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June 21, 2011

Humans at the zoo

This morning I was out early for a walk, it's supposed to warm up today and I like the cool mornings for walking. Later it will be near ninety degrees to welcome summer properly for the first official day of summer.

About midway through my walk I was at a corner waiting for the light to turn and I could hear sirens. There was a guy waiting at the light with me, and we watched as a police car with lights and sirens blazing went through the intersection followed by an ambulance, followed then by a mad rush of drivers who decided to just run the now-red light anyway, because by God, it was their turn! My turn, my turn, my turn!

I heard the guy waiting at the corner with me swear a little under his breath, then we both tried to cross the street but some lady in an SUV that she couldn't quite drive was doing some weird maneuver across three lanes and we had to wait in the middle of the street for her to figure out there were pedestrians in front of her car.

And I laughed. Because people here are crazy. And the guy heard me and started laughing too.

"I'm from Anchorage," he said. "I'm just in town for a few more days and, you know, I was gonna rent a car but no way. No way am I getting on the road with these people. I've seen people drive better in a blinding snowstorm."

We walked along the sidewalk for a few more steps and chatted about the traffic and the insane drivers and then he was back at his hotel and I was off on my walk. But this little conversation reminded me of something I saw on Friday.

On Friday afternoon I was driving down the boulevard, where it turns into Cahuenga and dips into Hollywood. There was traffic. Usually you don't come to a dead stop right there unless there's an accident or something, so as we all came to a crawl then a stop, I looked up ahead and I could see the flashing lights. Something in a store or restaurant must have been on fire, there were firemen and firetrucks everywhere.

Traffic was being funneled into one lane on the southbound side. In the big scheme of things this is not a crisis of traffic. Closing the 405 for Carmageddon is a crisis. Overpasses falling down is a crisis. Traffic momentarily diverted into one lane is not a crisis. But I watched in utter fascination as drivers in the cars ahead of me started freaking the hell out, "No! I am sitting still! Must be in constant motion! Fast! Because movement! is life!" and so a few of them honked (that did not help, by the way) and several just started doing weird shit like backing up, trying to flip a u-turn into oncoming traffic.

I glanced in my rearview mirror and just as I did there was a heavy thud as two cars about 50 yards back in traffic collided while both trying to make illegal u-turns. It was unfreakingbelievable.

Of all the animals in the animal kingdom, I think humans must be the most daffy. Here we had two people in two different cars, both so hurried and so unwilling to wait for three or even five minutes that they had to zip out, whip around and beat traffic. Except they crunched into each other and that little shortcut to save two minutes cost them so much. Having to pull over and wait for the police. Getting a police report. Filing a claim. Getting an estimate. Taking the car in for repairs. The five thousand envelopes that will arrive from the insurance company. Filling out the forms at the DMV. Paying the deductible.

All because they were too impatient to wait two or three or five minutes.

This is what happened last month when that lady hit my Jeep. After the crash she sat in her car, writing out her phone number for me, saying, "I was late for work." I remember looking at her with absolute disbelief, thinking You almost killed me because you were late for work?

That line keeps coming back to me at the oddest times. I'll see someone blow through a red light and hear that lady saying, I was late for work. And then I think, I hope they don't kill someone just because they couldn't bother to leave on time for work today. I've been walking almost everywhere since that lady hit my Jeep, sometimes I know consciously that I walk because I can, because if I hadn't seen her and if I hadn't been going the posted speed limit and if I hadn't slammed the breaks just when I did our collision would have ended a very different way. I go for my walks and I am so pleased my legs move. I don't even care that they're chubby legs or that I'm still short. I'm alive, I'm well, I'm walking. I've logged over a hundred miles on my shoes this month alone and it's only the 21st. Walk. Walk simply because I can.

Every day when I walk I see drivers who don't look into intersections before they turn. They speed into the crosswalk in their cars and the pedestrians have to scramble to get out of the way. I watch drivers zip through lights, there are lots of accidents on the boulevard. Lots of people are late, I guess, or just can't imagine sitting still for thirty whole seconds. I used to be like that a few years ago. Then I made the simple and life-changing decision to leave my house five minutes earlier. That's all. Every day I would simply leave five minutes earlier and then I didn't have to speed or run lights or be rushed or almost kill people every morning.

Five minutes can change your life. I walk almost everywhere now, but there are still days when I have to drive. I leave five minutes early, I take my time, I don't run red lights. I'm not in a panicked rush. That's my idea of hell, you know, always being in a rush, always having to be in constant motion, zipping past, honking at people, waving your tiny fist of rage at an old lady in a Prius. It's such a waste of energy. Crazy, daffy humans.

Posted by laurie at June 21, 2011 8:45 AM