The Old Coot is a stride expert

Old coots, like me, hang out on the sidelines and study human nature. We’re obsessed; we’re professional people watchers. We used to be doers, now we’re 10% doers, 90% watchers. 

As a result, I’ve concluded that no two people walk alike. Everyone has a unique stride, just like they have a unique set of fingerprints. There are two-arm swingers, one-arm swingers, and people who don’t swing their arms at all. Some walk on their toes, others on their heels, and some do a little of both.  

The list of variations is endless, but it all boils down to a dozen or so components that, in various combinations, determine a person’s stride. 

They include a body tilt to the left or right; arm swings – double, single, wild, or with a hip slap; giant steps or mini steps; a hop step on one foot or the other; a duck waddle; a knee catch, and the list goes on. 

After you see someone walk a few times you can tell who it is at a distance, a distance safe enough to engage your fight or flight mechanism. This innate skill has been genetically with us since we lived in caves; it helped us identify a member of a hostile tribe. Now, it’s used by a lot of people to avoid old coots, particularly the ones who talk your ear off about their latest physical ailments if you mistakenly ask, “How are you doing?”  

I’m not alone; a lot of my elderly friends switch to a description of a person’s walking style if they have difficulty coming up with the person’s name. 

“You know who I’m talking about,” one of them might say. “That guy who lives in the Flats, who tilts his head to the left, swings his right arm, holds his left hand on his hip and has an ankle jiggle in his right foot.” 

We then know exactly whom he’s talking about. We can’t come up with his name either, but at least with the stride description, we don’t have to endure long pauses in conversations when someone’s memory malfunctions. 

If you see an old guy walking around with a tilt to the left, doesn’t walk in a straight line, carrying a paper coffee container and wearing a messenger bag across his shoulder; that’s me. Gawking around, watching people instead of where I’m going. 

Say, Hi,” but don’t ask me how I’m doing. (Unless you want an earful.)

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