Windy Walk Through Time’s Square and Darwin Awards

I don’t honestly know where the term “Darwin Awards” came from, but I want to hand them to some of the pedestrians that I met today as I walked along the streets of New York City.

It amazes me that pedestrians so often complain that drivers speed along like madmen.  Drivers are often accused or berated for paying little heed to the pedestrians with whom they must interact on a daily basis.  The drivers who seem to get the most rude criticism are cab drivers.  Having ridden in the back of many-a-taxi cab whose driver believed in racing down the street like a Nascar driver in the Indy 500, I know why some cabbies get this kind of abuse.

But the pedestrians that often make me smirk are the ones who dart in front of oncoming traffic and expect drivers to stop for them.  They cry “right of way, asshole,” or proceed to give the one digit salute to someone they’ve never met, all for the benefit of being a few seconds ahead of the wave of pedestrians  that they fear will chase them down and consume them.  I realize this probably happens in every city of this country, but New York’s pedestrians seem to have a flair for entitlement, especially on Fifth avenue and Time’s Square.  So well practiced is this entitlement that it has become a fashion accessory for most New Yorkers (as though we needed more).

I have witnessed plenty of drivers slump their shoulders and sigh, resigned to their fate as they navigate Fifth avenue or Broadway.   They drive slowly through the already congested streets, attempting to avoid the litigious lawsuit that is surely a baby’s breath away.  Many of these drivers cannot afford such a hit to their pocketbooks or wallets.  How many cab drivers, for example, are parents struggling to hold down two jobs in this turbulent economy?  When was the last time I saw a soccer mom wearing a Rolex?

There was an olive skinned, brunette woman who was standing in front of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth avenue today.  There was plenty pedestrian traffic on this windy, but gorgeous afternoon, and I sought to lose myself in a crow of anonymous New Yorkers as usual.   She, along with the rest of the pedestrians at that moment, appeared to be stopped for the red light.  But unlike the rest of us pedestrians, she seemed to believe that red was actually green.  She stepped in front of one oncoming taxi cab and was honked at repeatedly before almost getting run over.  The yellow hunk of metal sped by, and a look of highest vexation flashed upon her countenance as though she were an ancient Roman Senator who’d had her best politcal speech rudely interrupted by a vagrant plebian’s flatulence.  I struggled not to smirk at that look, but when she proceeded to roll her eyes and attempt to walk across oncoming traffic again, I began to question if she really was colorblind.  By the third attempt, I stopped caring what her problem was, and I began to wonder if a giant Skinnerian box could be designed to sit at certain street corners to zap the stupidity and presumption from these particular kinds of pedestrians.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I absolutely love walking down the streets of my fair city.  Most pedestrians are inherently intelligent enough not to get themselves plowed into and potentially killed by three to nine tons of metal on four or more wheels a piece that can travel at anywhere from 20 to 30 miles an hour in most residential and commercial areas of the city.  Believe it or not, the speed limit for drivers in these areas of NYC is clearly stated in any Driver’s manual.

But there are also laws and responsibilities for pedestrians, and these are also clearly stated in any DMV handbook.  I am pretty sure that I have never found the “scream-at-drivers-and-flip-’em-off-while-risking -death-or-injury-by-ignoring-the-red-light-in-front-of-you” law anywhere in the 2011 version of the manual.  Perhaps the 2012 version has been updated?

I know that there may need to be an update in state legistlation when it comes to public texting.  It is problematic at best to see drivers on our roads and highways texting as they drive.  In some ways, it’s even worse to see pedestrians doing the same thing because there is no law against it.  There is also nothing to be done about it…until one of them gets themselves killed in a hit and run.  I nearly saw this twice today, and I have seen other near-misses several times in the last week or so as the weather has warmed.

Believe me, there are times when I smirk as I listen to the news, and I’ve learned that people who are absently texting as they walk down the street have had their I-phones or smart phones snatched away from their greasy fingers in a robbery.  I would never wish these people harm, but if this is what it takes to get them to look up from their screens instead of giggling and texting like Pavlovian dogs whenever their I-phone dings, rings or vibrates, than I say “great!” A portable communications device may be a small price to pay in comparison to the other possible payment plans we all seem to need to set up with the universe .

Do I even need to ask whatever happened to basic common sense?

So allow me, a humble New Yorker who has walked with his grown autistic brother down these same streets while keeping him safe, to bestow my own Darwin Awards to this week’s winners.  To the lady who tried to cross into oncoming traffic in front of one of my favorite Cathedrals, I salute you.  To the oblivious texters who chose to cut me off in mid stride on a crowded Time’s Square street before nearly getting yourselves run over by a soccer mom whose 6 ton vehicle in fact had the right of way, I offer you the same salute as I hand you your very own Darwin Award with a twinkle in my eye.  I think you, as fellow New Yorkers, can already tell what kind of salute I will give.

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