Pedestrian Math

I walk a lot on my commute – down to the train up north, and from the train to the office.  Over time, I’ve made some observations about my fellow pedestrians.  Not only are there definite types, but there seem to be correlations between what they’re doing and how fast they can go.

The Ones

Let’s start with the individual commuters first.  These are the ones who are walking by themselves but who may be making the commute under sub-optimal conditions.

Slowus Mollasus

The Slowus is laden with bags.  What is unusual is that none of the bags appear to be carried in an ergonomic way.  Instead, one bag in each hand, the Slowus Mollasus’s arms are leaden, weighted to either side of the body.  This impedes the normal arm swing that provides momentum while one is walking.

The Slowus Mollassus in winter, slows down the heavier its bags.

The walker’s speed is connected to the size and weight of the two bags.  The larger and heavier the bags, the slower the Slowus moves.  Additionally, the Slowus’ head tips forward.  In winter, cold weather clothing can obscure the features of the commuter.

WatchWhere YourHandus

The WatchWhere YourHandus is a close cousin of the Slowus Mollassus.  It usually carries only one large package, much larger than anything the Slowus might carry.  However, it pins only one arm to the side of its body.  Its other arm is usually raised up and away from the far side of its body.

The WatchWhere’s spare arm swings violently, often above the waistline, causing perpetual harm as other pedestrians attempt to pass.

The WatchWhere may go slowly or quickly, depending on the vigor of the particular commuter.  However, the swinging arm is always dangerous.  As it lifts up above the WatchWhere’s waist line, it extends further from its side.  At this angle, it swings violently forward and backward, counterbalancing the package on the other side of its body.  Pedestrians attempting to circumnavigate the WatchWhere should be careful not to be hit in the breadbasket or other nether regions.

Neckus Crampus

This may be the most common of the slow moving individual commuters.  The Neckus Crampus may resemble a headless individual, moving slowly with arms slightly raised.

The Neckus Crampus from the side. It will slow down as its body parts angle forward to be parallel with the ground.

From the side, you can see that the Neckus is holding something, usually an electronic device in their hands.  Two things seem to factor into the Neckus’ speed.

First, the angle of the head.  As it lowers, from 90 degrees straight up, towards zero, the commuter’s speed slows proportionally.  Second, the intensity of the glare.  As the Neckus glares harder at the device, speed can diminish even when the Neckus Crampus hasn’t lowered its head.

Fortunately, the Neckus Crampus can be chivvied along with a loud cry of “Heads up, buttercup, we’re commuting here!”  This will usually cause the Neckus’ head to come back up to 90 degrees and the device to be momentarily dropped to a position parallel to the body.

The Twos

The twos are easier to describe.  Because they are traveling in pairs, they rarely suffer from the same speed and directional challenges of the individuals.  However, their place at one end of the spectrum or the other will determine whether their speed is impeded in other ways, particularly by the constant recalibration of one or both pair members strides.  Because there are multiples, a slow pair can be a particularly difficult obstacle to traverse.

The Couple

The Couple is your best pair to deal with.  They may be holding hands, walking arm in arm, or be otherwise connected while making forward progress.  This connection will usually ensure not only a consistent forward speed but also, generally, a straight line.  A Couple that is comfortable with one another will often go at a normal speed, each maintaining the same speed with the other and, therefore, moving at a normal commuter speed.  The only caution is that a sudden stop and amorous activity may require you to quickly veer around them.

The Friends

Less accustomed to walking together, the Friends are often recalibrating their steps to one another.  Since this is usually done silently, politely, it means that they are not coordinating these changes.  The Friends may sometimes meander as one or another of them attempts to avoid being touched accidentally, or in faux deference or chivalry, causing commuters behind them to bunch or flow in unexpected ways.

Fortunately, Friends can be buffaloed a bit by getting too far into their personal space.  Since they will then be in the potential position of accidentally touching both you and the other part of their Friend pair, they will usually drop back or speed up, creating a file from a rank, and opening up some commuting space.

The Hierarchy

This can be the slowest of the paired commuters.  The Hierarchy involves someone higher up in the company walking with someone lower down.  The lower status Hierarchy member will attempt to constantly recalibrate to the higher status Hierarchy member’s pace.  If the two Hierarchy pair members are equal height, this can mean a relatively normal pace.  However, height differences or sartorial and footwear choices may cause unexpected speed changes.  Also, higher status Hierarchy members may also be Neckus Crampus specimens, contributing to a hybrid commuter obstacle that is impervious to the “buttercup” salute.

Needless to say, the urban jungle is alive and well with a variety of commuting specimens.  Fortunately, math can assist in determining the likelihood of being stuck behind one or identifying the vector by which you can escape.

David Whelan

I improve information access and lead information teams. My books on finding information and managing it and practicing law using cloud computing reflect my interest in information management, technology, law practice, and legal research. I've been a library director in Canada and the US, as well as directing the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center. I speak and write frequently on information, technology, law library, and law practice issues.