This summer I’ve been walking to and from work in order to exercise, save money, save the environment a few fumes, soak in some sun, and probably other things I’ve forgotten due to my body using nutritional intake for physical activity and not developing a better memory. Walking gives you a very different perspective on a city. It’s almost as if cars and pedestrians live in two different worlds.
I see that people are terrible drivers (and, sadly, still far better than the drivers I saw in the South). Yesterday, I saw someone who must have been sleeping or something because s/he hit the brakes too late for a red light and locked the tires up, skidding all the way through the intersection and then continuing on. It gave me a chuckle and, fortunately, no one was hurt (unless you count the wasted wear on the tires which causes us to be more reliant on oil from external sources, in which case we were all screwed).
I came up to the same intersection and I hit the button to cross. It’s a “T” intersection and I was going from the base to the “top” of the T. The base of the T is one-way only, with the two lanes on the left turning left and the one right lane turning right. I’ve noticed people have a difficult time with this now and then, so I’ve learned to be pretty alert. And it’s a good thing, because I think I am the only one…
A lady in her 30′s came up to the right turn lane and pulled out a little ways to see if anyone was coming from the left. Then she came to a complete stop and continued to look back that way. The light turned green, which means my “hurry up pedestrian, you’re slowing down traffic” light turned into an enticing stick figure, giving me the okay to cross. I looked at the lady again and she appeared to glance at me, taking in my right of way. I started to cross, a few feet onto the street and she decides to go (after turning to look to her left again?). I took a few quick hops backward and just as I was getting back on the curb she, and her younger female passenger, realized that I had been trying to cross and she jumps on the brakes, jerking the car to a stop and looking rather annoyed with me. Normally I give people an appreciative wave when they go out of their way to stop for me, but I was only able to muster my “thanks for not killing me” head nod.
I suppose the conversation in the car was something like this: “That jerk pedestrian! I can’t believe he expects me to yield the right of way to him just because it’s the law! Couldn’t he see I wasn’t paying attention!”
Later I was walking out of a parking lot on the right side of the main exit. Off to the right, I saw a Ford Expedition using eight gallons of gas as it backed out of its spot, turning so that it was facing me. Since it had not yet started to go forward, I assumed it would be safe to cross. Anyone with three brain cells (and probably even two) would have looked straight ahead to see that someone was crossing. Silly me and my assumptions. The girl (this one in her lower twenties) didn’t look left as she headed toward the exit (because if you’re in a big vehicle, you can just cut in front of anyone else who might be exiting) nor did she even look straight. Luckily, I noticed the motion in my peripheral vision and turned my head to see the Expedition speeding up, with the girl looking to the right (in case someone is entering the parking lot in the wrong lane!). I stop, she keeps going. Finally she sees me and jumps on the brakes (seeing a theme?). The vehicle stopped with the front end a bit past where I would have been if I hadn’t stopped. If only she could have stopped half a second later so I would have been right next to her window. I could have reached in, pulled out the keys, gouged her eyes out with them (hey, that’s not mean, she wasn’t using them anyway), and then keyed “blind driver, watch out” all over the vehicle.
To her credit, I could see the surprise in her eyes as if her brain’s solitary cell was thinking, “What the hell? How did that 4mph pedestrian instantly appear in front of me?” She did say sorry and I managed a wave and a politician’s smile (read: fake), before continuing on. My favorite phrase is now “At least one of us was paying attention.”
So, I’m a bit harsh and unforgiving when it comes to people nearly running me over because those people either aren’t paying attention or think the few seconds they save by running me over are worth the loss of life. Though I’m positive my less-than 200 lbs would stop a 5,500-pound obese SUV, I think the lesson learned is that I am worth 2-3 seconds of someone else’s time, tops.