Occasionally though, I’m pleasantly surprised by someone who actually does practice proper awareness. Last weekend, I was walking in a forest preserve. As always, I made note of whether or not the other people I encountered gave some signal that they noticed me. Some did, giving a polite “hello” or simply nodding in recognition. Others, too many in my view, gave no indication of recognition, instead staring rigidly at the ground in front of them.
Eventually, because I normally walk at a rather fast pace, I found myself gradually catching up to a woman walking in front of me in the same direction. She was perhaps mid-30s, athletically built, and walking in a confident, purposeful manner. I also noted that she held her cell phone in her left hand and something else in her right hand.
Whenever other oncoming walkers passed her, I noticed that she turned her head toward them and nodded — unambiguously acknowledging their presence. But the behavior that pleased me most was that, as I was perhaps 25 yards from her, she very conspicuously turned her head to check out who was behind her. She smiled, I smiled back, and we both nodded.
As it turned out, only a few minutes later we both reached the parking lot where our respective cars were parked. As she opened the door to her car, which was a couple of spaces down from mine, she said in a pleasant tone, “Enjoy the rest of your day.” I replied, “You, too. By the way, good job checking to see who was behind you back there. I teach self-defense and I see too many women who don’t pay attention. Stay safe.” She held up her can of pepper spray for me to see and smiled, “Always do!”