September 12, 2007

Unscheduled Rant

Today's post was supposed to be about teen suicide, since the alarming news is that there is suddenly a lot more of it happening, especially among girls.

No one knows whether this is just an anomalous blip or an actual trend. (Fortunately, it's still very rare; rates are about 1/100,000). The experts didn't seem to offer any convincing theories, either, about why the rates went up, other than the usual "life is hard for teens now" sort of thing.

Crabby was going to chime in and say, somewhat predictably, that life has never been easy and each generation going back through time has had some Pretty Intense Stuff to deal with. But then Crabby realized she really doesn't have much of a clue and should probably just shut up about it, especially since (a) suicide is a very complicated problem and (b) she doesn't have any teens herself to know what they're actually dealing with.

However, we can still talk about teen suicide in the Comments, as some of you may have some more actual info, theories, or observations about this that could help Crabby understand better what might be up with that.

The main reason the suicide post got interrupted, however, was that Crabby found herself so flustered and mad she couldn't concentrate and had to get a little rant out of the way.

Yesterday morning, for the second time in two weeks, she was nearly killed while crossing the street, in the designated crosswalk, with the right of way, by a car eager to make a left-hand turn on top of her.

Note: neither of these were fake crosswalks, the kind put in optimistically mid-block or at uncontrolled intersections, where theoretically the pedestrian might have the right away but no pedestrian is foolish enough to rely upon it. These were both real crosswalks at actual controlled intersections.

In both cases, Crabby was already well into the crosswalk before either car started to make their turn. So she was smack in front of these drivers when they not only turned, but then decided to head right for her and speed up in order to force her to run the rest of the way across. In neither case was there an oncoming car that the left-hand turner was trying to avoid colliding with. And had Crabby not sprinted either of these times, she would have been hit. No lie. Both these cars were so sure of Crabby's willingness to run to avoid being hit that they were going too fast to be able to stop.

This is a situation in which people are prone to exaggerate, but Crabby truly feared for her life each time. Had she tripped and stumbled or decided to stubbornly keep walking a normal speed, she would be writing this post from a hospital bed.

Or perhaps not writing it at all.

Crabby is not sure this has ever happened to her before--at least not in such a terrifying way, and certainly not twice in two weeks! She was actually warned by a Smart Reader about D.C. drivers, but except for these two bizarre instances, she has not noticed the driving being any worse here than other major metropolitan areas. Many drivers here are actually quite considerate!

And having lived in Manhattan for two years, Crabby knows something about aggressive driving. She knows that "the right of way" and "who really gets to go now" are two different concepts. She also knows that when a pedestrian wants to cross the street and a driver wants to make a turn, there are competing interests and a certain amount of strategizing goes on--a pedestrian who has just taken a few steps of the curb, for instance, knows she may need to stop her progress if a car decides to turn right in front of her.

But damn it, if you are a driver wanting to make a left turn and the pedestrian is now right smack in front of you, GAME OVER. You lost that one. Sorry, now you have to wait, as painful as that is for you. You do not Proceed Anyway and try to Hit the Pedestrian! If you are in such a F*cking Hurry, keep in mind that a mangled body on the hood of your car is going to take up quite a bit of your morning, and perhaps even the rest of your life, to sort out!

Is this some sort of horrible new trend? Or just an unlucky coincidence? Do people suddenly think they are starring in their own Hollywood Action films or video games when they get behind the wheel and that there will be no real life consequences when they do crazy reckless things? (Hmm... the teen suicide statistics... a theory begins to take form...)

Anyway, at least there is a semi-satisfying epilogue:

In yesterday morning's incident, Crabby actually discovered the vehicle pulled over a few blocks away. It was some sort of government-looking thing (probably local), all white with some red stars or something on it, and the woman driving it was wearing a blue uniform. Crabby actually got the license number, and discovered there was a "How's My Driving?" bumper sticker on the back of the car! But unfortunately, the number didn't have a handy acronym like 1-800-WTF-LADY??!! or anything, and the driver saw Crabby staring at the back of her car, recognized her, and pulled away before Crabby could attempt to memorize the phone number.

