Walking is getting close to the godhead in my solipsistic, self-deity world. I get to regain composure lost after a long day. Sometimes the combination of placing oversized cushiony headphones over my ears, wearing the back-left side of my shoe into the pavement, and smelling the flowery-but-often-urine-scented gales of Lake Michigan has a sybaritic appeal for me, akin to perhaps a day at the beach or weekend bender for others.
That is, until the almost-inevitable moment of a missed pancaking, care of a driver who suffers their own machine-aided solipsism.
Years ago in my prime breeding years, a near-hit would lead to a different response than I’d give now. It was closer to a “YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE” than the current version: an angry, mystified, almost-hurt stare.
The old way led to a few more interactions. None were all too pleasant and none gave me any indication as to what they’re doing where they’re going, and why they have such little regard for human life. In some small way, though, I miss those interactions.
Whose fault are the near hits? Well, if I’m being honest, sometimes I’m simply too busy looking at my phone to realize I’m about to be carried into death by a light blue 2012 Toyota Prius, one that didn’t care that Chicago is legally a pedestrian-first city. I mean hey, it’s 2016 and us millennials check our phones in excess of 300 times per day, I’m a victim of my conditioning. Even my conditioning has been conditioned.
Sometimes the driver simply doesn’t notice, moving on as if we didn’t just come mere inches away from being linked together forever via the shared experience of my stomach’s internal bleeding and their brain’s PTSD.
Sometimes they do notice and give an insolent stare, as if I’m the one whose 185 pound frame would rip through their 30 mile-an-hour, 2,000 pound box of nuts, bolts, and engine block as it came careening through the white lines, marring its new paint job and flattening two tires and perhaps scuffing my shoes.
Sometimes they’ll roll down their window and wonder about my “fucking problem” as if I hadn’t been dying to talk to someone about just that all day.
While the recriminatory back-and-forth of black-pavement-said brown-pavement-said is something I could do without, I would still love to have an interaction. An interaction where we could both come to an understanding and really know what happened from both sides. Each side has its own unique thoughts and feelings and fears and wonders of “Why-the-fuck?”
My new thing to shorten that and simply ask: Why?
My best case scenario after a near hit:
Them: WHOA jeeze, you came out of nowhere!
Me: I was right in the middle of the crosswalk in a white shirt with black stars. You’d see me if you were paying attention, I think. Why weren’t you looking?
Them: Listen man. I’m sorry I almost hit you. I guess I wasn’t paying full attention. It’s been a rough day. I’ve had to work 14 billable hours today and all I want to do is go home, take my pants off, smoke weed, drink three beers, and watch Everybody Loves Raymond reruns on basic cable.
Me: It’s OK. We all have rough days. Please, just watch where you’re going. I’m human just like you made of flesh and blood. When Raymond is a jerk to Robert, I also feel bad. When Frank says “Holy crap,” I also laugh. When the twins are in their younger years, I also say “awww” to myself.
Them: Wow, you know a lot about Everybody Loves Raymond.
This is a best case scenario. I realize I’m more likely to receive no response, but I want to implant the question of “WHY?” in someone else’s head so maybe next time they’ll see a crosswalk and think “That pudgy star-shirted guy was right, why would I drive that quickly while making a turn?”
It’s a dangerous time for all, but I’d rather not end up as a one-off story on DNA Info Chicago and Uptown Update saying I was well-loved by family and thought of as an OK guy by friends. And I’d rather not miss this next episode of Raymond, which features Raymond trying to set up an interview with Terry Bradshaw for a feature story.