I did that thing the other day where you find yourself walking alongside a stranger in the street at the same pace. This time I saw it coming and yet there was nothing I could do to prevent it from happening.
I was strolling along, minding my own business, quite happy with myself and the world. I noticed a woman in front of me – about 10 paces. I noticed this because she had remained exactly 10 paces ahead of me for a while and I was wondering at what point she’d start to feel like I was stalking her.
Then there was the sudden stop. Old people do it when they’re winding their merry way down supermarket aisles. As I approached the woman I couldn’t quite work out what she had stopped to do – check her phone? Light a fag? I don’t know. And then, when I was about three paces short of catching her up, I suddenly realised what was going to happen.
She was going to set off walking from her standing position at the exact moment I got alongside her. It was inevitable. Nothing in the world was going to stop this from happening. I’d never been more certain of anything in all my life.
And so the moment I drew level she did indeed start walking – fag in hand, mouth skewed to one side releasing smoke from the initial drag. There was no gradual acceleration in her walking; she just went straight back into her previous stride. It was quite an achievement really.
It was a pretty narrow pavement so my immediate reaction was to consider speeding up. But then I thought, ‘why should I change my pace? I wasn’t the one who stopped to light a fag’. A glance out of the corner of my eye noted that she wasn’t remotely bothered by this awkward, side-by-side stranger strolling. Stupid woman.
So there we were, walking in tandem for about 20 seconds – which is about three hours in real time. It wasn’t a particularly busy street so to any uninformed passers by they’d probably think we knew each other. But just one quick glance at her face would be enough for you to know that I wouldn’t normally associate myself with such a fag smoking hag. Her face was so wrinkly it looked like a weather forecaster’s map when the isobars are squeezed together.
In the end I picked up the pace as I knew from the small information I held about her health that she wouldn’t be able to keep up. The embarrassment was ended.
Parallel plodding – I’m definitely not a fan.