On crossing the road

Hello, everyone.  My name is David and I am a pedestrian.

Sometimes I feel that this fact about my boring little self is sufficient to mark me as a social outcast, a strange and peculiar creature that should not be able to function within the bounds of modern society.  Yet somehow I manage very well, and have no desire to learn how to drive.  I’d be a rubbish driver, anyway.

Today, as I wandered the streets of Singinglibrarianville in search of a prescription for my housemate, I was struck by the many oddities of crossing the road, a routine pedestrian activity.  I am glad I live in the UK, land of the amusingly-named crossing places, and more importantly, a land where pavements (sidewalks) actually exist on almost all roads, and where crossing the road somewhere other than a crossing isn’t a crime against the state.  Anyway… 

My first road-crossing experience of most days is crossing the busy road that my wee cul-de-sac branches off from.  This is made simple by the presence of a zebra crossing right at the end of my street.  Literally.  The ziggy zaggy lines of the zebra crossing approach extend most of the way across the street’s end.  It must be the most stupidly positioned zebra crossing in the land.  It has been there for over a year now, but many drivers like to pretend it doesn’t exist (for those not in the know, zebra crossings are odd things that don’t have ‘stop’ and ‘go’ indicators, and the pedestrians must wait for drivers to stop).  When it was first erected, drivers gave me strange looks that seemed to imply that I had hastily put the crossing up in order to fool them into stopping.  Yes, of course, Mr Driver, I ran across the road, put a beacon up, ran back and then waited for you, of course I did, well done you for spotting it…  Now, they just ignore it, and I often have to wait for quite some time for anyone to bother stopping.  I always give then a smile and a wave, and they inevitable catch up with the car in front by the time they reach the next crossroad, so everyone’s happy.  But the general non-stoppiness of the cars is reason enough to add a few minutes to estimated walking times to any destination on the other side of the road.

And pelican crossings (with lovely red and green stick people and loud beepy noises to tell you when to cross and when not to) are funny things as well.  My home town has several silent ones, which is fine for people who live nearby, but not very helpful for blind road-crossers.  Thankfully, Singinglibrarianville doesn’t have silent crossings, but it does have some peculiar ones.  My favourite one is between the Library of Doom and the City Walls, providing a way across the ring-road.  Very handy, particularly for the posh boarding school people, who have lessons on both sides of the road.  Except…  I walk fairly briskly when alone and non-depressed, and I have noticed that the beeping and green light last for exactly as long as it takes me to cross the road.  I can put my first foot forward on the first beep, and will put my second foot on the other side of the road just as the final beep sounds and the green man begins to flash madly to warn me that cars are liable to zoom over me at any second.  All well and good for me, but what about parents with prams, or elderly people walking with their sticks?  I have often noticed them being only half way across the road when the lights change, and have noticed the growing fury of the car-dwellers either side, who resent every second of ‘go’ time when the inconvenient slow person is in their way.  And not abnormally slow people, either.  Non-brisk people would be in a similar situation.  How silly.

And another thing about pelican crossings.  Why is it that I feel obliged to press the button, even if others have already pressed it?  I think it must be a childhood holdover, in honour of the breathless excitement of being able to press the pelican crossing button.  Maybe it’s just me.  I know it won’t make the lights change any faster, but I have to press the button.  Still, I suppose there are worse childhood traits I could exhibit!

  1. I always feel the need to check up and see if the person already standing there has, in fact, pressed the button. I realise this is almost certainly displaying some kind of deep seated distrust of my fellow human beings, but I can’t help myself.

    It doesn’t help that when I don’t do this, the other person hasn’t pressed it. And then I am forced, after ten minutes of standing helplessly by the road next to Mr Dozy to sidle around them and then we enter a realm of social dilema inasmuchas I am forced to address the question of whether to draw attention to the fact of the other person’s stupidity by now pressing the button or to merely run away and find a new place to cross…

    • Claire
    • June 27th, 2006

    I always feel the need to press the button! I have always put this down to my control-freak nature, but I wouldn’t want to imply that you are a control freak! I was thinking of this post when I walked home from work today – many cars, only one me, quite scary (the cars, not me). I particularly hate crossing the road where the gate for the private school is, just before the back entrance to the Library of Doom. It takes ages, and I always accidently get in people’s way when I stop to look before crossing. Particularly hazardous when carrying an umbrella.

    P.S. Please may I use your phrase Library of Doom in my blog, or should I try and think of my own alias and not be lazy? I could use Library of Duck but it doesn’t sound quite as good.

  2. Buttons! How can anyone NOT want to press them? I’m shocked at the thought that there might be people in the world whose souls aren’t soothed by the pressing of buttons at pelican crossings.

    Did you know that the buttons that launch neuclear weapons systems are, apparently, green? This is to prevent any last-minute qualms in those who have to press them. Apparently people are reluctant to press red buttons.

    I have no idea if the above is true, by the way.

  3. Hee hee. I press the button even when I know for certain that it has been pressed, because the ‘Wait’ light is illuminated. I’m glad I’m not the only one.

    Now I need to find a red button, to see if I can bring myself to press it…

  4. Oh and Claire, feel free to use Library of Doom. That’s what it is! I think you missed many of the incidents that earned it that name, but it is very true.

    • Phil
    • June 28th, 2006

    The bits where I walk from station to work I cross several junctions. Sometimes I press the button, othertimes I don’t. As they’re big traffic light controlled junctions over time you learn the sequence and know when you’re allowed to cross. It’s still scary walking out in front of a row double decker busses even though you know the traffic lights are on red.

  5. Actually, it’s scary walking out on a crossing at anytime beacause of the likelihood that a bycyclist will knock you over. Why they think none of these red lights and such apply to them is beyond me.

    • Jim
    • January 8th, 2007

    Great Blog. I agree with the above and all there is to say really. Cheers for the read. Nice looking as well. Happy New Year

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