Crabby may never find out what agency or company this woman worked for (any D.C. folks have any suspects? This was in Georgetown, if it makes any difference). But she does have the license number and the date and time in case she ever does figure it out. And even better? Crabby had the satisfaction of watching this woman, who nearly hit her, realize that the person she tried to mow down was now attempting to Rat Her Out. Perhaps she even worried about it a bit, and took a bit less menacing approach towards the next annoying pedestrian who had the nerve to be in a crosswalk in front of her.

So drive safe, folks, and look both ways before crossing the street, and even if you do, be prepared to sprint through intersections away from insanely reckless drivers!


  1. Hey...look at this as a motivational effort to get in a little extra cardio from your fellow DC'ers!

    BTW, does a heart that is racing due to stress burn the same/less/or more calories as one that is racing due to vigorous exercise?

  2. Glad to hear you are still alive! I have a theory that as people are drivers for longer they actually forget how dangerous driving is, and that they could do something incredibly stupid and have it change lives forever. Like you know, when you drive through an intersection and two seconds later you can't remember seeing the color of the light, and realize you were just following the person in front of you. This also includes challenging pedestrians and then, whoa, not being able to stop when they accept the challenge.

    People are too impatient in this world. I blame high speed broadband and microwaves. Now, now, now. Yesterday, last week. (I am trying really hard to be better at this.)

  3. Sadly, here in Quebec it's a rare day that ANYONE stops at a crosswalk. I live two blocks away from our city hall and one block away from a middle school and an elementary school. There is a crosswalk in front of the city hall, leading to a parking lot and a crosswalk across a busy street between the two schools.

    Even police cars and city vehicles don't stop. It's just not in the Quebec "culture" to stop at cross walks.

    I do, I have no idea why I started, but when I do, people honk, or even more scary, they speed up and try to go around me. Perfect recipe for running over the pedestrian who is crossing in front of me.

    In fact, once I had to lean on the horn to warn the person who was crossing. I think she thought I was honking to get her to hurry, but I was trying to get her attention as the idiot whipped past me on the right.

  4. Firstly, I am glad you're alive and well and ranting about this.

    Secondly, people behind the wheel become useless VERY BAD WORDS.

    I think it worked out very well that you spotted the driver a bit later and she saw you seeing her.
    Perhaps for a few moments, at another crosswalk, that lesson took for her. At least briefly.

  5. Wow, harrowing! I'm so glad you're safe.

    When my kids were in elementary school, there was a nearby crosswalk covered by a crossing guard, complete with her bright orange vest and hand-held stop sign. This guard's life was at risk on a daily basis as drivers dutifully waited until the last of the children were across the street, but then immediately accelerated before the cross guard could even put her sign down and begin walking back to the curb from the middle of the road, often leaving her stranded between the opposite lanes of traffic.

    I'm also from Quebec originally and am nodding at what Marijke said. In all fairness, I can scarcely recall pedestrians ever bothering to use crosswalks to get across busy Montreal streets. We'd pop up anywhere along the way looking for a brief opening in traffic to get across. Similarly, red lights were only obeyed by pedestrians if there was no risk of getting hit.

    Crabby, why bother worrying about contacting the agency? The license number is all the police will need to locate the driver and her employer. Feeling as threatened as you did, I wouldn't have hesitated to call and let them sort it out.

    Thanks for the safety reminder.

  6. I've had a number of incidents like this while out running and I can't help but think...listen I'm out here in the cold, the wet, the heat, whatever it may be while the driver is sitting in their cushy car...really couldn't they wait the 20 seconds it takes me to get across the street, particularly when I have right to cross!! I like the use of my legs and would appreciate not being hit.

    Maybe it's motivation to pick up the pace? Like intervals, when you hit a stop light you have to super speed walk to save your life.

  7. In France with a French(American born)friend, a few year's ago, and we were about to cross a busy street. I say,"Watch out for the traffic!" She says:" Don't worry, they'll stop." I say,"That's what we'll put on your tombstone!" Cars are the top of the food chain, Crabby, please be safe!

    On the suicide numbers: I was told in school that men and women attempt suicide at about the same rate, but that men are more 'successful' at completing the task. Perhaps women are becoming more competent :-(
    The theory was that it was a cry for help, not meant to be successful.

  8. Holly, well that's a nice positive way to look at it! And though I'd finished my cardio for the day, I walked home really, really fast from the extra adrenaline, so I spent a little extra time in my target-zone.

