Monday, October 17, 2005

Notes from New York: Jaywalking

“Seattle is the only city I’ve been to where you see people standing idly on all four corners of an intersection with not a car in sight, waiting for the signal before they cross the street.”

This was spoken to me with a laugh by one of my company’s executives on a visit to Seattle as we made our way six blocks to a restaurant for lunch. This is how we do it here: we wait for the green crossing light before venturing to cross the street. It’s a civilized practice that defines Seattle despite the chuckle it caused from my East Coast colleague.

The practice – now ingrained habit for me – does not work in New York where I have spent the last week. Stopping on the corner can be treacherous: one can be trampled if one interrupts the pedestrian flow. It took me a few days to get into the swing of crossing streets in Manhattan, but I was still beset with a tinge of guilt each time I jaywalked or crossed against the light. It felt wrong. Out of place. Unnatural. But as the hoards crossed the busy New York streets against the light, I crossed with them, mingling conspiratorially on my way block by block toward my destination.

By the end of the week I found myself oblivious to the crossing signals, darting artfully across intersections, dodging cabs and jaywalking like there was no tomorrow. It was liberating in a way, and a got to where I was going without delay or interruption.

Years ago in Seattle’s Capital Hill neighborhood my wife and I stepped off the curb to cross against the light, thought better of it, and back-stepped onto the sidewalk. A bicycle cop, who just happened to be idling behind us laughed and said, “I’m glad you did that, otherwise I’d have to write you a ticket.”

I am back in Seattle now, and crossing with the light. And I feel better about it.

2 comments:

Todd said...

Ugh! Blog spam. Go to "settings" and turn your word verification on. Do these jockos even read the blogs? Or does Mr. Psychic Reading Site already have it figured out?

Fools.

James said...

Blog spam is the mutatued Internet equivilent of The Milpitus Monster.