At the corner of Walk and Don't Walk

It takes strategy to get across a street these days, especially where there is no traffic light. There's no use standing waiting for a lull in the traffic. Not anymore. Wonder whatever happened to the good old- fashioned lull?

Yes, I know we pedestrians are supposed to have our rights. But nobody seems to know this but us. With one exception: that obliging driver who always carries things to far. If I'm ambling along anywhere near a corner, he'll stop and wait there, eager to motion me across.

Now, tell me, when I fnd someone like this who really cares, how can I possibly have nerve enough not to cross, even though I'll have to sneak right back when he's out of sight. (Frankly, I don't think this particular driver has enough to do with his time. What he needs is a hobby. Or maybe this is his hobby.)

Meanwhile, every approaching vehicle likewise shrieks to a stop, causing heads to turn all up and down the block. Now there they are, all lined up in front-row seats waiting for the show to begin. That'll be me, crossing.

With all that power held in check solely on my account, I can't help wondering why all the fuss just to get me across a street I didn't want to cross in the first place. It's worse than being on the stage, with those motors chuckling and whispering, and all those bulging headlights watching my every move. And no wonder.By now, I'm making some very strange moves. Because I feel guilty for holding everyone up, I double into a low crouch and scurry across in front of my rapt audience like some hunted quarry wanting only to get out of sight.

I'd like to clear up a few points with the one who started all this. Friend, the next time you see me strolling along minding my own business, why don't you do the same? Just keep right on going. If I decide to cross when I reach the corner, I'd as soon do it my way and wait my chance. Then, when my space comes along, possibly I'll be able to proceed across at a proper gait without loss of dignity, or even one of my shoes. Possibly.

But if my chance neve does come, I promise I won't whine about it. I'll still have two alternatives: (1) Walk to the nearest light (usually a mere mile or two distant), or (2) not cross at all. After all, there are worse things than not getting across a street. (Getting halfway across.)

The trouble is, even when the traffic does stop for me, I usually find greater hazards to face. Such as the hurtling stunt driver who, though nowhere in sight a moment ago, suddenly looms perilously close when I'm in midstream. So far, at this crucial point the instinct of self-preservation luckily takes over, propelling me in a skittering, henlike flutte the rest of the way across.

Of course I'm aware of my rights. But the fact that drivers are supposed to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks is no balm to me. It's highly doubtful that a car rocketing, ME- ward, canm stop in time, never mind his intentions.

Through the years, I have crossed many streets I never intended crossing. In the other hand, there are certain streets I've never yet gotten across, always finding it more feasible to take the long way round so I can lose myself in the crowd and cros in sweet anonymity at the signal.

But if my timing is off, even crossing with the light is risky. That's why I start watching the light long before I reach the corner. If it's green, as I approach, I brake to a crawl, taking a sudden interest in shop windows to annul any impression I may ahve the slightest intention of cross ing. Too often I've been trapped out in the middle when the light changed, just that spotlighted, vulnerable island of ME, and had to sprint like a harried hare back to the curb.

I'm sure the fiend who times these lights in the first place takes secret delight in the fact they stay green only long enough for us to get to the middle , if we've been naive enough to follow their blinking admonition "WALK." (This should be corrected to "RUN!"m at the earliest opportunity.) Test crossings have proved it is possible to make it all the way across at a good, bouncing clip, but only if we have been ready and on our mark at the precise moment the light changes.

You can see wy I approach this whole venture with trepidation. Being extremely trepid, I've learned the best policy for me is never to cross my streets till I come to them, and probably not even then.

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