It's not about the house.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Twas Brillig, and this Silly Ho...

So I’m walking to work the other day…

Hang on.

I read while I’m walking down the street. I just do, and I don’t want to hear about it. I manage fine, thanks for worrying, and yet no, I can’t tell you how I do it. Somehow I see everything around me and avoid stepping in dog poo or walking into street lights, and still I get in almost two whole extra hours of reading-time on my commute. (Recently, I’ve taken a few awkward stabs at writing on the move, but that hasn’t gone so well. I still see fine, still avoid the poles and piles, but can’t always tell, later, what the hell it was I tried to say.)

Anyway, so I’m walking to work the other day with my nose in a book, and I come up to an intersection. It’s a smallish one, but it’s on Beacon Hill – surrounded on all four corners by blind-spotting brownstones – so it’s earned itself a no-turn-on-red streetlight.

I, like most Bostonians, am an inveterate jaywalker. I only just found out the other day that there is actually a fine for the offense in town – one whopping dollar – but I’ve never heard of anybody getting done. I do try not to actively block traffic, but I do not (do not) wait for the lights. I don't even, when it comes to that, so much as hit the button to request the light. If I believe that I can make it, then I go, and I’m always confused when other people don’t. The first time I was in Seattle, I looked all up and down the street for what felt like an hour, trying to spot the traffic that the crowd on the sidewalk was waiting for. And I swear I heard them gasp collectively when I finally stepped off of the Don't-Walk curb.

After a close call with a cabby in New York, though, I have learned to act like a broad when I am abroad. But here in the Hub of the universe, nothing annoys me more than when I time my street-crossing perfectly so as to just miss your back bumper, and then you go and stop in the middle of the road to let me pass. Grr! You ruined my dance, you considerate bastard!

Anyway, so I’m walking to work the other day with my nose in a book when I get to an intersection. I’m all set to cross against the light, and suddenly the light changes. There is one car waiting at it, and I -- seeing the green light out of the corner of my eye -- come to a metaphorically screeching halt. Like a mime walking into a brick wall, I raise a leg to take a step and bounce back to the curb.

Rule # 1: Try to not actively block the flow. Remember?

But she doesn’t go. And she doesn’t go. And still she doesn’t go. And for once in the history of Boston traffic, there’s nobody lined up behind her to blow a “Wake up!” horn.

Jaywalking protocol in this situation calls for never, never looking directly at the driver’s face. A direct look means you know they’re there, and then they’re free to assume you will give way. You won’t. You may examine them in your peripherals to determine whether they’re aware of you. Whether, if you step out, there’s a decent chance that you’re going to get run down. You can’t always tell this by the look of a driver’s distracted ear or scalp, especially out of the corner of your own distracted eye (and especially with your nose buried in a book) so generally, if you’re in doubt, just go. GO! Seriously: how hard can they possibly hit you with a two-foot running start?

But this chick’s got her visor down. Even if I were to look right at her, I wouldn’t be able to see her face. But I can see that she’s talking on the phone.

This is bad. The cellphone phenomenon is still new enough -- and unpredictable enough -- that jaywalking rules around it have not been written yet. You really have to play each tune by ear. But my own brief experience says that cellphone-drivers are capable of achieving whole new, heretofore-unheard-of levels of streetdumb jackassery.

Go? Don’t go? Go, and risk getting run down by a streetdumb jackass? Don’t go, and risk actually waiting for the light? What to do? What to do?

I went.

And as I went, I actually lowered my book, turned my head, and (forgive me) tried to make eye contact with the driver through her windshield. She did not return my gaze -- not out of any code of honor on her part, but because she was too busy gazing at herself in her vanity mirror.

Vanity. Mirror. Never has there been an accessory more aptly named.

She was not fixing her makeup, she was not picking a zit, she was not removing something from her eye, her nose, her teeth. She was just gazing into her vanity mirror, watching herself talking on the phone.

Mirror, mirror, in the car, who’s the dumbest fuck by far?

After I was safely across the street, I couldn’t help but drop the book and monitor the situation with my back-eyes. The light turned red, and green, and red again, and still she sat there. Gazing, I imagine – although I couldn’t so much see her anymore (since I kept, ahem, moving) – at her captivating yakker in the glass. For all I know, she may be there yet. I never did get a good look at her lip-flapping platter, but I suppose there is a slight chance it was three days worth of beautiful.

Of course, there's a much better chance that someone has come along behind her since then, and hopefully given her a proper up-the-hooch lesson in how to properly conduct a meant-to-be-moving vehicle on Boston roads.


beardonaut said...

I'm confused here. Mirror ON the car? Was she outside or in it? *grin*

And here it's the other way around, at least with cars that are moving. I always make eye contact when crossing the road (and I'm talking crosswalks without lights here), so as to make them understand that if they do decide not to stop, they'll be impacting 200 plus pounds of beard. Not a happy ending for either of us.

EGE said...

Whoops! You're right. Okay fine, I changed it. Happy, beardy?

beardonaut said...

Eeeeeexcellent *does the Burns finger thing*

Leslie said...

I love, though am not surprised, that you read as you walk. I do the same. Freaks people out, doesn't it?

EGE said...

LESLIE!!! You're back!!! Are you all married 'n' shit?

EGE said...

PS -- Sorry. I got so excited when I saw your name that I forgot to actually respond to what you said. Yes, it does freak people out! At least two or three times a week I get comments from people -- and when I lived in the South End I had a lady who used to come running out of her house when she heard me coming (I wear clompy boots, and have a pretty disstinctive step) and give me books. They weren't my taste, but she was a sweet little grandma, so I took them.