how to cross the street

So I was walking back from Stewart’s, hauling a bag and a backpack full of milk and milk products and chocolate and chocolate products, when I came upon the crosswalk dividing That Side of New Scotland Avenue from This Side. Both sides are generally pretty busy with people busy errand-running, lunch-eating and stroller-pushing — even mid-day, even mid-week, even mid-August. The city painted a crosswalk at the intersection three or four years ago, adding a swell in-street pedestrian-alert sign that’s been replaced a few times after getting run over by resentful motorists or snatched by aliens mistaking them for stick-figure two-dimensional humans, or whatever.

The sign was up when I stuck my toe tentatively into That Side of the crosswalk. I don’t have a death wish. I know enough not to thump my chest, howl I AM A PEDESTRIAN! YIELD TO ME! RAAHHH! and stride boldly into a busy intersection. I’m not THAT stupid.

On the other hand, it peeves me when motorists just, you know, act like I’m not there. Or act like I’m there but I don’t count, or maybe I do count, but not in the way that cars do, and definitely not under THESE circumstances, i.e., any circumstances involving IMPORTANT THEM and THEIR IMPORTANT CARS. And what do I think I’m doing anyway, moving around a city of any sort without the aid of internal combustion?

Drivers are getting better at stopping, I must say. They stop most often when I try to make eye contact and wave at them friendly-like, as if to say, “Hi! I’m here, and I would like to cross the street without dying and/or spilling my milk and chocolate products!” This seems to either humanize me or guilt them into submission, maybe both. Then, to express my profoundest gratitude, I issue them an even friendlier-like wave that says, “Thank you SOOOO much for pausing in your busy day to let me pass without a life-crushing incident!” They smile. I smile. Happiness all around. Humanity and civility prevail! Hurrah!

Usually, the drivers who don’t let me cross just flat-out ignore me. When I try to make eye-contact, they resist, turning their square jaws and steely eyes straight toward the horizon (or where the horizon would be, if we had such things around here). In return, I smile broadly in gratitude and wave as they pass. I love love love doing this to people. They look soooooo confused. Their poor widdle wide-eyed faces! They ask so many wondewing questions! Such as: “Waaaaaah?” and “WTF? Did that Weird and Insignificant Walking Thing just wave at me?” and “Do I know her?” and “Did I do something nice to her that I don’t recall?” and “Holy holy SHIT! Is that my Aunt Brenda? Have I forgotten what she looks like? Does she live around here? Is she that weird? Does walk?”

It is so much fun. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

And so, on my most recent walk home from Stewart’s, I took a hesitant step into traffic and tried for eye contact. Cars whooshed past. I waggled my right leg. More cars whooshed past. I waggled my leg a little more, kick-line style, accompanying this chic move with a jazz hand and a fetching smile. Yet more cars whooshed past.

Finally, I caught the eye of a woman driving a BMW. She looked at me! Victory! I smiled! Another victory! I waved my hand as if to say, “Beemer Lady, hello there! You’re soooo nice! I can tell! Please stop for me! If you let me cross the street without killing or maiming me or my dark chocolate Milanos, I will love you forever! I will praise you to the heavens! I will tattoo your name across my forehead! Across my children’s foreheads! Right now! Watch me! Pass the ink!”

And do you know what she did? You don’t. There’s no way you could know. She DID NOT LET ME CROSS, although I’m happy to say she didn’t kill or maim me, either. Instead, as she whooshed through the crosswalk, she gave me a dismissive backhand wave — sort of a lazy, whole-handed flip-off, as though the entire appendage functioned as Just That One Critical Finger, which she honestly couldn’t be bothered to extend — and rolled her eyes with a little twitchy grimace of annoyance. I repeat, she ROLLED HER EYES. As in: “Puh-LEEZE. I can’t be bothered. We BOTH know you don’t count, O Weird and Insignificant Walking Person. As if! I’m so bored by you and your groceries, I want to vomit.”

In reply, I did not smile. I did not wave. Then again, I did not give her the finger, either, or even a whole-handed approximation of same. So I think I behaved pretty well, under the circumstances. I didn’t even stick out my tongue at her tailpipe! Seriously! Be impressed. I am.

Anyway, there was traffic behind her, and I still had to get to This Side of the street. I stuck out my foot again and looked out, hopeful. The very next car was a shiny black SUV driven by some young dude, and I caught his eye. He let me cross.

I smiled and waved. He smiled and waved. Humanity and civility prevailed.plunger




3 thoughts on “how to cross the street

  1. Roger Green – I grew up in Boston, MA, and, I am embarrassed to tell you, I had no idea that the law is that drivers are supposed to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk until, in my mid-20s, I visited Chattanooga, TN. Who were all these crazy people who stepped onto the road when cars were coming? And, what? Cars stopped for them, and the pedestrians crossed the street in the crosswalk. It changed my world.

  2. I live close to Hanover NH where Dartmouth College resides– they have the traffic stop for someone crossing the streets and the college students assume all will and never even look before crossing.

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