Friday, January 12, 2007

A Pedestrian Thing

Last night I had a "thing on the street" that involved a pedestrian. I'll tell you about that in a moment, but first a few words about this group of people as a whole.

Pedestrians - I have no use for them. Really, what good are pedestrians to a taxi driver? If I don't already have a passenger in my cab, I see them as people who should be giving me some business. And whether I have a passenger in my cab or not, here is a whole segment of the population that slows me down when I'm trying to make a turn. A pox on them, I say.

The truth is, pedestrians in New York should be looked upon as tourist attractions. Many of them are daredevil lunatics, right up there on a level with people who jump off cliffs with an elastic cord tied around their leg. Admission could be charged for the privilege of seeing these people risk their lives for nothing.

An avenue with cars, buses, and trucks zipping by? Hey, man, I ain't gonna waste twenty seconds of my life waitin' for no light to change. I'm goin' NOW! And I'm gonna eat my fries while I do it.

Have you ever actually witnessed someone being hit by a car? Most people haven't, but I have, four times. It's a gruesome thing to see, even if it happens at a slow speed. But it gives you a healthy respect for the physics involved after you see a human body bouncing across the street like a rubber ball.

But most pedestrians here do not have that reality. The walk/don't walk signs are universally ignored. The majority of people will wait for the moving vehicles to pass by, but there is a growing contingent of fools who will just walk in front of cars on the assumption that they are seen and the car will stop.

I ran into one last night. Not literally, but almost. Here's what happened...

I picked up a fare, a middle-aged man headed for Penn Station, at 60th Street and 5th Avenue at 10:40 PM. I drove down 5th to 37th and made a right turn with the intention of catching the green at 6th Avenue and then proceeding through Broadway to 7th Avenue, making a left, and driving to Penn Station at 34th Street.

There were no cars in front of me on 37th Street, so making the light, which had just changed to green as I turned onto the street from 5th, was definitely possible. I picked up my speed to about 30 mph (the speed limit in NYC) and I could see as I got about three quarters of the way to 6th that pedestrians were crossing through their "don't walk" sign at the corner. Nothing unusual about that. So I sounded my horn as I approached to warn them that I was coming.

Everyone stopped - except one woman.

What happened, quite quickly, was a "this is my turf" confrontation. Like animals with territorial instincts, some people just won't give ground on the notion that this is sacred soil and it is mine. So she stopped in the middle of the crosswalk and stood there, daring me to run her over.

Now most people would say that was insane, even if she had the right of way, which she didn't. But it was worse than insane, it was criminal. Because she was holding in her hand the hand of a small child! She wasn't just sacrificing herself to the cause, she was taking her kid with her.

So, of course, I stopped. And then we had "words", since I had missed the green light and was now waiting on the red. What exactly those words were I could not say, not because I don't want to repeat expletives, but because we were shouting at each other at the same time and neither of us could hear what the other one was saying. Not that it would have mattered. This was not a person who was going to admit that there was even the slightest thing wrong about what she had done. And yet my passenger and I agreed that she should have been arrested and charged with endangering the welfare of a minor.

God, sometimes I wish I was a cop.


Mike S said...

Stupidity has no bounds. Too bad a cop WASN'T around to see. We have a similar problem here, but ours is usually fatal to the strikee and at times both parties are killed. We have 2 types, both scary. These happen in my town alone at the rate of 3-5 times a week for type 1 and about 1 time per month for type 2. The state total is really high. Type 1)deer, usually alone but at times in a group. Eyes reflect headlights, affording some warning. Type2) Moose, no warning in the dark as neither their fur nor eyes reflect any light at all. Warning, if any, is a dark spot crossing your field of vision. Sometimes. Often unseen due to the five hundred to a thousand pound critters are very tall & mass is often above lighted area. These are usually fatal to both parties. Bear is another whole story. Drive carefully.

Loui said...

It's not funny but on the other hand it is! You have amused me as I just can't imagine you shouting out the window at someone!
Thanks for making me laugh GS :-)

J xx

Sonja said...

First of all, I real enjoy your blog, never been to New York and you have a gift for bringing to life.
Now, if that would have happened around here, (Walterville, OR) that lady woould have been slapped to an inch of her life. Get's me all fired up to hear about that crap. Hope you can holler real loud!!

Anonymous said...

I really understand how you felt about that. I drove a taxi in New York for about 15 years and encountered this "terrorist" personality many times. Thinking back, I feel fortunate that I did not actually hit someone in that situation. Pleae be careful, my friend.