Thursday, 17 April 2008

Hardwired at the Crossing AKA Learning to Jaywalk without getting Knicked

Being a North American, it is fairly obvious that I am hardwired towards certain things. We have our own way of doing things in America (not United but large scale America), that do not necessarily cross over to other parts of the world. Sometimes attempting to undo that hardwiring is virtually impossible - it becomes so instinctive, that one hardly gives consideration to what they are doing. One of the hardest habits that I am having trouble breaking, is a fairly basic one. I am relearning how to cross a street properly.
Now in North America, I am of the "look left-right-left " field of thought. Sometimes I don't even bother to look both ways, I just look at the most immediate lane of traffic, and then run across, in the hopes of making it alive. In Britian, as most people likely know, things are the opposite. This is seemingly a simple issue - but not for me. Who knew that so much consideration could go into the proper way to cross a street?
After a week here, I find myself still ambling to the corner, holding my breath, and debating which way to look. Yes, ultimately, I will look both ways before I cross the street. The trick is in knowing: how close the closest car is, how fast that car is going, what the speed of impact will be, the trajectory of impact, and the size and make of the vehicle (I would much rather be hit by a BMW than a Ford). Perhaps I had all of these thoughts prior to moving here - but they become muted as secondary elements in the back of one's mind. Suddenly I am finding that I must actually think. Not being in the habit of thinking, I find I am wasting a lot of time at street corners...hmmm...there is something vaguely sexual and illegal about that. the next issue I have is with jaywalking. Such a simple task at home! Here though, I have become alarmingly aware of my own mortality - that car that is careening towards me, could potentially damage me. Today I jaywalked....but oh it was tentative...look both ways..twice...look foot out...look...another foot...look...RUN! 'Whew!'
Finally...crosswalks without traffic lights. Another scary event brought to me by Banbury. I have adopted a largely "*explitive* you " attitude towards these crosswalks. I step out, head held high, and brace for impact (which kind of defeats the purpose of the above conversation). I pray that the car barrelling down the street will stop - but I refuse to give way to the driver. What I appreciate is the game of chicken that the drivers play with pedestrians. Or perhaps they are testing out the ABS brake system. Either way, I have found that drivers slam on their brakes at the very last second. Why is this? Something to do with gas consumption versus speed?

Today I was walking towards the outskirts of Banbury, and I heard the sirens of an ambulance, and found myself wondering if some poor North American had failed to properly cross the street (it happens!). As I attempt to not become the newest statistic of vehicular fatalities, I am left contemplating the proper way to cross a street - school just didn't prepare me for this :-p

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