Don’t Get Me Wrong: Some of My Best Friends Are Pedestrians

2 Sep

A week or so ago, blogosario Mike Henneke compiled a list of his pet peeves. I wracked my syrup-sloshed sponge for a passel of my own and came up with a cool zillion, but only one I care to acknowledge here. Because it so twists my craw and is so ridiculously petty, so Larry Davidian in its neurotic triviality, that it makes me laugh. Until it happens.

OK, picture this: You’re on foot, standing at an intersection, waiting for the light to change. It’s bad enough you have to cope with the pedestrian-oblivious piloting cars, you also gotta contend with the sentient sneaker ooze polluting our sidewalks.

What I mean is, let’s say you’re first to arrive at a particular corner. Naturally, it’s your responsibility to press for the “WALK” signal. Not a problem, no burden ‘t all. You apply one firm tap and clock out. Your work is done. Return your hands to your pockets and watch the world zip past, late for lunch, late for work, late for early, late for the rest of their lives.

Now let’s say you’re joined by another dude within, hmmmm, 15 seconds of your selfless act. He’s likely either seen or been within earshot of that motion. (Exempt from this otherwise hard-and-fast rule: children. They love to touch stuff.) But what does he do? In defiance of the unspoken civilian contract with the Department of Transportation, he squeezes right past you and hits the button. And not only does he hit the button, he hammers it, baby, he goes Clubber Lang on that shit. Rapid belts, hip checks, seizure slaps — he’s like an insistent wind pelting a pole with its tetherball chain.

It’s a behavior I didn’t notice until I lived in L.A. One day I was at a stoplight at Santa Monica and Avenue of the Stars, doing my mellow hang, when this flibbertigibbet of a tinsel-thatched fig materialized at my right shoulder, babbling moviebiz into his mobile brick, his every word split by an alien THUNKATHUNKATHUNKATHUNKA. I looked down and he was whacking for a “WALK,” unable to hack not being in perpetual motion. But I give L.A. residents a pass: They’re notoriously impatient, and, at the pace they live, deservedly so. The city’s a mesmerizing quagmire of sensitive artists, ruthless businessmen, and other wild eccentrics, and what they manufacture is vital to my life. But here where I live, THUNKATHUNKATHUNKATHUNKA just means your dealer lives on the next block.

In any case, don’t these people realize that one THUNKA is sufficient? One confident, commanding poke? Repeated blasts do not register as a priority at DOT central command. No one is going to fling his headset and announce, “I need a manual override at the corner of Sunset and La Brea; we’ve got 36 —  I repeat, thirty-six — pedestrians waiting to cross. I don’t care if it’s against regulations, McCord, what if one of ’em needs to get to the Arclight? Goddammit, man, have you never had a dream?!”

But even the single-tappers get on my nerves. You saw me. The sound was still reverberating as you approached. And it’s a very distinct sound; you’re not going to mistake it for a leaf blowing past or a burger bag settling. The plot is already in motion. Enjoy yourself: you’re on a 40-second vacation!

When you decide to hit the “WALK” button, anyway, what you’re really saying is “Hmmm, guess I’m alone at this stoplight” or “Step aside, fellow stroller — you did it all wrong.” Maybe I lack the necessary credentials to put our joint request across. Who knows? Well, I do. When the little white figure snuffs the oppressive red hand, I know who made that progress possible. You’re welcome.

What silly thing drives you nuts?

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