Monday, April 19, 2004

Crossing safely

Pet Peeve Department: Every day when I go to work, I have to cross a two-lane one way street. And today the routine annoyance happened again. It goes like this: A driver in the near lane sees me waiting for an opening. They will stop and motion for me to cross. When I don't budge they look at me like I'm stupid. What they seem to forget is that traffic in the far lane is still whizzing by!

I'm really not interested in getting half way across the street alive. I am quite content to wait 15 seconds until the signal two blocks down turns red. It blocks traffic sufficiently to cross freely and safely.

This points to a larger lesson, though. Individual perspective is often assumed to be the final reality. The driver sees nothing but a constant swarm of cars, and assumes that pedestrains have no safe way to cross unless someone stops. If they are always driving, they never see the periodic clearings caused by the stop light. They only see the road when it is full of cars. Drivers never see the gaps betwen cars, because there are no cars, and thus no drivers to witness their absence!

But meanwhile, traffic backs up behind these people who stop. Inevitably, one of them will try to cut around the driver who stopped for me. If I were to cross, it is unlikely I would be seen in time for an impatient lane-changer to stop without hitting me.

Maybe someday if I'm feeling mischievious I might cross half way, and wait in front of one of these people until the far lane clears. That'll learn 'em.

A related pet peeve regards drivers who are the last ones in a long line of passing cars. All I need do is wait a couple of seconds for them to pass before I can step off the curb. Instead they slow down to a crawl, as I spend several seconds trying to guess their intentions. Then they finally come to a stop to let me cross. If they had just gone by at normal speed both of us would have gotten where we were going faster.

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