Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Adventures in crossing the street

Picture this:

It’s 8am. The transit system train has just expelled its riders, who swarm out of its depths on their way to work. Innocently, a crosswalk waits 15 feet from the front of the train podium, and a half a block of train track looms ahead of that. Vacant of riders, the train glides toward the next intersection and gets stopped by the light. Back at the crosswalk which the train now firmly blocks, are a hundred people, all patiently waiting for the train to move so that they can cross the street in the legal way. They wait and wait while the time ekes away second by second. The train moves; there are mere seconds left to cross the street before their time is gone. They begin their race.

Now, go back to the people who have clustered just below the front of the train podium, who wait for the train to inch past them before they boldly step behind the train, over the tracks, and down the middle of the driving lane. These jaywalkers, as they are called in official cities, are involved in same race.

The goal for each set of racers: the sidewalk-turned-corral that lurks just ahead. Once upon a time, this corral was a wide city sidewalk with more than enough room for busy pedestrians hurrying to work. Now, due to major demolition of the buildings that used to occupy this city block, the once-wide sidewalk is a covered walkway spanning half a city block through which both sets of racers must travel if they are to begin their work day.

Now, why are the people racing you may wonder? It is because the confluence of these two streams of people as they meet in the corral causes a massive traffic jam, the likes of which causes fast walkers like myself to lose precious minutes of time.

Losing time is unacceptable in my book. I would LIKE to be on of those who uses the crosswalk, but I can’t stand being caught behind the train, or even the mass of people who are at the front of the crosswalk. Therefore I HAVE to be one of the jaywalkers. But even this doesn’t assure me the all-clear as I enter the covered sidewalk, because the train sometimes moves before I reach it, and so the first crosswalkers have the opportunity to beat me to my goal.

Granted, this is a small thing. But the days that the train gets stuck at the light and I reach the crosswalk with the handful of other jaywalkers before the crosswalkers can move, I rejoice. “Yes! I made it! Look at those poor saps stuck behind the train. Good luck to YOU getting to work, heh heh heh.” And I know that the other quick-walking, time-crunching jaywalkers are just as thrilled that we were the winners this day.

The days that we aren’t as successful, the ones when the train moves while we are still 10 feet from the corral entrance, there is a visible speed surge in us. We know that the crosswalkers will swarm towards our shared goal and, to be honest, jaywalkers just hate to lose. Come on, the POINT of jaywalking is to get to the other side in record time, right? On those days when we lose, when we are forced to jostle our way through the walkway, looking for holes in the pack that can be darted into, we are defeated. I am defeated. I have to live with the shame that I broke a city ordinance which did me absolutely no good. I still got stuck darting in and out of people.

But I wonder: do those crosswalkers feel the same rejoicing when they beat me to our shared goal as I do when I beat them? And I laugh at human nature. What do a few seconds really matter in the grand scheme of things? Why do we have to turn everything into a competition?

So are their quirks of human nature that have made you laugh today? Or even ones that just drive you crazy that you want to share?


Ginger said...

I used to be a jaywalker too when I took trax and that was before all the construction. I didn't even have a very good reason. Your story reminds me a lot of drving, especially on 6200 south when people need to merge and the cars speed up so they can't merge and then everyone ends up at the same spot anyone when they hit Redwood Road. Funny. It is fun to look at the human race from a different point of view sometimes and think of all the silly things we do.

Amy Sorensen said...

ok, I'm far too exhausted to think of anything coherant. BUT I loved this post! It made me giggle. Too funny!!!!

audrey said...

This is such a great post! And I totally know how you feel. I love it when I'm driving to work and I make it through a green light that 9 times out of 10 I just barely miss. I love the little victories!