I read while I walk. I think I’ve mentioned this before. It’s one of my quirks. I know that a lot of people find it extremely strange. I suppose I can understand that, but honestly, I don’t see how different it is from walking while listening to music. Lots of people, and I among them, walk from place to place with earphone wires dangling around their face, leading from their ears to a pocket or a bag. This is considered quite normal for this day and age. Now that we have the ability to have music in our pockets wherever we go, we do so.
Well, books have been around a lot longer than iPods. They’re also a form of entertainment, in addition to being a source of knowledge for the reader and a method of organizing it for the writer. So why is it so strange that I read while I walk?
I’m not unreasonable. I know why people look askance at me when I do so. They think I can’t see where I’m going; they think I’m going to knock into someone; they think I can’t possibly take in anything I read when I do it in that fashion. I can address each one of these concerns. First, I have terrific peripheral vision. Maybe it’s developed because of my little habit or maybe I had it before, but I can promise you that I very rarely stumble while reading, nor do I hit lampposts or trees. Second, because I have good peripheral vision, I also notice people, and rarely knock into anyone. I can honestly say that the times I’ve bumped into people while I was reading is exactly the same as when I was simply distracted, walking too fast or had misjudged the distance between me and someone else. It’ happens to everyone, right? Third, and finally, I read slower while I walk. I do sometimes need to read a line over. But why is it anyone else’s concern how much I take in while I’m reading?
Now, my detractors may think other things as well, but I’m not sure what. Do they think it’s simply too nerdy to read all the time? Do they think it’s just so very strange to see a young woman with black rings in her lips and a book in hand? I’m not sure. Frankly, I don’t care.
What I do care about, and I’ve discussed this here before as well, is the comments I need to receive. Even saying it’s the strangest, oddest, most bizarre thing in the world to be doing – why does that give people the right to comment on it to my face? They can talk behind my back about the strange girl all they want. But what gives them the right to ask me, mockingly of course, “What chapter are you on?” or demand, mockingly of course, “How about you read some of it aloud?”
Of course, there’s the whole issue of my pierced lips – those draw many inappropriate, and to my mind, unneeded comments as well, but that’s for a whole other post, some other day. The reason I chose to write, yet again, about my habit of reading while I walk is because I received the most offensive comment I’ve ever gotten today, one that made me so furious that it put tears of rage and hurt in my eyes and made me actually yell back a retort.
I was walking to the mall, bag slung over my back with my tiny laptop in it, on my way to Aroma, one of the major coffee-shop chains in Israel. I’ve recently discovered their delicious ice-espressos, to which I add some milk and turn into delicious ice-coffees that aren’t sweet or too milky. The apartment was getting oppressive, and I didn’t manage to write there, so Sir B. F. came up with the idea that I may want to come here – and indeed, here I am, writing a too-long blog post as part of my write-two-hours-a-day goal.
As I was walking, I had my book out. Funny enough, it was actually “The Mandolin Case” – a book by fellow blogger Dr. Tom Bibey. I was in the middle of a particularly exciting part, and I was waiting to see just what that “sumbitch” Olden was going to try now and how he was going to get out of his newest predicament, when I noticed, as I always do, someone walking from the opposite direction. I moved aside automatically and kept reading. As he passed, this fat, balding man who was wearing shorts and sunglasses said the following:
“Someone should give you a slap ’round the face and maybe then you’ll learn not to read when you walk.”
I literally stopped with shock, and I felt my stomach clench so hard it felt like a rock had taken up lodging in my abdomen. Someone should hit me so I won’t read while I walk?! If you can believe it, my throat is closing up right now and I feel tears prickling my eyes again, which is embarrassing as I’m in a public place with families, toddlers and businesspeople all around. How dare he?! How can someone say that? I was so furious that I yelled back, my voice breaking.
“Are you saying you want to slap me? Have you no shame?” This is a rough translation from the Hebrew – if any of you know the term chutzpa, then what I said was “Are you saying you want to hit me? What chutzpa!”
He yelled back something about it not being him who wanted to hit me, just that someone should, but I’d already turned away by then and had started walking, sticking my nose back in my book but seeing red rather than black on white.