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Reading Makes You Walk Funny

January 31, 2014
Don't read while you walk, or this could happen to you.

Don’t read while you walk, or this could happen to you. (image via Wikimedia)

Even though I sometimes read in public, I rarely walk while I read. To me, it’s common sense.  The world is a dangerous place, and I could easily walk in front of a moving bus while I’m reading, or I could get conked on the head by a mugger.  I always knew reading and walking at the same time was a bad idea, but now I’ve discovered that it’s even worse than I originally thought.

According to a study reported in USA Today, people who read or text while walking don’t walk normally.  They develop a weird stride, almost like they’re drunk.  That explains why people who stare at their phones while walking (I call them phone tools when I’m feeling judgmental) run into stuff and fall down.  Even when they’re not falling down, they’re in danger of falling down.

I don’t need to text or read in order to fall down while walking.  I am capable of tripping over cracks in the sidewalk, twigs on the ground, loose shoe laces, or air.  I’ve never tripped while running.  Then again, I hate running, so I don’t do it much, but I’ve never tripped when I’ve been running.  Maybe I should read or text while I run and see what happens.

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I was told at a very early age that I walked funny.  Even before I hit puberty, I was told I walked funny.  If people had started telling me during puberty that I walked funny, I would have had a logical explanation for them, but I don’t want to get into that now (I’m not that kind of blogger).  I don’t have any memories of me reading while I learned to walk.  I guess I was simply blessed with a unique stride.

I won’t read and walk because I don’t want to fall down.  Most of my fears are kind of vague or abstract (something horrible happening to my family, that kind of thing), but I’m afraid of falling down.  I’m the type of person who doesn’t laugh at the old lady who yells “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!!” in the commercials.  I have no problem mocking poorly-acted misfortune, but I can see myself being that person who has fallen down (just not the “lady” part). I’m the type who can fall down, and I’d yell “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up,” and everybody around me would laugh.  I’ve known people just a little older than me who have fallen down, and it messed them up for a long time.  Falling down is no joke, even if it’s posted online.  If reading and walking increases the chance of that happening to me, forget it.

I also don’t want to be one of those guys who falls down on YouTube.  I don’t like providing free entertainment for people I don’t know.  The only reason I write for free on Dysfunctional Literacy is because I like writing.  I hate falling down, and I don’t want people getting free entertainment from me doing something that I hate doing.  I don’t even want to get paid for falling down.  It’s bad enough that I walk funny when I don’t even read, but I’m not going to walk funny and read and then fall down, and then give somebody else who recorded it a few million hits.  That would tick me off.

If we walk like we’re drunk when we read and walk, does that mean we text like we’re drunk when we text and walk?    That would really hurt my feelings.  It would be embarrassing enough to fall into a hole while I was texting, but I’d really be ashamed if I left out an apostrophe in my text.  I also hope I don’t read like I’m drunk.  If I’m taking my life into my own hands while reading and walking at the same time, I at least want to remember what I read.  Then again, I don’t remember much of what I read anyway, so walking probably wouldn’t affect my comprehension that much.

I can understand why people want to read/text while they walk.  Walking can be boring sometimes.  The mind can wander, and reading/texting is a productive way to pass time.  But I don’t understand the text/read while driving mentality.  Driving is way more dangerous than walking.  I’d never read a book while driving (not even while sitting at a light), and I’d never write anything, so I don’t understand the drivers who would never read a book or write a letter while driving but would text while driving.  Yeah, I know to them, texting is like talking and people talk on the phone (that’s kind of dangerous too), but texting isn’t talking at all, even if you use a phone for it.  Texting is writing, and I’d never write while I’m driving.  I wouldn’t even write while I’m walking.

Nobody tells me that I walk funny anymore.  I probably still do, but I’m older, and maybe people my age are expected to walk funny now.  Either that, or there are so many young people walking funny because they’re reading or texting that I don’t get noticed anymore.  That’s very liberating, to know that I can walk as funny as I want now, and nobody will care.  Thank you technology, and a special thank you to the youngsters who misuse it!


If you’re going to read while you walk, you might as well read something light and easy.

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  1. Jimmy, I hope you don’t disapprove- but I just read your blog, and am now commenting- while driving.

    My 10 year old is making sure I don’t get into any fender benders, so it’s all good.

    • Well (without going into lecture mode), I think it’s better if you had your 10-year-old read to you while you drive. Or maybe you should have your 10-year-old drive while you read. I hope you got home okay. Now I’m kind of worried.

      • Jimmy, that’s so sweet of you to worry.

        I stopped trying to read while driving after the booze kicked in. The letters got all fuzzy.

  2. I’m quite accomplished at read-walking (books) and never fall down or bump into things. I should add I don’t generally read-walk where there’s people, or traffic, or hidden ninja tripwires…

  3. I read while I walk sometimes, usually if I’m reading on the bus and get off and am at a good part. I’ll have to ask someone if I walk like I’m drunk while I’m doing it.

  4. Mythoughts76 permalink

    I guess reading while walking is what came before texting and walking.. into a fountain, or the path of a car,,

  5. Oh gosh, I actually tripped and cracked the bone in one of my toes once because I was checking my cell phone while walking down the stairs. Several years later I fell off a bike and literally couldn’t get up (was in a cast for the next several months)…I wasn’t reading at the time but this is just to further your point about how falling is no laughing matter (maybe that’s what I get for having once laughed at the grandma in that commercial…).

  6. I nearly walked onto the wrong escalator today while reading on my phone. My friend stopped me before I became YouTube material.



    • That’s a brilliant solution, having a friend with you while you read and walk. Just make sure your friend isn’t reading while walking too.

  7. I don’t mind readling outside, but I can’t read while walking, I trip over things enough without that. I used to read on the bus home from school and on occasion missed my stop because I was so engrossed in my book.

  8. I broke a bone in my foot stepping off a curb. I can’t even talk and walk at the same time.

  9. sassybookworm permalink

    I’m one if those people who just naturally fall over – I don’t even need to be reading whilst walking! That’s the reason why I carry around my own personal fist aid kit! My friends think I’m crazy, but I think it’s a necessary measure of safety! Such an entertaining read thank you!

  10. Reading and walking: I read and walked in Berkeley for 13 years. People who observed me were amazed I performed this feat without accident or mishap. I stopped at streets; I didn’t trip on uneven pavement. I read about 45 books a year while walking, most than 5,000,000 words.
    I miss that physical activity and the education it gave me.

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