Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Walking Into Cars

This is why I never leave the house. I just get annoyed by stuff.

On Monday afternoon I was walking across Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Bethesda, in order to get from one side of the street to another. Everything was in order – both my legs were working, and the pedestrian light was clearly indicating that now was the time for walkers to make the transition from one footpath to another. Yet I hadn’t reached the road’s middle island before meeting a major obstacle in my path – a stationary automobile.

The driver had decided at the last minute he wasn’t going to jump a red light, so settled instead for obstructing pedestrians. I saw no reason why I should walk around the car, so I walked into it, thumping the passenger window. Then I walked around it and looked back to see if the driver had noticed. He was laughing, like he was in on a big joke with me. I made a gesture to let him know I wasn’t that amused. Just as he might have been annoyed to come to a green light and find a line of pedestrians standing around in the road, looking vacant and impeding his progress.

Coming back the same way a few hours later, at the exact same crossing, I found a mini-van in the same position. Like the earlier car, the driver had plenty of space to reverse and free up the pedestrian’s right of way, but he had an important phone call to make instead. For a second time, I walked straight into the car door, causing him some surprise and consternation. He didn’t think it was as funny as the first driver, and some hostile gestures were exchanged. Next time I’ll just climb over and leave a boot mark on his roof.

“How did you know he wasn’t packing some heat?” asked the sensible Mrs. Pop. I only think about these things afterwards. Despite having lived in the US for nine years, I still have faith that most people won’t pull a gun on me just for trying to make a point.

Mind you, walking into someone’s car is more likely to be construed as violating an American’s basic human right to do whatever the fuck he or she wants when they’re behind the wheel of a car. But what a way to go, as a martyr to the cause of pedestrian rights.


No Good Boyo said...

An effective method of dealing with such drivers is to reach in for their keys and throw them down the drain. A friend of mine did that once on Vauxhall Bridge in That London, with the Thames standing in for the drain with the greatest of ease. It gave him an enormous sense of well-being.

In America it might be harder, given that cars are airconditioned, auto-locked and driven by rayban-clad drill-sergeants with more guns that my Aunty Valmai has teeth.

Good luck, hombre.

Gadjo Dilo said...

I reckon the best method in these situations is simply to look happy. You're out in the sunshine, rain, wind, whatever; you are experiencing the world; you are having a life. Whereas people in cars nearly always look miserable. They're scared; they're hiding. They've cashed in their membership of the animal kingdom in exchange for being an extra in Knight Rider, and you can remind them of this.

Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop said...

"Look happy"? Clearly, you have never met me, gadjo. The only people here who walk down the street radiating happiness are handing out evangelical leaflets.

I prefer boyo's friend's direct action method, which reminded me of a story told by a London cab driver mate of mine - a colleague had that Wayne Sleep in the back of his cab, who left his mobile phone in there. Next day he called it up demanding its immediate return. The cabbie said he'd try to deliver it that evening, but that wasn't quick enough for the OBE-wearing dancer and choreographer, who demanded it back NOW. "I'll tell you what, mate," said the cabbie, "you can have it back NOW, you'll just have to stand underneath Hammersmith flyover, which I'm crossing as we speak." He then opened the window and rid himself of the problem.

nathan3e said...

In our neck of the woods it is a peculiar mix of pedestrians that do indeed look happy, bikes, hybrids, and trophy wives in quasi-tanks. We live near a country club you see. I try to be an egalatarian sort of fellow, but it is hard not to feel a wee bit misanthropic when seeing a 200 dollar haircut behind the wheel of a 7 miles per gallon vehicle.