Selfish couples refusing to walk single file are putting us all at risk

Since the lockdown came into effect, I’ve really looked forward to my ‘one-a-day’ exercise outside.

I wander my local streets aimlessly and walk at least 10 miles a day – using it as a chance to switch off from the onslaught of coronavirus news and worrying about the state of the world.

My walks aren’t only a great way to zone out while listening to music and podcasts, but a chance to reconnect with family and friends on the phone via WhatsApp or Facebook messenger as it gives me an element of privacy that living in a shared house does not always afford.  

Unfortunately, there’s a trend I’ve noticed on my lengthy strolls which has infuriated me. It’s the fact that the majority of couples will not make room on the pavement for me to be able to pass at the mandated two metres.

There are so many couples who refuse to walk single file for the fleeting few seconds it takes for us to walk past each other.

Instead, they seem adamant to remain joined at the hip – quite literally – rather than making space for others.

Even on some very narrow footpaths couples can’t seem to separate, which often leaves me no option but to walk on the road even if my back is to the traffic.

When it happened the first couple of times, I put it down to people just being a bit inconsiderate or ignorant of guidelines.

But when it started happening consistently, I knew I was on to something.

It seemed couples of all ages and genders were guilty. It left me conflicted when a same-sex couple proudly took up the entire pavement, forcing me to press myself against a gate to get far enough away from them.

I wanted to cheer for them because they could triumphantly hold hands openly in our south east London suburb, but it was also poor form that their love trumped my safety.

At one point I took to pretending to photograph oncoming couples, which it turns out, is a sure fire method to get people scuttling out of your way.

Don’t worry, I hated myself too for resorting to this tactic and thought it might be high time for me to get an asymmetrical fringe and change my name by deed poll to Karen.

I hypothesised – based on an age-old stereotype – that it’s because society does not value single people

I’ve started going out less for my walks because I found myself both getting really worked up at the sense of entitlement and lack of consideration shown by these couples, but also really anxious about them willing to put us all at risk.

I had convinced myself I was overreacting and my complaining was just becoming of a bitter old spinster.

But the more I shared my thoughts on social media, the more I realised people were as passionate about this as I was.

‘Drives me up the wall,’ one person replied to me on Twitter when I asked if anyone else noticed this phenomenon.

Another added: ‘Yes! It’s so irritating.’

Meanwhile, one quipped that couples shouldn’t fear going single file for a few seconds would lead to the demise of their relationship.

However, for Becca Peel, a Nottingham based PR strategist, the issue became a matter of life or death when a car almost hit her as she dodged a couple who refused to unlink their hands.

‘I left my flat to go for my exercise, I saw a couple coming towards me on the road, so I crossed the road as not to walk past them,’ she told me.

‘As soon as I crossed the road, they also crossed, despite the nearest shop being around a kilometre up the road. They didn’t separate to go single file as I came up to them, just stared at me while holding hands, so I had to walk on the road to get past them.’

Becca and I agreed that for the most part people are great at social distancing, but I couldn’t help but keep stewing over why couples refused to go single file – especially after one friend, who is in a relationship, admitted that she’d noticed other couples only seemed to refuse to make space for her when she was walking solo.

I hypothesised – based on an age-old stereotype – that it’s because society does not value single people, especially single women, as much as those in heterosexual partnerships. And that hurts.

I also presumed those couples unwilling to move are smugly loved-up and as a result, believed they’re entitled to take up more space.

Psychologists call this mindset normative idealisation, with researchers at the University of Stanford and University of Waterloo carrying out research that showed couples do indeed feel better off than us lowly singletons.

But those same researchers also found the reason couples who are judgemental of others with a different marital status to theirs is because they’re generally unhappy with their own set-up and feel trapped.

So next time I pass a couple unwilling to make space for me, I’ll take solace in the fact they are probably just really miserable.

It beats thinking they’re inconsiderate prats who don’t care about anyone but themselves.

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