Betrayed by a walk

They say that somewhere between 55 and 93% of communication is non-verbal, but I wonder how much of this is information we’d actually like to communicate.

This morning a 20-something year-old woman walked past and made me do a double take. She was dressed all in black, lank black hair across her white face, black lipstick and piercings on her mouth and headphones in her ears. However she was walking with a bounce in her step that took me by surprise, being so different from her image.

She was waking with a Shaggy walk. To explain, she was walking the way your body involuntarily walks when listening to Shaggy’s ‘In the Summertime’. I’m no expert on goth culture, but I don’t think this is typical, or at all ‘cool’ listening. Her body language gave away the shameful secret that she tried to hide with carefully chosen earplugs and volume selection.

I encountered a similar juxtaposition between a person’s appearance and the music they were listening to last week. On the bus a teenager sat next to me, wearing a school uniform with the shirt untucked and trousers down low. He looked cool, in a heavily-influenced-by-hip-hop kind of way. However when he sat down he sort of froze, and adopted a vacant expression, giving nothing away. Soon some familiar notes from his ipod drifted over to my ears. He was listening to ‘Never Had a Dream Come True’ by S Club 7.

I can only guess that his hardened exterior, along with the tall, purposeful strides he took when disembarking the bus, was a front to hide the sugary 90s/00s pop that flowed for the next 20 minutes. This I call the Tweeny walk.

Other walks exist all over London, broadcasting the music being listened to as clearly as if the people had slung boomboxes over their shoulders and turned them up to eleven.

The women’s walk with heads down, swinging shopping bags, I call the Sinead, as it suggests to me that they are listening to ‘Nothing Compares to You’ by Sinead O’Connor. Although this could also be a reaction to ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Kate Bush or any Kelly Clarkson song in the younger generation.

Men with shiny shoes who manage to walk without appearing to make any movement are obviously listening to Coldplay – this walk is called the Accountant.

On the B-side to this is the R-Kelly – a walk done by men and women, slow and with a wiggle best suited to those with shapely hips and bums. The extra dose of rhythm in the R-Kelly walk must have been taken from the next two.

The tall men with big irregular strides and heads that flop side to side exhibit the classic Slayer. These men (and sometimes tiny women) walk with no discernable rhythm or direction as the beats by Dragonforce and other Metal bands are far too fast to walk to.

Finally, an all too common walk is the Radio 2 – the yawn, waiting too long at traffic lights and crossing roads slowly – caused by a desire to try to listen to news and political debates against the noise of London traffic.

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