Miss Conduct

Advice: Is it rude to pass a slow walker?

When I zip by someone who is infirm or elderly, I feel guilty.

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If you’re walking (and maybe in a hurry), and someone is walking in front of you, very slowly, clearly due to age or injury, is it rude to pass them? I always feel like I’m making the discrepancy between their labored walking and my able-bodied speed painfully obvious. I’m hoping you’ll give me permission to pass them without guilt.

S.H./South Dennis

I too am a fast walker, and have felt keenly self-conscious when briskly bypassing those less fleet of foot. I realized that this was intellectually absurd — if we were to treat this as a universal rule like Kant’s categorical imperative says, everyone would be shuffling along at the pace set by the slowest individual. Just when you thought your commute couldn’t get any worse! But I also couldn’t speed walk away from the feeling that I was doing something vaguely rude.

What got me over it was an inflamed tendon in my left foot that turned me into one of the Slow Walkers for most of July and August. Not once did I take the briskness of others as a reproach or affront. Mostly, I was grateful to them for getting out of my way. I hope this helps!


Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.