No, I’m not addressing the still raging coronavirus or the global pandemic it’s created. Although I could be addressing Covid-19 and its variants. I guess I’m grateful to the virus and its cohorts for having spared me so far. (Being fully vaccinated since spring has no doubt helped.)
I’m addressing instead a group of people to whom I’ve said this line for years: Careless, self-obsessed drivers. Drivers who endanger my life every time I walk on the streets of my city.
I usually utter this sarcastic line when I manage to avoid being killed by the tons of steel propelled by drivers who are far more concerned with speedily reaching their destinations than with preserving the lives of their fellow human beings.
Pedestrian safety is a huge concern. I won’t dwell right now on the harrowing statistics that reveal the enormous number of pedestrian deaths and injuries caused by automobiles. I’ll save those details for another day.
Today I’m focusing on my valiant attempts to preserve my own life.
Almost every day, I do a lot of walking in my mostly quiet neighborhood. As I walk, I cross busy streets and less-busy streets. My current route has changed somewhat in the past year, but I’ve always walked a lot along these same streets.
And I’ve always tried to protect myself by making some sort of contact with drivers. In the past, I waved scarves and colorful tote bags to alert drivers to my presence. And I’ve always tried to make eye contact with drivers who are approaching me.
The level of traffic on these streets has varied from month to month.
But here’s what’s important: Whether the streets are crowded with traffic or not, many of the drivers haven’t changed. They remain exactly what they were: reckless.
And every time I approach an intersection along these streets, I’m in fear for my life.
I’m a driver as well as a pedestrian. But when I’m driving, I respect pedestrians and their legally-mandated right of way in crosswalks. Too many drivers are self-obsessed and do NOT respect pedestrians. These drivers endanger my life.
My survival is at stake. As I enter a crosswalk, I justifiably worry that a reckless driver won’t hesitate to make a barreling turn or come straight at me. Why? Because reckless drivers refuse to respect a pedestrian’s right of way. Specifically, mine.
Even when some intersections have traffic signals that should protect me: My walk sign is flashing, and the traffic-signal light is glowing a bright green.
I no longer carry the garish tote bags I previously favored (hoping to reduce my chances of being a “target” of criminal behavior). [Please see my previous blog post, “Outsmarting the bad guys,” https://susanjustwrites.com/2021/08/06/outsmarting-the-bad-guys/.%5D
But I still boldly swing any bags or other items I’m carrying, as well as the mask that’s dangling from my fingers when I’m outside (waiting to be worn inside). I’m doing this in the hope that these rapidly moving items will increase my visibility and thereby save my life.
That’s why I mutter my thank-you line to countless reckless drivers–but especially to those who are breathlessly waiting to make a fast turn in front of or behind me. Most of these drivers leave me only one or two inches of space as their cars whizz through my crosswalk. Saving themselves, what? Thirty seconds? Forty seconds? One minute?
Brother, can you spare…another inch?
I know that I’m a stumble away from perishing in that intersection.
Because if I stumble, I can easily become the victim of a massive assault on my body by a carelessly propelled vehicle.
So, each time I cross successfully, I thank my lucky stars that I’ve survived one more time. Once I reach the safety of the sidewalk, I can finally breathe a sigh of relief.
And I’ll mutter my thank-you line, oozing with sarcasm, one more time.
I know the reckless driver isn’t likely to hear me. But I’ll say it anyway.
“Thank you for not killing me.”
(A version of this post previously appeared on this blog, Susan Just Writes, in July 2020. I’ve revised it for republishing in August 2021 because, unfortunately, it remains extremely relevant.)