yield to pedestrians as long as they’re not me

by elizaligon

They lurk in plain sight, haunting daily walks and nightly stumbles. They indicate a false and fragile sense of safety, but this promise is almost as often broken as it is kept. They are the silent menace of every road down which we wander. 

Crosswalks. Are fucking Terrifying. And I’ll tell you why. 

It seems appropriate to begin with the fact that walking in front of other people strikes the fear of God into me. It is a horrible, frightening act that I would not wish on my worst enemy. My body is filled with so many nerves– every step I take feels inherently wrong. Am I making a face? Is this how I should be walking? Oh God, was that person looking at me? I want to be anywhere else right now. 

For the very same reasons, waiting at the crosswalk light is terrible. What am I supposed to do? In the summer, I stare at my phone, adjusting its volume and brightness. In the winter, sometimes I move the slush around with my shoe. I try not to look up, and if I do dare to glance upward, then I try so hard not to make eye contact with anybody. The sky and the clouds are nice. The person across the street is not. 

Worse still than waiting at the light is the curse of being too late for the light’s change. When the sign says “walk” but I’m still a long ways away from the crosswalk, I have no idea what I should do with myself. Do I run to make it to the light, knowing that I may miss it– falling just a liiittle bit short? Do I slow wayyy down, waiting for the light to change so that it seems normal that I missed it? (The other day I decided to slow down. I stopped to tie my shoe, trying to seem somewhat normal, because the “walk” sign was flashing, and I was a little bit too far to make it. An old lady was stopped in her car at the light and gave me a look. I have no idea who she is, but I live every single day of my life in fear of her.)

This brings me to a controversial point in my argument. I don’t like it when drivers stop traffic to let me cross the street. I most certainly appreciate the gesture, I’d give you a million points and a hug for the gesture; however, as we covered earlier, I hate walking in front of people, inluding people in their cars. Let’s make a promise to one another. If you just let traffic flow and try to follow the rules of the road, then I will also let traffic flow and try to follow the rules of the road. In my dream world, things would flow and function without stopping, and I would have like 30% less nerves. 

I do have a multiplicity of fears in this world; this is one of the more anxiety-inducing aspects of la vie quotidienne. This is interesting because in theory, crosswalks are designed to keep us safe, but I feel very unsafe. All of the time. The problem must be in the mechanisms. 

So anyway… If you ever see me in a crosswalk PLEASE LOOK AWAY. (In fact, if you see me walking in general, I am begging you, please, just look away.)

Now I know what you might be thinking:

“bUt EliZa! iT sOuNdS LiKe YoU hAvE a FeAr of CARS, nOt A fEaR of CROSSWALKS!”

Well, dear audience, if you read closely, you might find that we can trace the fear beyond the cars. After all, it’s not the injury of getting hit by a car that I fear… It is the embarrassing nature of the way that I conduct my life. What I fear, at its heart, is neither cars nor crosswalks, but, as always,,, Other People.

Categories: eliza ligon, march 23 2021, water cooler

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