    I know what you mean about the spacey thing! It is scary, how easy it is to make a mistake that could have devastating consequences.

    I think mid-block crosswalks without stop signs or lights are a real hazard. No one stops for them here either. (And in fact, stopping for them on fast moving streets can get you rear-ended!) Traffic planners: if you want cars to stop for people, put a dang stop sign in! A crosswalk by itself only encourages problems.

    Thanks Leah! It was weird, because I spend a LOT of time walking on city streets and am not naive about agressive driving. But these people seemed to actually be gunning for me! The first time was actually worse as the guy was going really, really fast. He was very elderly and probably should not have even been driving. He seemed to look right through me as though I was invisible.

    Wow, that poor crossing guard!

    And re: police--I thought about it, but partly I'm too lazy to want to follow up. And I really doubt anything would come of it, as it would just be my word against hers. Plus, I can't imagine the D.C. cops don't have more serious crimes to investigate. (Also I don't remember which intersection exactly, etc, or even whether it was a car or an small SUV. I'm a really bad witness). So it would probably be just be a lot of hassle for nothing. But it sure was tempting to call since I had her license number!

    Amanda--You too huh? And great idea, to think of it as interval training!

    Dr. J,
    Yeah, that's the thing, I'm a nervous sort about cars and am always pretty careful--but I don't know what you do when you've left the curb in perfect safety with the light in your favor but now someone is actually bearing down on you anyway--besides run out of the way as fast as possible! And I've read the same thing about guys being more successful. Interestingly enough, hanging is increasing in popularity as a suicide method, another fact I don't know what to make of!

  9. OMG, Crabby! If you got the licence number, that's all you need to f**k up that woman's day, even now. Call the police and report the incident!
    I think this is a universal problem that manifests itself in a variety of ways. Way out here in oilfield country (northern Alberta), the problem is locals vs oilfield workers. My husband's father used to have a cattle drive to move the cows to summer pasture. Cows, horses, people on foot, going down the highway. We no longer do that because we fear for our lives and the lives of our livestock. We now have to load the cattle into trailers and transport them to the pasture.
    The oilfield workers are in too much of a hurry, speeding down the highway, cellphone pressed to their ear, coffee cup in hand, crack pipe clenched firmly between teeth...cursing out the poor farmer trying to get his swather/combine/baler/whatever to the next field, so said oilfield worker will have something to eat!! (Farmers get no respect, but that's another story!)
    I was bringing some equpiment home from a field a couple miles away and had to make a left-hand turn off the highway - was almost creamed when an oil tanker coming from behind me decided the signal light meant nothing and passed me just as I started to turn. I was going slowly enough that I managed to stop, but I can relate to the heart-pounding fear you felt. So whether it's the heart of D C or the middle of "no-where", people tend to use vehicles as weapons. (Geez, and I have to go to town today to do some unavoidable errands... you think the drivers in D C are aggressive - the drivers in Boom-town Alberta, where the roads weren't designed for such a huge volume of people in such a huge hurry, would put them to shame!)

  10. Oh, I forgot for a moment that D C is the murder capital of America - the police are probably too busy to worry about a little unsafe driving! Hard for me to comprehend living in that kind of environment - can people in D C see the sky? Are you ever completely alone? In total silence? (well, except for the birds, bugs, etc.) Can you run around your yard naked (do you have a yard?), singing at the top of your lungs without someone calling the nut squad? Not that I would ever run around my yard naked...but I COULD, if I wanted. Oh, I know this doesn't relate to your post, but inquiring minds want to know...

  11. Aggression behind the wheel is a problem where I live, too. It's unbelievable what people will do; and I agree, I don't think reality sets in until they step out of the car.

    I would like to see more rail systems in America. Let's just do it like France and do away with the damn car. Yes, we will still have people acting out, but at least we could walk the streets or ride our bikes now and then.

    BTW- You need to call the Po'- Po' (police) on this lady. She's totally gonna do it again. Maybe the job is too much stress for her. Who knows why, but the fear isn't likely to last long. She needs a desk job.

