Monday, November 2, 2009

Dying to Cross the Street

I'm off to Albuquerque for the Quivira Coalition's conference this week. We'll be meeting at a different hotel this time, so I'll be staying at a different less expensive motel nearby and walking back and forth. I'll be taking my red blinking lights, my reflector strips, and my attitude with me again. Here's what happened last time, as it appeared in the Letters to the Editor of the Albuequerque Journal:

I recently visited Albuquerque for the Quivira Coalition conference, where I reveled in collaboration and caring for the land. Saving fossil fuel and keeping myself in shape, I walked between the conference and my motel, crossing I-25 at Paseo del Norte.

Morning was easy, as commuters headed to work in daylight. Evening was a near-death experience, as commuters headed home after dark. Dressed in light jeans, reflector strips on an arm and a leg, and sporting a flashing red light, I was a traffic-savvy and highly visible pedestrian. Girded for battle, I waited for the walk signal and a break in traffic, then started across [the right turn lanes coming up from behind me].

A car close on my heels gave me the previously unrealized gift of flight and I suddenly found myself back on the sidewalk. I heard someone scream, "It's a crosswalk." The pain in my throat told me that the car had also given me previously unrealized vocal volume.

More careful after that, I waited for the walk signal and a break in traffic, looked at drivers and pointed at the walk signal, clasped my hands in supplication, gestured to the other side of the street, waited for the walk signal of the next traffic cycle, looked at drivers and pointed at the walk signal— I had become a deranged woman on a busy street corner. But surely deranged women don't dress in Patagonia and sport Land's End laptop cases? Darkness had obscured my credentials of sanity.

The herd of pickups, SUVs and sedans thundered on [as two lanes of traffic rounded the corner and headed onto the freeway]. Any one of them could end my life; collectively, they could ensure that DNA testing be required to identify my meager remains. If I were a toddler or an endearing puppy, surely someone would stop. If I were 30 years younger, surely someone would notice. Or perhaps my traffic-stopping abilities were intact, merely, like my sanity, obscured by the darkness.

About the fourth traffic cycle, a young woman with a young man in the passenger seat paused and asked if I needed help. "I'm trying to cross the street," I said. But that wasn't a compelling enough reason for her to stop, so she drove on, leaving me on the corner. I didn't think to say, "I'm in labor and I need to get to the hospital."

Next time someone is begging at a busy intersection, please take a look. They may be begging for the opportunity to live long enough to cross the street.

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