I grew up on a quiet country road, where there was hardly ever any traffic. Passing cars and trucks were few and far between, so crossing it wasn’t much of an issue. Sure, I’d look both ways before crossing as I had always been told, but there wasn’t much to look out for. When faced with busier streets elsewhere, like in the bustling metropolis of Oxford or (gasp) the county seat itself, Norwich, I was ill prepared.
As a kid, I’d tremble at the thought of crossing one of those busy street. Even as a teen and a college student, when I felt invincible to harm, I still felt anxious. Luckily, there would be a friend there to drag my sorry behind across that street. After a suitable amount of eye-rolling and an exasperated sigh or two, of course.
If I was really fortunate, a kindly police officer would be there to stop traffic long enough for me to slink across the intersection, mortified by my inability to cross under my own power. In fact, without the intervention of a few of New York’s finest from the 50th Precinct, who made sure I got across Manhattan College Parkway safely every morning, I may never have made it through my sophomore year of college.
To be honest, although I’m a heck of a lot older now, not much has changed. I like to think of it as having a healthy respect for all those tons of steel whizzing by, which I know full well could easily crush me like a bug. That’s why I always cross in a crosswalk, and usually double (and sometimes triple) check before I take that first step off the curb.
I know, I know. I sound like a pansy. I am, I’ll admit it. But I have absolutely no desire to be a cautionary tale.
Others, however, have no such fear. Every time as I drive through Norwich, this becomes painfully clear to me. It seems like every day I see someone step out in front of a moving vehicle with a total disregard for the amount of time and space is actually required to stop said vehicle, even assuming an instantaneous reaction time on the part of a driver who, lets face it, probably has their minds on other things. The idea of actually waiting for the white “Walk” sign to flash, or actually crossing at a designated cross walk, is apparently a foreign concept.
And bicycles. Don’t even get me started about how people behave on bikes.
Equally insidious is the fact that other motorists don’t always feel the need to obey the rules of the road when it comes to those crosswalks where they are required by law to yield to pedestrians. One more reason people should be even more careful when crossing the street.
My personal philosophy about crossing leans more toward Shakespeare than Dirty Harry. When you are stepping out into the street, you shouldn’t be asking yourself if you feel lucky. To walk, or not to walk, now that is the question.