There are people who long to be noticed. These are the people who, on seeing a person (such as me) walking along the left hand side of a pavement quietly reading a book, set themselves on a collision course.
Some of them are there accidentally. They were there before they saw me. They just like to walk on a particular side of a path.
Others change paths deliberately. I have seen them do this. They start on the right and then veer over to the left when they see me approaching.
I sometimes veer over to the other side just to avoid them. At other times, I stay on my predetermined course just to see what will happen.
Often, all it takes is for me to look up from my book just before we crash into each other for them to veer suddenly away. I sense that they are waiting for me to notice them. Daring me to ignore them. Once I have acknowledged them, they are content to move – their mission accomplished.
If I don’t look up in time, they still veer, but not quite enough. The cloth of their shoulder will touch the cloth of mine, or our shoulders will bump gently. This is their way of announcing that they exist.
Some are determined to announce their existence more forcibly. A pair of women regularly took up the entire pavement with their plump and presence. I was forced to either move onto the road, or turn sideways in the narrow space to the side of their importance.
One fine day, one of them was carrying a shopping bag. I timed it precisely. The backswing of my shin in harmony with the foreswing of the bag meant that I connected softly. The foreswing of my leg combined with the momentum of the backswing of her bag was perfect.
I did not look back as her groceries described an arc that would have reached the height of her shoulder.
I doubt that she looked back as she brought her bag back under control. But maybe, just maybe, she would think twice about how much space to leave for her fellow travellers.
For I am important too.