When I lived in New York City in 2000, I walked everywhere. And in a city of over 8 million people, the streets were almost always packed with pedestrians. Before the ubiquity of mobile phones, most New Yorkers getting from point A to point B during this time kept a steady stride, with their heads up. Sometimes, people would even make eye contact with another passerby. There was a camaraderie amongst the crowds of people walking around the city, whether for leisure or commuting purposes.
When I went back in 2018, I noticed a stark difference in pedestrians’ behavior. Most were glued to their devices, failing to look up to check the walk signal when crossing the street, oblivious to the honking yellow taxis and gasping city busses just inches from them. The mom in me had to refrain from grabbing a stranger nearly stepping into oncoming traffic at a crosswalk with their head down.
Impairment doesn’t only apply to those with varied physical or mental abilities. If being “impaired means to function poorly or inadequately, it applies to all of us in certain circumstances, especially in modern times. And temporary impairment is real. When we are busy answering a text or searching for nearby restaurant and we walk head-first into metal pole, we are temporarily impaired. Thus, before we reach for our phones when it dings as we drive through a busy intersection, it’s good to remind ourselves about this occurrence and that we decide whether we will let it happen to us.
If we don't look people in the eye once in a while, even strangers on the street, we we may miss the nuance of a caring glance, the possibility for even the slightest connection as humans trying to get somewhere in the world.