  12. On the base you HAVE to stop for pedestrians, regardless of where they're crossing. Drivers are pretty good about it too, but that could be because many soldiers (especially those that live in the barracks) don't have cars and walk to get where they need to be.

    On the flip side of this, at the major university I attended in Texas, many students were just downright stupid about being pedestrians. Like they wouldn't use the controlled crosswalks and WOULD NOT EVEN FREAKING LOOK in the downtown area of a major city. If any ever got hit, I would almost chalk it up to evolution-in-action, hehe.

  13. Geez, Crabby! Scary. The really sad part is how we can all relate. We should all chip in and get you a lucky rabbit's foot (crab's claw?)

    Commuting by bicycle, I regularly meet drivers who try to intimidate me (and often succeed). Especially familiar with that blank stare through the windshield. ("You're in my way; you're not important.") The fact that they're driving in the bike lane is apparently irrelevant.

    Luckily, wearing a helmet and dark glasses combine to make a sort of disguise so I'm not immediately recognizable. What I do is look at them, smile and wave as if I recognize them. ("Hey, it's you! How're you doing?") This has the satisfying effect of making them think I know them, and clearly unnerves them.

    Harder to be really rude when you're not anonymous, as that woman found out when you got her license number.

    Take care of yourself!

  14. "Is this some sort of horrible new trend?"
    I hope not. They redid the pedestrian bridge over the river near my house and to cross the river you now have to cross the road first. And no drivers actually stop for you during regular hours (thankfully I run earlier). I've actually had people whiz by me as I crossed the road. If you're at a pedestrian crossing and on the road they should stop...not make you sprint across.
    The sad thing is it takes people being hit for something to happen. We are considering being cranky citizens and writing to the city to ask for some sort of crosswalk light or there are a lot of kids in our area and it's only a matter of time...
    Glad you're not flattened. It's too bad you didn't get the number to call that person in. That is the kind of driver that needs a kick.

  15. Oh! You're frightening me... Do call the police, at least to know if something can be done or not.

    Last week I saw an infomercial (are they called that, or am I imagining things?) about traffic safety. School is starting in France, and more children are on the streets going to school. First we were reminded that most accidents actually happen on pedestrian crossing, then that children aren't capable of assessing traffic situations before the age of eleven or twelve.

    Do you know what the conclusion was? That drivers should be more careful, and especially around schools? No! It was that parents should tell their children to be careful, yep the same children that only seconds ago were (rightfully) declared to be incapable of being careful! Idiots...

    And I see the US isn't better. Here drivers are crazy, but at least they are quite used to pedestrians being crazy as well. I can't imagine how it is "over there". Sweden is the good and almost goofy example: drivers have to stop (and do stop!) if someone is next to the cross walk, looking as if he might want to cross!

  16. "The license number is all the police will need to locate the driver and her employer. Feeling as threatened as you did, I wouldn't have hesitated to call and let them sort it out."
    Ditto Hilary!!!

    How frightening! So glad you're still here!

  17. A little off topic but, did anyone read about the 74 year old man who was in his car when a 32 year old mugger came up with a tire iron and banged on the window, threatening the man and demanding his money? The car was parked so the 'old' man couldn't drive away. So what happened? HaHa!! The 74 year old GETS OUT OF THE CAR, and 'adjusts' the muggers'attitude' to a more rehabilitated state! The newscaster said that if you are a mugger and a 74 year old guy is non-compliant with your request for his wallet, YOU had better realize he ain't your average grampa!

  18. Yeah, drivers around Boston seem to ignore the crosswalk too. I had a run-in (almost a run-on, thanksfully not) with a mean looking prius on the BIKE PATH a month ago. Not good. I hope I scratched their shiny new car.

  19. In cases like this, always remember the value of a well-flung coffee cup.

    Or, you know, a rock.

    Whatever gets the point across.

  20. Damn it; I told you to be careful in DC. If you get run over I'm gonna find it hard to forgive you. Maybe you should carry a brick and the next time someone almost runs you over, "accidentally" throw it up in fright right through their window. Maybe you can start a new pedestrian trend.

    The same BS happens every time I go to San Fran. It's like drivers are out to kill walkers there.

    When I worked with homeless teens I did suicide watch, prevention, etc. And I ran a discussion and wellness group (a lot related to suicide issues) for gay/bi/les/ques/etc teens.

