“Sidewalk Rage” Is Serious Business
According to some psychologists, the feelings of anger and impotence that arise from being stuck in heavy foot traffic aren’t just run-of-the-mill frustration: They may be part of a broader complex of emotions which the Wall Street Journal refers to as “sidewalk rage.” (Though presumably, it would also apply to being stuck behind slow-walking people in hallways and closed public spaces.) There’s even something called the “Pedestrian Aggressiveness Syndrome Scale” which measures the depth of people’s ambulatory anger.
Not everyone exhibits sidewalk rage equally, however:
Signs of a sidewalk rager include muttering or bumping into others; uncaringly hogging a walking lane; and acting in a hostile manner by staring, giving a “mean face” or approaching others too closely, says Leon James, a psychology professor at the University of Hawaii who studies pedestrian and driver aggression.
Some ragers say that thinking insulting thoughts about other pedestrians serves as “mental venting”—and makes them feel better. Even if it does provide some momentary relief, such thinking rehearses bad behavior and can make anger a more automatic reaction to these situations, says Dr. James.
A few somewhat helpful suggestions: Be more alert for openings to walk around others, and try to think kind or at least sympathetic thoughts about those inconsiderate jerks.