A relatively silent war between pedestrians and motorists rages all across America.
What began the battle of rolling murder machines and ice-cream cone-wielding foot soldiers is known only to criminal psychologists, but one thing is certain: Drivers forget they’ve ever walked and pedestrians cannot remember ever having driven a car.
Tensions peaked this summer when a local policeman directing traffic was hit by a car.
But it really got personal when, a few weeks later, a rather large walker unleashed his angst on me.
I’m not sure whether he was angry because his mustache went out of style with the Bee Gees or if his Human Growth Hormone supply was dwindling, but he sprinted across several lanes of lunch hour traffic while indiscriminately screaming, “This is a crosswalk! This is a crosswalk!”
I’ll interrupt this story long enough to say I’ve always had a problem with keeping my mouth shut.
Whether cracking wise at my irate mother or squeaking out a girlish “ooh” when being frisked by the meanest cop in mid-Michigan, vocal control has always been an issue for me.
No sooner had I mouthed the words, “Yeah buddy, this is a crosswalk,” than the Incredible Bulk spotted me out of the corner of his red bulging eye, strutted back across the street and stood in front of my, up-until-then, moving car to remind me in a demonic shriek that this was indeed a crosswalk.
Not about to argue the finer points of easement etiquette with the incredible apoplectic man, I feigned ignorance.
“Who said that?” I queried innocently.
As I was about to be bench pressed, Buick and all, I took evasive maneuvers.
Once safely out of punching distance, I shouted detailed directions on where he could put the nearest park bench.
“… and your grandmother’s big toe, also!”
Determined to take my revenge in this column, I began intense research, by which I mean watching YouTube, eating turkey sandwiches and sassing my editor.
While waiting for an episode of SpongeBob Squarepants to load, I ran across the Michigan Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Action Plan and their Action Team who intend to, “Provide recognition to jurisdictions and/or officials who have brought about a significant decrease in pedestrian and/or bicycle crashes; Clarification of state pedestrian and bicycle laws (and) review local, state and federal laws and evaluate if/where disparities exist.”
I imagined this ragtag bunch sport nickel-plated pedometers and orange Kevlar vests emblazoned with reflective skull and cross bones.
Look for their six-week course, “Pedestrians in a Persistent Vegetative State,” how to negotiate that 16-foot swath of white paint on pavement.
The Action Team will offer “safety training,” while dumping tax funds on “high-crash jurisdictions,” and, “Develop a reference manual … ‘What Every Pedestrian Must Know,’” in addition to working on safety features including, “sidewalk construction, pedestrian countdown signals, median and crosswalk refuge islands.”
What every pedestrian must know?
They can’t be serious!
Didn’t most of us master the whole foot-to-ground and look-both-ways-before-crossing skills when we were like seven or eight? And “Refuge Islands?”
Only bureaucrats could make crossing the road sound as perilous as floating in from Cuba on a Styrofoam bait box.
For those of you concerned the state is working to end the hilarity of slow-speed collisions between, say, a 1989 Ford Festiva and a fat kid on a banana bike—actually I was on a BMX—don’t fret, because the Action Team only plans to reduce the overall fatality rate 10.4 percent by 2008.
There is a toll-free number, but if you need more info than “look both ways” and “don’t roll under speeding bread trucks” you shouldn’t leave your Lucite rectangle.
But enough cynicism and sarcasm, it’s time to broker peace between walkers and drivers with the following pledges.
The motorist pledge: Though I’m encased in two tons of lease payment, I am not superior; I will keep all offensive hand signals to myself; I will not treat the crosswalk like a bait pile or assign point values to pregnant women, punks or little old ladies and, though my expression resembles the scowl of one trying to pass what began as an extra large bowl of shredded wheat, it has nothing to do with your sluggish procession.
The pedestrian oath: Though I walk four blocks instead of using 10 drops of gas, I am not superior; I promise not to wave cars, already stopped to let me cross, to go first; And, since my home’s A/C units cause more pollution via coal-generated electricity than do some cars, I promise to stop saying “carbon footprint” and the word “green” unless describing a color!