Another day, another rant about the mundane. As I have mentioned before, I work in a pretty large facility which boasts total employment into the thousands. This makes for a pretty large facility, which at any given time, can become jam-packed with people. So, having to navigate these during ‘rush hour’ can be difficult, especially for an awkward, people-phobe like me. I thought that I would jot down some of my observations and (what I assumed were) universal rules of navigation.
First of all, hallways navigate much like a highway. Unless you are passing someone, you should walk on the right hand side, unless in England (I assume), where you could feasibly walk on the left. This creates a semblance of order among your fellow hallway walkers and allows for proper walk speed anticipation and frees up lanes for passing, but we’ll get to that later.
Be aware that there is no such thing as a carpool lane in the hallway protocol. This means if you are walking side by side with someone, engaged in conversation perhaps or at least both heading together to the same destination, you must be double cognizant of blocking oncoming traffic. Pay attention to the people around you, and if you are blocking their right of way, be prepared to move or be subject to the hallway walker’s equivalent of a horn honk, which is a malicious glare or a brusque “Ex-CUSE me!” Egregious offenders are subject to the shoulder check, which must be used carefully to avoid a full on confrontation. The same should apply for larger groups. The rule of thumb should be the more people in your contingent which are walking side by side, the more aware and considerate you should be. If you’re blocking the entire hallway with your entourage, be ready to form a break in which you can allow oncoming traffic to continue unabated. Failure to do so is simply rude and most certainly will involve some kind of epic beat down. Ever heard of road rage, well, hallway rage is like a million times worse.
When it comes to passing, the protocol should be as follows: first, anticipate the oncoming hallway traffic walking speed and reduce your pace accordingly with enough time to make for a smooth transition. If you are the central-most walker, you are obligated to yield to oncoming traffic first. After slowing your pace, side-step behind the person in front of you. Should there be a larger group or a wheeled vehicle (stroller, cart or wheelchair), give a wider berth to avoid errant wheels and move further toward the wall in order to accommodate another person following this procedure. After the oncoming traffic has passed, move back to your original place by reversing the above steps. Or, alternately consider remaining behind the group if you anticipate more traffic.
Walking speed is imperative. Failure to anticipate a tailgater or otherwise swifter moving traffic will only elicit more wrath and hallway rage, which can range from mild stares of frustration all the way to snide mutterings under the person’s breath as they finally pass your inconsiderate self. Pick a speed and stick with it, and should you decide to move at a slower pace, technically categorized as Moseying, be ready to move aside for fast walkers like myself. Furthermore, try to walk in a straight line, anticipating your path as you move. Failure to do so is known formally as Meandering. Combining moseying and meandering alone in a hallway is fine, but as soon as someone else is around, you are playing with fire. For a fast walker, the Double M (as it’s known) is the most common way to incite Hallway Rage, so use with caution.
Passing someone in your own hallway lane is probably the most awkward of all situations because it first acknowledges that someone is a slowpoke, and rather than slowing your pace to an unacceptable speed (due to lateness or simple irritation with the Double M), you as a fast walker make a decision to move around the slowpoke. There are certain conditions that must accompany this technique for maximum potential for flawless execution. First, you should make some kind of indication that you are behind the person and coming up fast. Sometimes this is already taken care of by the wearing of bracelets or carrying of keys, however, a clearing of the throat is also acceptable. Just be sure it doesn’t come off as irritated, otherwise the slowpoke may incite their own Whippersnapper Rage and block your attempts to pass. It also works to fake answer a phone call with some urgency, which is almost a gimme when it comes to passing. If you answer a call with, “Hey, I’m on my way now,” you can pretty much break out into a dead run to pass someone. I would encourage you to use this technique sparingly, as it becomes suspicious in repeated situations.
Once you have established your position with regards to the slowpoke, determine the path of least resistance for your passing route. Ensure that you can make it to the correct points with enough personal space between you and the slowpoke, otherwise you risk startling them or worse yet, having to interact with them further than your obligatory “Excuse me.” I personally prefer the “Pardon me” to excuse me, as it sounds fancier and less annoyed. Make sure they can see you in their peripheral vision as you pass them, a good idea would be to make another small noise of some kind as you do so, just to give further indication of your position. Finally, definitely say “Excuse me” as you overtake them and continue. It’s just polite and goes a long way for the slowpoke to not think you’re a complete jerk who couldn’t wait two seconds to get where you were going.
Finally, our last reminder is to make eye contact at very minimum with everyone in oncoming traffic. You’re not obligated to have a whole conversation but it is always nice to acknowledge people with eye contact and a pleasant smile or greeting. I find that within 20 feet, you can meet someone’s gaze and say “hello.” I try to make the greeting time of day appropriate, such as Good Morning or Evening or whatever. Should someone ask how you are, which can happen, simply reply and return the question BEFORE you pass them. Carrying on a conversation after a person is passed will require you or them to turn around and thereby creating confusion and congestion. If you are on a cell phone, it is acceptable to simply make eye contact with the other person, although in some circumstances, it is sometimes acceptable to forgo this protocol should the conversation not allow for a break or if it is one of an upsetting nature.
Use these rules for friendlier hallway travelling and safe walking. Together we can create a nicer environment for walkers of all speeds and avoid any needless Hallway Rage incidents. After all, we’re not savages.