    The ones I did the most real suicide prevention/watch with were teenage gay males. Teenage males who are gay or questioning do tend to have the highest teen suicide rates. But the teens I got the most threats of suicide from however were straight females. So, I'm a tad surprised that female suicide is supposedly on the rise since the trends I mentioned have been the same FOREVER.

    I actually would have to read the new studies though. If it's true, that is a totally new trend and that's odd. But it is hard to be a teen that's why we need more big sisters/big brother volunteers -- in fact I think you, Crabby would make an excellent youth volunteer. Just something to consider. Teens like the humor deal it helps them relate (in my experience).

    Ok, I'll shut up now. Sorry, teens are my favorite sub-pop of the human population so I get sort of going on the topic. See, I'm still going...

  21. Golly, Crabby.

    How maddening. Since I walk and drive around NYC all the time, I've had my share of near misses, but not that bad!

    I have, however, nearly run over pedestrians who do dumb things.

    Here in NYC the pedestrians are awfully aggressive. And when you're trying to make a turn they just slowly amble across, which is maddening. And the worst is when they just keep coming even after the DONT WALK sign starts blinking and it's supposed to be your turn.

    I'm a fairly adventurous pedestrian--I cross in the middle of streets if I can--but I try to be considerate of the drivers.

    The thing about drivers though, is that when you stop for people in the crosswalk the driver behind you will honk furiously. Like I'm supposed to just run the person down.

    Walk AND drive defensively. People get hit here all the time.

  22. Bridget,
    I totally agree with you about the bike path in Boston! One of my coworkers was out bike riding in Lexington. He came to a cross-walk and slowed down to let the car pass. The car slowed down as if to stop, and when my coworker started crossing, the driver THEN decided to floor the accelerator. Coworker had to stop short, but he was clipped onto the bike and ended up falling over and injuring himself.

    When I was little and my mother would take me to school, we'd be at the crosswalk with the right of way and she'd start into the crosswalk. But drivers didn't always stop for us. So she'd scare the wits out of them by slamming her umbrella down onto the hood of their car and yelling "crosswalk!"

  23. Unfortunately, it's not just manslaughter charges that drivers think their magic steel box will protect them from -- A lady in Indiana got herself and two of her kids killed trying to beat a train -- and she did beat it, only to get clobbered by another train coming in the other direction.

    It just boggles my mind that she would even think of trying that with 4 kids (the other two survived) in the car with her. :(

  24. glad to hear you were able to scuttle out of the way! no, seriously, that is scary. i say Rat Her Out stat! it seems that when going out in public these days that you're taking your life in your hands. too many idiots with cars!

  25. A friend of mine was knocked down in an intersection (she had the right of way). By a police car. Fortunately, she is OK, but still suffers some back problems. *sigh*
    I find the worse offenders in D.C. are metrobuses - whether you are walking or driving.
    Glad you are OK!

  26. Bag Lady--Good questions! I'm only here until mid october, this was just a temporary stay. So for long term, I'd need to find good nearaby naturey getaways. But I've lived in San Francisco and New York City and San Diego and spent lots of time in other cities--and I actually like a good dose of urban life! I like to have so many things in walking distance, and the sense that there's always something going on out there. But then after a while we definitely need to go out somewhere where there's trees and grass and birds and all that good stuff.

    Soap Box Girl--I'm so with you on the rail thing, but people seem so resistant to any form of public transportation here! (Personally, I love trains). God forbid they should have to share physical space with strangers when they could be driving their own gas-guzzling vehicles!

    Lisa, I totally agree about the clueless pedestrians. I walk a lot more than I drive, but I hate it when other peds walk in front of cars without looking when they don't have the right of way! Not only is it stupid and dangerous it's Rude! It's like cutting in front of people in line. Wait your turn!

    Mary, I love your solution about waving like they're friends of yours! And while I have a bike, I'm too chicken to ride it much in traffic and have pretty much only taken it out on bike trails--I've seen too many clueless cars doing dangerous things where I live to brave it!

    Good luck on getting a stop sign or light or something for that bridge! It's scary to think of kids trying to cross there!

