Have you ever braked to let someone cross the street in front of you only to have them stroll or sachet, taking their sweet time while your knuckles clench the steering wheel as you rapidly lose patience and grind your teeth? We all have. If you ride with my friend Eric you will hear him say (not-so-under his breath), “Knees to chest, friend! Knees to chest!”
Recently I attended church with Eric’s girlfriend, Lora. As we were making our way out of the sun-filled parking lot, we found ourselves stuck at an intersection witnessing what Lora described as The White Woman Waddle: The Ultimate Display of Entitlement.
I couldn’t help but snort out loud. I feel her completely; people take what seems to be intentional time crossing in front of a two ton vehicle, just because they have the “right of way.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to encourage you to enact a live version of Grand Theft Auto, where you get points for running over people – it’s only fun in your head. It did get me thinking about a lack of sense for one’s environment, though, and ultimately jeopardizing one’s own safety.
Studies today say that the average attention span for an adult is 8.5 seconds (that’s half the time of the shortest TV commercial slot). More so than ever we lose ourselves in our own heads with Facebook, iTunes, email, and direct messaging. We constantly are walking (and driving) with our headphones in our ears and our eyes on our phone. It is crucial that we retrain ourselves to pull away from cyber-fiber and focus on reality and our surroundings.
Another breakthrough in technology that needs attention is how cars are made. Electric cars are near completely silent. My brother borrowed my Nissan Leaf recently and said he turned it on and off five times before he was certain the vehicle was actually running. The only noise the Leaf made giving signs of life was when it was put in reverse.
My concern here is not for the hipster, dazed and confused while lost in his/her playlist, crossing the street in a lackadaisical manner, but for the neighborhood children who might chase a ball into the street without hearing my approach. A recent radio ad for the Leaf even has a child playing with the toy that plays sounds to match animals. You know the one, “The duck goes ‘Quack,’ the cow goes ‘Moo,’ and the car goes-“ Silent. I worry about not having as many senses activated as a safety measure. Especially when living in an urban jungle that is as equally pedestrian friendly as Atlanta.
Furthermore, I find myself constantly behind a row of new moms, each pushing their twin baby strollers next to each other, taking up the entire width of the lane, and all walking on the right side of the road. Notice I said the right side and NOT the correct side.
You should walk on the left side of the street so that not only can cars see you, but that you can see them. While pedestrians almost always have the right on way, it won’t do you much good if you are killed by a driver coming around a blind curve.
It also won’t do you much good throwing me those death glares when I sneak up behind you because of your ignorance by putting yourself and your child in harm’s way.
And since children do you do, not as you say, I now see children in my parents’ neighborhood walking home in packs and dawdling in herds on the wrong side of the road, clueless, as I inch behind them.
So for all the Drive Like Your Child Lives Here signs that I see popping up all over the place in residential districts, why don’t you put a reminder up for yourselves to Walk Like You Know How to Stay Alive.