Walking in Groups

I watched a couple of episodes of this show House of Lies, and it got me thinking about something. There are four main characters. The show is chock full of scenes that feature all four people walking. They stroll through the airport, the company hallways, the street, wherever. You get the point. The thing is, they somehow always find a way to walk side by side by side by side. Four people across.

In all my walking experience I have yet to find a way to walk comfortably three people abreast. The real world presents too many obstacles for this to happen. Walkways can be narrow, packed and hard to navigate. Oftentimes nimble movements are required.

I think pathways are meant to accommodate couples, not groups of three, and never in a million years a group of four. There would be chaos if a group really tried to walk through an airport the way they do on House of Lies. An agitated mob would form behind them until some disgruntled person could not take it any longer and began to shove his way through the line. People would fight, security would be called in, and those four intrepid management consultants would never get to their destination on time.

Furthermore, it is just not feasible for the 2 people on the outer edges of the four man line to exchange witty banter with each other. That much distance creates confusion. I wish the people on the show would fall into proper formation with the alpha people taking the lead and the more meek pairing falling back. Two neat rows of two.

I actually have experienced a fair amount of anxiety with regards to where I am positioned when walking with a group. I prefer to walk fast, and this can get me into trouble. If I am not engaged in a conversation I will sometimes look back to see that I have left the other people a good 20 paces behind. This is usually due to the fact that it can be hard to find a walking buddy when there is a big pack going somewhere all at once. Meeting up with a group where you know a couple of people very well but the rest are strangers can be a recipe for disaster.

When walking time comes, the people I know will inevitably get caught up talking to someone who is not me. This leaves me in the position of trying to shoehorn my way into a friends conversation, but from behind their walking line, or setting out to find my own walking buddy. Sometimes I will drop back from my initial position to see if I can surreptitiously fall in line with some other people, but it is usually awkward to latch on to a pair and finding a single is difficult. I eventually will get to talking with someone about something tremendously boring until I can’t handle the slow pace and monotonous prattle so I make up a reason to migrate elsewhere. At that point I generally just walk ahead of everyone and wait at the destination.

That is all separate from the dynamic of walking with a group of 3 people who are pretty good to close friends. There is a strong aversion to being the person in the back among such a contingent. It kind of makes each step a tiny slap in the face. The two people in front might as well be saying “we like you, we just like you BACK THERE. You will never be as close as us upfront people.  Actually, we can hardly hear what you are saying due to our upfront positioning and our raucous laughter at jokes that you can’t quite make out.” The person in back is relegated to chiming in during lulls. He hopes for a sidewalk obstruction or other impediment that allows him to slide into pole position.

But, on rare occasions, the person in back is so clueless about where he stands socially that he will make his way to the front only to find that the other 2 have dropped behind him. That my friends, is a low point. You have deluded yourself into thinking that you were in the rear because of some twist of fate. The truth is that you are simply the less desirable walking partner, and no amount of shoulder jockeying or interjecting is going to change that. It will never be verbally acknowledged, and it can never be proven without a doubt, but you are an ostracized walker and you are going to have to come to terms with that.

Basically, walking as a group of three is the worst. As long as you utilize a two by two formation, four is the perfect number. Just like when you are at a theme park. There is always another person to ride with on the roller coaster of conversation.


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