Woody Allen once joked that everything his mother told him that was supposedly good for him was exactly the opposite. He cited going outside to get some sun, drinking all his milk and that if he continued a “certain activity” (I won’t mention because this is a family paper) he’d go blind. Woody lamented, “Now I have skin cancer and blocked arteries but, despite her warning, my vision still seems fine.” For me, I always assumed a brisk daily walk was a good thing. Apparently, not in Santa Monica.
I regret to report that five pedestrians, all but one were in a crosswalk, were killed in separate accidents, this past March. This gives new meaning, “In like a lion out like a lamb.” (Sorry about that.) So far, police have no explanation, but there’s absolutely no truth to the rumor it’s landlords picking off rent control tenants. (I’m even sorrier than I was a second ago.)
I’m familiar with this issue because of my friend Russ who lives on Hollister at the corner of Neilson Way. In the last year, it seems every few months Russ is awakened in the wee hours of the morning by the sounds of a horrific car crash. In shorts and T-shirt, Russ is out there taking photos, which he sends to me with the idea I’ll pass along to the Daily Press. Neilson Way, which often looks like a freeway anyway, is turning into a residential “Destruction Derby.”
This “March pedestrian accident” story was featured by Daily Press editor, Matthew Hall, on the front page of Wednesday’s edition. Last week, coincidentally, I wrote about almost getting mowed down in a crosswalk on Main Street years ago because of a distracted driver who was texting. So I thought I’d follow up, offering the suggestion that when you cross the street these days, a la the term “defensive driving,” you have to be a “defensive walker.”
And yet, every day it seems I see people blithely crossing the street and texting as if being in the crosswalk provides some sort of safety zone protection. “Combat zone” is more like it. Here’s how paranoid I’ve gotten before stepping into a crosswalk.
Let’s say I’m waiting for a green light to cross the street but there’s someone trying to make a right hand turn on a red light. Often they’re looking in the other direction at traffic and when there’s a break in the action they’re gonna floor it. That’s why, when the light changes I still won’t step off the curb until I’m 100% sure the driver has seen me.
This can infuriate the driver that I’m delaying his or her right hand turn, but I don’t care. I weigh 190 whereas the average car in 2017 weighs 3233. (Down from the 4019 lbs in 2010, for those interested in such details.)
I’ve had drivers wave angrily at me to go ahead, which I do with a “thank you” hand signal. Curiously, this gesture almost always mollifies them. (The truth is I don’t care, I just prefer to cross the street rather than be bounced.)
Five pedestrian deaths in one month? The number staggers me. At the traffic signal, in addition to “Don’t Walk” and “Walk” they should add “Run.” Of course now they just flash the “number of seconds” you have left to cross. Between computing that and my making sure all the cars in all the lanes are “aware” of me, there’s a whole new “excitement” to just crossing the street. Frankly, it makes the “look both ways” admonition my mother gave me as a child, seem so quaint.
Santa Monica being a tourist town, these pedestrian deaths has to be horrible publicity. On the other hand, if a hotel is completely booked and a tourist is inquiring about a vacancy, the concierge can always say, “Some of our guests just went for a walk, so a room may be opening up very soon.”
The growing rate of distracted drivers and distracted pedestrians seems to coincide with the growth of “driver-less” cars. Add to the driver-less cars, more social media for the millennial passengers and add to that baby boomers struggling with all the new technology and the whole thing sounds like a recipe for disaster.
Speaking of disasters, as we’re destroying the planet and doing nothing about it (Trump, a global warming denier and huge fossil fuel fan, not to mention hair spray) the faster we’re looking in outer space for a planet to which we can relocate. I suppose in place of fixing earth, we’ll just move and forget our cleaning deposit.
But back to our crosswalks. Instead of looking both ways twice, make it three times. And when you’re crossing, put away the damn I-phone or I fear I may be getting a grim photo of you from Russ.
Jack is at facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth and firstname.lastname@example.org