    Hi Pelikan!
    That's actually pretty cute about the Swedes! But I agree--you can tell kids to be careful but young kids are so impulsive they really can't remember sometimes to look before running into a road. So drivers have to slow down and be ready! Too many are busy on their cell phones and not paying enough attention.

    Yeah, I should call, but it's one of those instances where "the principle of the thing" doesn't seem worth it to me. I'd be the one filling out forms etc, and they'd never take it seriously. And if they did and actually pressed charges against her, then she'd just say "no I didn't." How would we resolve it? Either it would get dropped because prosecutors are far too busy for stuff like that, or, most inconveniently, I'd have to give a deposition and maybe make a court appearance--in Washington D.C., where I'll only be living for the next few weeks. I don't want to put myself in a position of having to fly cross country from California to resolve it!

    Back in a little bit...

  27. Dr. J,
    I know violence is never the answer blah blah blah but I have to admit I love stories like that!

    Hi Bridget,
    I hope you scratched it too! And I naively would hope a Prius driver would be less of a jerk!

    Jim, I like the flung coffee cup idea, especially since it comes with such good deniability--oooh, so sorry, I was just so STARTLED when you nearly RAN ME OVER!

    Hi Jennifer--wow, some fascinating info about the suicidal gay male teens. And I got the sense from the study that the girls were still less likely, but that their rates were climbing. However, I don't think the researchers felt it necessarily meant anything yet. I do think girls are more a bit more prone to emotion and dramatics--which of course doesn't mean you don't still take them seriously, but guys are less likely to use a suicide attempt as a method of communication. (And thanks for the vote of confidence, but I'm pretty clueless with teens. Even the ones who aren't in crisis! I'm just glad there are people like you out there working with teens and nurturing kids and doing good things!)

    Melissa, yeah, in NYC the pedestrians are worse than the cars! I'm like you--I'll jaywalk, but only when I'm not causing anyone any inconvenience or endangering myself. My close calls have all tended to be when I was in a crosswalk and clearly had the right of way! But some people seem to walk in front of cars against the lights slowly and deliberately, it's really weird!

    Hi Lethological!
    I like the umbrella thing-- Thwack! Crosswalk! Although these days you're taking your life in your hands if you challenge aggressive drivers, because some of them are crazy mf's with guns who get especially angry with you when they're in the wrong! Instead of acting embarrassed or apologetic like they should, they somehow turn it into rage. It's so scary out there!

    Oh my god that's awful! People who try to outrace train with kids in the car, it just amazes me. And it happens all the time!

    Meg, thanks, yep, fortunately I can scuttle pretty fast when I'm panicked! And yep, should call, but nope, probably won't.

    Missicat--by a Police Car? God that's ironic. I hope they got in trouble. And you're right about those buses--I stay well away from anywhere it looks like they might be thinking of going no matter whose light it is!

    So at this point I need to go out and take care of some things and may not be responding individually to further comments on this post. But will definitely read any that might be posted, and will see you all tomorrow!

  28. Do it Crabby!
    1) You have no idea if this lady has other driving complaints or charges against her. While your incident may go nowhere and you may have to fill out paperwork, there are other ways your simply reporting the incident (without you knowing it) could nail her.
    2) Let's say she HAD hit you. The company or employer who owns the car would be held liable. Don't you think they'd like to know there's a crazy driving around in THEIR car? Reporting it to the police does lots of people favors, maybe you'd save the next pedestrian a broken leg! I understand it's totally and completely inconvenient, but I still think you owe it to pedestrians of DC and that company or agency to report it.
    And as always, just my opinion. I know you won't if you really don't want to! :)

    (Sorry. I'm sure you didn't expect me to feel so strongly about traffic. ...blame it on my lawyer husband)

  29. Good heavens, I had a horrible vision of crab pate all over the street! You be careful out there, Crabby.

    I like Jim's idea of flinging the coffee cup in completely justifiable fright - but make sure it's filled with something that stains paintwork!

  30. Hate that! That sucks. There's a reason why pedestrians have the right of way-- it's because we're not made of metal and weigh half a ton (hopefully).

    I also hate the reverse-- people who just waltz out into the street with no awareness of the cars. Hello, do you want to die?

    The car may have been local or park police (Georgetown has a lot of Park Service land) maybe? Or Metro related. They look like cop cars sometimes.

