Just Pause

Have you ever tried to cross through a line of elementary school children? It is well nigh impossible. They squirm and contort to get past you no matter your polite words or your heavy load.
I am at an age to be a nascent curmudgeon, so I have given some thought to this phenomenon. I am not upset and I know they are sweet kids, but I do wish someone would teach them how to pause the line. It will only take a quick moment, I am thinking, for me or whoever to slip through, and then they can close up the line like fish streaming through water, as if they were never disturbed.
But that is not what happens. Otherwise happy to lag behind and leave long gaps in the line, all of a sudden children look frantically to the child in front, and will scurry to fill in and prevent the crossing. What are they thinking? I wonder. I expect I know. They are not looking down from above but are caught in their own head, forging ahead to the destination. They are at an ego-centric age, after all. It is understandable.
Yet I want to teach them to know when to pause, just as we teach them to go up the right side of the staircase and down the right side of the staircase. To make the travel smooth for everyone, to eliminate unnecessary conflict. It’s the simplest of social contracts. Just notice that other person and pause for a moment, it won’t hurt.
And then I muse about adults who don’t outgrow that tendency, adults who persistently cut off the “other.” To hit the doorway first, get off the subway car first, or to proceed driving tight in the line of traffic without letting anyone in. Perhaps even to speed up, to prevent any entrance.
I also know that this tendency can be studied and frequency attributed to certain groups. Men. White people. Women and people of color know when to pause…
Shorten your step, move a little slower, or stop for just a moment, to let the other barrel through, go forward.
If you ask the person going first through the door they will be supremely unaware of what has happened. Of course they got there first, it just happened that way. There is no noticing the almost imperceptible, perhaps almost unconscious … pause… the other has offered them.
Can we look at the other person? Can we notice who is carrying the heavier load, who is limping, who needs a door held, who is getting close to their highway exit? Can we learn to all swim together like a school of fish, with barely a ripple as we slide in and out of where we need to go?

Fish swim in stream by Qianfo Mountain in east China, ecns.cn.

Some sources for sex differences, adults. The racial observations are my own anecdotal observations.

2 thoughts on “Just Pause

  1. I am so glad you posted your “line” reflections. (and just moments after I posted!) I like your ending with the fish metaphor and the photo! I’ll be thinking your post as I monitor the halls at school today! Have a lovely day as you count down to Spain!!


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