they are equally kind to me (or us, if we include Austin).

The other day there was a street fair in town where another mother and I were more or less pin balls, bouncing and darting from one side of the sidewalk to the next. We might as well have chanted "Excuse me" down Main Street since everyone seemed oblivious to the two women, two babies, two strollers, and one dad walking down the street. We were so ignored that we had a casualty in our midst. A carry-out container of buttered noodles for her son fell to the streets while we were jostled between spectators. Many seemed as if they were playing chicken with us, waiting until the last second to move and allow us to pass while others (usually those of an older generation) simply ignored us, forcing us to awkwardly jump a curb or squeeze between them and a bench to get by.

Why does "excuse me" not seem to work anymore? Further, why do people look so inconvenienced when the request is made? I am not asking for your first born, the shirt off your back, or money. I am kindly requesting that you scooch one way or another to let me pass.

With the older population, I wonder if it is a respect thing - be kind to your forefathers, help old ladies across the street, respect your elders? I find they are the worst offenders in the "excuse me" battle. I picture them thinking, "I dare you to ask me to move" or "I stormed the beaches of Normandy so I could stand freely on this sidewalk!" In either case, I respect your right to stand there but you also have to respect mine. I often find myself repeating the phrase 5 or 6 times before getting a begrudged nod and side step that barely allows me to pass.

Not only do I find people ignore strollers and people toting children, but runners are treated like pariahs in the world of "excuse mes". When I run outside and two people (usually it is twos since a runner can usually pass a singleton without issue) are walking ahead of me, I try to exaggerate my breathing and footfalls so they can hear me coming. When this fails, I begin my chain of "excuse mes" about 20 feet before a head on collision would occur. Sometimes I get the backwards glance and then I'm ignored, sometimes it is the over expressed sigh accompanied by the "how dare you ask me to move to the side" look, or the "I can't believe I have to stop holding hands with my lover for a millisecond" glare. Yes, if there was molten lava on either side of the sidewalk, I would definitely understand your anger - but last time I checked it was grass so get over yourself.

When Austin is old enough to say "excuse me", I will make sure he not only has the knowledge to ask but also comply with the phrase. Smile when you move to the side, add a hello, and give ample space - not just a crappy centimeter. Be aware of your surroundings and anticipate when an "excuse me" might be on its way and, for goodness sake, do not give a dirty look. Your face will get stuck that way :).

UPDATE: After I posted this, I did the world's tiniest research experiment - I ran with a jogging stroller. Not only does this take up the most space but you have momentum and, quite possibly a sleeping child. Unlike running alone or walking with a stroller, running with a jogging stroller is akin to walking across hot coals while feeding the hungry - people admire you. You are a hot, multitasking mamma who is not only bettering her body and her mind, but pushing your bundle of joy. People do not only stand aside, they part like the red sea.