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The Physics of Spanish Ambulation

23 April 2008
by

This post finds us once again revisiting the beguiling walking habits of Spaniards. As you can see from previous posts, this is truly a major point of concern for us; one which we are driven, if not to rectify before leaving this glorious country, at least to understand in greater depth.

Today we made a big leap toward the latter, as we had the revelation that the seeming unconscious tendencies of Spaniards to walk in quite possibly the most annoying ways possible are exactly that: unconscious. Rather, they are the result of natural selection induced by the Mediterranean climate and the physics thereby associated.

Allow me to rise out of my overly complex Hawking chair and speak frankly: basically, we figure it works like this: Spain is freakin’ hot for most of the year, right? What don’t you wanna do when it’s hot out? Move, right? Well, at least not rapidly. So that means for the last, I dunno, 10,000 years, Spaniards have been moving slowly so as not to break a sweat and stain the armpits of their very classy silk blouses, making today’s Spaniards really, really slow.

Now, if you recall from your 8th grade science classes—you know the ones that introduced you to physics through the then-seemingly-cool metaphors of the Spinning Bicycle Wheel and the Mousetrap Car (ok, Mousetrap Cars are still cool)—things that move tend to build up inertia and continue to move in the manner in which they started moving. And the faster things move, the greater their inertia, and hence, the more likely they are to keep going in the same direction (this is, of course, a very dumbed-down, graphic designer’s explanation of physics, and assumes that there are no forces acting to counteract the initial force). At any rate, the converse would be (other than a classic shoe), that slow moving objects are more easily diverted from their paths. Hence, rapidly moving Americans are able to maintain a steady course and speed down the right sight of the sidewalk, whilst slower moving Spaniards are subject to the same forces that cause the Spinning Bicycle Wheel of yore to wobble and fall over. Thus, slowly ambulating Spaniards are more prone to non-linear courses of travel, thereby resulting in their continual incursions into our comparatively straight vectors.

This phenomenon is exacerbated by the physics of mass and gravity, which, we have come to realize, helps explain the tendency of ambulating Spaniards approaching from the opposite direction to suddenly veer into us and attempt to pass on the right, while those traveling in the same direction will pass on the left with as little physical clearance as possible. As an additional result of the aforementioned Mediterranean natural selection yielding ever-more-slowly moving Spaniards, said Spaniards are also generally smaller folk, as smaller folk tend to not get as hot. That also means that compared to larger objects, they’re less dense. 6-foot-plus Americans, on the other hand, are, in the case of Al, very hot, and of me, very dense, which means that together, our collective mass exerts a fairly strong gravitational pull. The smaller, less dense Spaniards are helpless in the face of these physical forces and since their slow-moving speed precludes them from having significant inertia to avoid being affected by our mass, they are thereby drawn to us in one capacity or another.

To put it plainly, we’re just too damn attractive and they just can’t help themselves.

Now, if we can just figure out how their sense of scale became so distorted as to think that a mother, her child and a stroller can fit through the personal space between Al and me (which, although we ARE Americans, is only about 3–6″), that would complete our scientific analysis of the crowd behaviors of the Spanish. I’m sure additional time in the field will yield further clarification. Stay tuned.

-bdmc, Ph.D.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. mme. hoolaha permalink
    24 April 2008 2:21 pm

    “Dr. MC, you are wanted in Ambulation.”

  2. Countess of Cava permalink
    25 April 2008 3:52 pm

    I simply hated physics in high school, but if the teacher had conversed with us in the same manner as MC, I think I might have at least laughed from time to time. I am also inclined to accept your theory as scientifically sound.

  3. Spirit of 73 permalink
    29 April 2008 10:03 pm

    You’re like Peter on the Family Guy: you’ve got your own gravitational pull!

    Just be careful you don’t cross Spaniards at an angle which will pull them permanently into orbit around you.

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