Sunday, December 30, 2012
The Life and Times of a Cautious Pedestrian
I don't like to cross the street unless there is a crosswalk. I don't like to cross the crosswalk when a stern, pixelated hand is strongly suggesting that I had better not. How stupid would I feel if I got hit by car, or even almost hit by a car? I'd prefer my demise to come in the form of something more dignified than being squashed under tires, mangled in a metal grille, or splattered against a windshield. And what's the rush anyhow? I can wait two minutes for the light to change and it probably won't alter the trajectory of my day too drastically. It's an exercise in patience to not cross the street when there is obviously, logically, absolutely no car coming but I would rather improve my patience than form habits that might someday render me paralyzed, dead, or worse yet slightly cross-eyed.
I live in New York City now which means that I have to ignore my street crossing preferences most the the time. Any New Yorkers with whom I might be roaming the streets typically have no patience for waiting for lights or for walking a half a block out of the way to a cross walk when there is a perfectly reasonable break in traffic to dash across. So I have to shelve my discomfort and buck up when I'm in a group but when left to my own devices I still prefer to play it safe. I walk fairly quickly and I'm small so I can weave in and out of foot traffic without causing too much trouble. You'll often find me standing at the head of a swarm of Asian tourists, with one foot in the street and one on the sidewalk, poised and determined like a general about to bring a very confused army into a very small battle.
I work in the Financial District and I was living in Brooklyn in the summer of 2012 so I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge on several occasions. I figured since I was by myself I wouldn't have too much trouble getting around the tourists and traveling at my preferred speed. Unfortunately there is a logic vacuum that exists within 100 yards of any internationally renowned landmark and the Brooklyn Bridge is no exception despite its status as an functioning bridge in one of the most populated metropolitan areas in the western world. One German girl was sitting on the white line that separates the walking lane from the bike lane so her friend could take pictures-and not just one or two-this was a full blown photo shoot. I don't mind telling you that she was rather corpulent and my sympathy had she suddenly broken through the wooden planks and plummeted into the cars below would have been...limited.
It is important to note for those of you not acquainted with the Brooklyn Bridge that the bikers in the bike lane mean business. There are a few spare tourists teetering along but for the most part these are people who bike to and from work. I should also mention that I've only actually been on the bridge twice and I've done exactly no research so my assumptions shouldn't be as statements of truth. A walk across the Brooklyn Bridge at 6:00 PM on a balmy summer's eve is by no means a leisurely affair. Unless, that is, you only have your own interests at heart and are either too stupid or too arrogant to acknowledge the present danger and general mayhem you insight when walking five abreast, wandering into the bike lane (or forcing other people to do so in order to pass you), stopping suddenly, insisting on having your professional wedding photos taken when the bridge is at its most crowded, or letting your brood of small children scatter like sentient marbles.
I think I might walk more than a lot of people since I A) don't drive (planning to start soon maybe if I can find a decent affordable a class!) B) hate NYC busses (I would try to work through this but I'm actually prone to motion sickness and I think it's best for everyone if I don't) and c) would rather walk a few extra blocks than transfer from one subway line to another. Several of the heels on my more comfortable fancy shoes have been worn away to the metal or plastic core. You can tell that I walk with my ankles rolled a bit to the inside because the wear on the heels is set at a noticeable angle. With all the walking that I do, though, I haven't actually adjusted to the New York cross-when-you-can method of bipedal locomotion. That's not to say I don't do it- I just don't ever feel quite at ease with it and I don't think I ever will. We'll see.