  31. I did have a similar incident happen to me when I was crossing the street... with a Walk signal... in an SF suburb. I didn't have a coffee cup in my hand, but I was out walking the dog and frankly what I had in my hand would have been a lot more effective a message if I'd thrown it. The driver had her window down, too. Should have gone for it.

  32. Sorta related, but I've heard of two BAD accidents between bicycles and cars lately. One killed an eleven-year-old girl. The other messed up my next-door-neighbor so badly, he may not be able to work again (he's an eye surgeon).

    I'm sort of scared to go biking, myself, right now...

  33. I hope it's not a new trend, but I fear it may be. Even in supposedly "laid-back" Santa Barbara... wait, everyone's so stressed trying to work multiple jobs to pay their million-plus mortgages... But that's another whine. I just know I likely will never, ever own property here. *sigh*
    I will rarely bike except on off-road trails, paved or not. I do walk a lot, and will often wait until the intersection is completely clear of cars before I cross on foot.
    There is some safety in numbers, sometimes. If I am with a friend or two, it feels safer. Harder to miss seeing a small group, we hope.
    Yet when my walking partner's leather bag strap broke mid-crosswalk, in front of our church, no less, I pulled him, dragging his broken bag, out of the crosswalk, where a stupid speeding driver, ignoring the stop sign, would have flattened both of us, his laptop, books, etc.
    I'm convinced some of these people think "stop" is an acronym for "screw those other people."
    Thanks for letting me vent a little too. I've been a reader of your blog, but this is the first time I felt really moved to comment.

  34. I'm so sorry about this experience. Maybe the universe is training you now to avoid an even closer call that would have been unavoidable otherwise. Maybe you are the messenger that reminded the right person to be extra careful and saved a life?

    Here on the west side of L.A. we have a serious fine for failing to yield to pedestrians, and even for creeping over the limit line before stopping. Many people are aware of it and drive appropriately, but I'd say less than 20% have manners, and that is a LOT!

    We walk a couple miles four times a week with a smallish pup, so are extra careful. Even before the pup addition we were discussing some kind of pedestrian self-defense device for those people that roll right by us at speed when we are already crossing but not yet to their side, or who bully us into staying on the corner when we have the light. We used to carry air horns and blast them at the offenders, but you have to carry them upright at all times or they fart rather than blast! We also carry water bottles sometimes to throw. The cup of coffee is one to be careful with, a guy was found guilty of assault for I believe throwing his coffee through an open window at a driver that almost mowed him down! So, you can't commit "assault", bleh! We thought of supersoakers filled with dyed water, paintball guns (which could potentially get us shot or picked up by cops), raw eggs, Uzi style dart guns that have a special, very tough dart that when shot sticks to a car with a glue that lasts at least a month, with a big flag on the end the reads "I'm an asshole!" on it, to warn others, but we have to invent it first.

    Also, we don't really want to increase aggression. Last time out a woman on a cell phone in a Mercedes just kept coming into the crosswalk as we were crossing, even though she was slowing to a stop, she took up my space. So I swung my water bottle at her star and knocked it sideways! So she would have to look at the tilt and think about how maybe pedestrains could fight back! The star on a Mercedes is on a cable that lets it flex on it's "seat", precisely so it is much less vulnerable than regular hood ornaments to being broken. Makes it easier to steal, however. We replaced 3 of them years ago when I actually had one with my ex, now I have a bicycle and a motorcycle. So technically I still have 4 wheels..

    So as I also ride a moto and a bike on the streets as well as walk, I've learned to be extremely vigilant! I watch for the car's nose to drop to indicate slowing (and I still wait until they are barely moving before crossing in front of them), and I also am very aware of all the potential turning cars, all the rights and lefts! I work on staying very conscious of what the cars all around me are doing. I too see people walk into the street without looking either way, even in the middle of the block. It boggles my mind, and for as many times as it has happened, I can't believe no one has been hit so far.

  35. Horns that fart and die-filled supersoakers, what tempting pedestrian weapons!

    And I hate when cars who do intend to stop at a stop sign won't slow down enough to let you start going with any confidence. It just takes longer for everyone!

    Lots of harrowing stories from everyone--seems like this is a universal problem.

    The good thing is it did remind me to keep up my vigilance!


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