I’m noticing a disturbing trend lately. When pedestrians cross the street, they no longer check for oncoming traffic. They just jump in front of cars and expect them to stop.
I’m not sure when this became a thing. Was there a formal announcement abolishing the Look-Both-Ways-Before-You-Cross policy? Because nobody told me, and I’ve been practicing it since preschool. My local Gannett newspaper put up a paywall, so admittedly, I’m out of touch with current events.
I know the pedestrian always has the right-of-way, whatever the circumstance. I understand and accept that. You could be doing qualifying laps around Daytona, and if someone wanted to cross the track to get a beer, you’d be obligated to come to a screeching halt so they could haul their fat ass to the concession stand.
And I know the motorist is always the bad guy in every situation, even if a pedestrian steps in front of him without looking. We’re inclined to forgive pedestrians, because they don’t burn fossils fuels and destroy the planet. (Although some do emit a noxious, ozone-destroying gas, which carries the distinctive odor of semi-digested sprouts. But that’s only if the organic tofu isn’t sitting well.)
The laws are strictly on the the side of the pedestrian. The motorist has no hope. If a pedestrian dips a toe into the gutter and the motorist doesn’t come to a complete stop, the motorist is required by law to submit to a tar-and-feathering by an angry lynch mob. (And that’s only if he’s lucky. If the lynch mob is especially vindictive, they may go so far as to key his car and tear off his “I Like Ike” bumper sticker.)
I always thought pedestrians shared some degree of responsibility when crossing the street. However, modern-day hipsters are bucking this unfashionable trend.
As well they should. Why look both ways when the vast majority of us suffer from neck-and-shoulder stiffness? It’s the fault of our evil corporate overloads who keep us enslaved in nine-to-five servitude, our fingers gnarled from carpal tunnel and our spirits drained of hope and ambition. How dare the world expect us to turn our heads right and left to ensure the coast is clear? What do they think we are? Barbarians? We’re supposed to be living in an evolved society, here (as evidenced by the advent of selfie-sticks).
Pedestrians nowadays march into traffic with their chins held high, oblivious to the screaming brakes of oncoming cars and the blinding gleam caused by their albino-white legs. (Yes, it’s true: all pedestrians wear shorts and boast white legs. Again, I think it’s a law. They’re also required to wear sandals with socks. Bonus points if the socks are black.)
Pedestrians no longer shoulder the burden of ensuring their own safety. Which is only fair, because they have other rules to follow.
For example, they’re obligated by law to walk as slowly as possible when crossing the street, so that traffic remains at a standstill.
This is a fact, as evidenced through everyday experience. The more cars that are waiting, the slower the pedestrian must walk. A brisk and energetic pace is forbidden. When crossing the street, pedestrians must drag their heels and shuffle with a slump-shouldered gait, to prolong the agony inflicted upon the evil-minded motorists.
Pedestrians know they’re the rulers of the road, and they lord their superiority with a stiff-lipped condescension.
I interviewed one older lady who had just plodded in front of an oncoming truck. It swerved to avoid her, jackknifing and rolling over 15 times, then erupting in flames. (Thankfully, the John Deere tire flaps escaped unscathed.)
“Why did you do that?” I asked. “There was no one behind the guy. If you had waited for the truck to pass, the road would have been clear.”
“I had the right of way!” she barked, spewing her sprout-and-tofu breath in my face. “Cars have to stop for you when you’re in the crosswalk.”
Though technically true, having the right of way is little consolation when you’ve been reduced to a spot on the road. No one’s going to say “Amen, sister!” and high-five you for exercising your Pedestrians’ Bill of Rights — especially as you’re being scraped off the asphalt and loaded into a hearse.
Call me crazy, but I’d much rather be cautious than dead. (Although I must confess: Life holds little meaning since Saved By the Bell went off the air.)
Bottom line: Just be careful when you’re crossing the street. Abide by the old adage and look both ways. Exercise your rights, but keep in mind that a two-ton chunk of steel barreling down the road at 55 mph isn’t the most principled opponent. Yes, the driver might be obligated to stop. But that doesn’t always mean he can — or will.
And for goodness sake, put a pair of pants on. Your white legs are blinding all the drivers on the road. Sheesh.