Zombieland: The curse of Wash. U.’s slow walkers

| Senior Forum Editor

Around 2 p.m. every day I make the trek up the Danforth University Center staircase to the third floor to eat my lunch in solitude. The peace and quiet of the Student Life office is my solace at the end the day. As I carry my quesadilla up the stairs, I constantly find myself plagued by my proximity to the slowest walkers at Washington University. They take the stairs at a one-step-per-hour rate (or at least that’s what it feels like) and zigzag across the steps as if there’s no possibility anyone is behind them. When I walk outside, more of the same: Everywhere I look, it seems like everyone is in a zombie-like trance. Either glued to their phones or simply lacking urgency, everyone seems to be moving incredibly slowly.

I am also guilty of texting while walking, because, you know, sometimes there’s important gossip to spread, things to do, Instagram posts to check. But, when I do this, I feel like I keep a fairly even split between my attention devoted to my phone and my attention devoted to keeping my eyes on the pathway in front of me. Sometimes people stop dead still in the middle of a stairway or narrow walkway. How do they not notice that one, there are other people around, and two, that they’re no longer moving? Even when I say “excuse me” and try to move around them, there’s no reaction.

Whenever I bring up how people are on their phones too often I sound like my mother. But really; it’s crazy. A recent study found that young adults spend an average of five hours per day on their phones, or about one-third of their waking hours. The total time per week really adds up. If the average person spends 35 hours per week on their phone, that’s more than twice the amount of time a person taking 15 credit hours spends in class.

Not only is it (probably) wasting a ton of their time—in addition to mine as I struggle to speed to class—but studies have shown that an estimated 1,500 pedestrians per year are sent to the emergency room for injuries stemming from cell phone usage while walking. The most common age range of people affected? 16 to 25, or about the age range of prodigies to graduate students at Wash. U. Did you hear that, texters? You could have to get Emergency Support Team services called on you for, like, the ultimate most embarrassing reason. A different study showed that people using their phones while walking were 61 percent more likely to stray from their course and 13 percent more likely to overshoot their target than when they chose to walk without distractions. So, not only are you at a higher risk of injury, but you’re more likely to walk past Rebstock Hall, realize you’re already at Wilson Hall and have to embarrassingly quickly double back to make it to Introduction to Microeconomics on time.

I’m not alone in this frustration: One New Jersey lawmaker tried to pass a bill that would fine anyone caught crossing the street while texting $50 and add the possibility of jail time. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) lists “distracted walking” as a public health threat on their website, and the chair of the AAOS was quoted as saying, “Today, more and more people are falling down stairs, tripping over curbs and other streetscapes and, in many cases, stepping into traffic.” I can only assume the events occur on a scale of increasing threat level: First you block me by stopping in the middle of the pathway, another day fall down a couple stairs, no big deal, then you trip over a curve, but you’re still OK, and then you walk right into traffic, raising the risk of serious injury. Better to be safe than sorry, so how about we all agree to hold off on texting until you absolutely reach ultimate boredom levels in class.

As a busy, stressed college student, I understand the importance of multitasking. I, too, have watched videos for class on the walk to that very same class. But, if it really is necessary to stand stock-still and finish sending a text, please, at least move to the side of the pathway. For all of our sakes.