I was driving in DC this week. I don’t recommend it. Big cities and cars don’t mix well; take the mass transport. Anyway, I was amused at the looks on the faces of pedestrians as I approached the intersections. They stared at me with their feet firmly planted on the sidewalk several feet from the asphalt. Safe. Secure. Waiting for the light to turn. Even then the wise pedestrian checks both ways and says a prayer. You never know what might happen when you venture into the intersection. It’s every man for himself out there. Cross at your own risk.
That is, unless you’re in Charlottesville. In UVA-land, college town USA, you don’t catch the eye of the oncoming driver to see if it’s safe to cross. You don’t even bother looking right or left, you don’t even pause before stepping out into the intersection. You just step. Because the drivers in Charlottesville stop for pedestrians waiting to cross. It’s just what they do. Everyone knows it…except for out-of-towners.
Now I, having learned to drive in DC and the surrounding suburbs, admit that there was a significant squealing of wheels and screeching of tires, not to mention angry glower from the pedestrian, the first time I failed to notice his intention to cross and then step out RIGHT IN FRONT of my car.
Isn’t it odd? I was always taught to yield to a pedestrian in the crosswalk. But I was also taught to look both ways. Because intersections are dangerous places. There is nothing preventing injury once I step out into traffic. My safety is not assured, neither by law nor by practice. I must decide when it seems safe to cross and then trust that the driver sees me, sees the red light or decides to yield to me. It may be a life or death decision.
In DC, they don’t risk it.
In Charlottesville, they presume it.
In life, we do it all day long. Come to a hundred intersections and weigh the odds that we can get across safely. Some of us are cautious, waiting for the green and several others to begin to cross before we venture forth. Some of us are bold, crossing even before the light changes, hurrying to what won’t wait on the other side. Some of us, perhaps most of us, look both ways and wait for the signal it’s safe to cross.
Dear Ian, you saw the safe sign yesterday at 2:38pm. You crossed from this side to the other. I expect you didn’t walk but rather danced and sang all the way into the Loving arms that received you. Had I better hearing I am sure I would have heard the heavenly accompaniment.
No more pain. No more suffering. No more intersections. Just Peace.