It seems any time the concept of “situational awareness” comes up, someone eventually trots out a tired phrase about having my/your “head on a swivel”. As if situation awareness is about constantly rollicking your head back and forth.
The other night, Wife and I were on a dinner date. As we were leaving and about to exit the building, I see on the other side of the door a small group about to enter. At the head of the line was a man being pushed in a wheelchair, followed by a woman leading a blind man (white cane). The door opened outwards (towards them), so it made best sense for Wife and I to just step aside so they could come on in. The man in the wheelchair was pushed in and went past us clearing the walkway, with the pusher eventually stopping to turn back to the rest of his party to decide where to sit.
Woman leading the blind man stepped just inside the door and stopped in front of us to respond to the “where to sit” question. She seemed completely oblivious to the fact she’s stopped in the doorway, blocking it, and that there were people waiting on them to move.
But who did notice?
The blind man.
He was standing right in front of me and after a few moments said to me “Sir, are we blocking your way?” I responded “No worries, you’re good.” And after a few more moments they were on their way and we on ours.
I don’t know how much vision the man had, but I suspect none. The bottleneck of the door area was tight, so the man was stopped literally in front of me – a distance that would normally be considered WAY too close for comfort. I guess he heard me there – breathing. I wasn’t being huffy or anything, just normal respiration.
But he noticed I was there.
He was the most situationally aware of their group.
And there was no ability for him to have “his head on a swivel”.
Yes, it’s important to have your head up and look at what is around and what is going on around you. But we have more senses than just our eyes. We can hear. We can smell. And we can even have that “Spidey sense” that tingles when our gut tells us something is off.
Think about how “situational awareness” can and should involve (all of, more of) your senses. And think about how abridging any of your senses can be a detriment to that same awareness.
Because it’s more than just looking around.