Some days it’s a struggle not to be a cynic. I usually choose to see the glass half full and to believe that most people are kindhearted. As a daily walker, however, I’ve observed some drivers behave aggressively when they are hidden behind the tinted windows of their cars. Surely, they’d be more polite if we were face-to-face in a grocery store pushing shopping carts.
I’ve learned that if I cross the street in a crosswalk, I’m not much safer than if I run for my life mid-block. It’s apparent when I hear an approaching engine roar, some drivers like to intimidate me into hurrying across the street.
In an effort not to disrupt the flow of traffic, I try to time my first step off the curb so I can make it across the street without interfering with the next passing car. I’ll even dawdle with my back to traffic away from the corner to indicate that I’m not ready to cross. As the last car on my side of the street goes by, I step off the curb. Occasionally, the driver on the far side feels compelled to stop—the overly-polite driver—whom I waive on. I’d rather pass behind him.
There are a variety of drivers: the extremely cautious driver will spot a pedestrian at the curb a quarter mile away and begin slowing immediately; the hurried driver doesn’t slow until he’s sure the walker will not have cleared his path; the rude driver will show his true colors when the pedestrian has had just enough time to step up on the curb, when he roars by to show his frustration. Most drivers have better manners.
Not to bash older drivers in general, but I’ve seen several white-haired drivers lately who have not stopped behind the limit line—the first line of the crosswalk—even though they have clearly seen the pedestrian coming. The thought bubble over their heads could say, “I see you, youngin’, but I was here first! You can walk around my back bumper.” The pedestrian has the right to the crosswalk, regardless of seniority.
A curious moment occurred the day I saw a man hurrying across the street in the crosswalk, either misjudging the speed of the approaching car, or the driver having sped up. In the walker’s haste, his baseball cap blew off landing inside the bicycle lane. The driver slowed slightly for the walker; then aiming for a direct hit, she ran over the hat. One could only wonder why she felt so compelled.
I still believe in the basic goodness of my neighbors, but some give me pause.