Oh, the power I felt at holding back traffic in Seattle! Oh, the satisfaction! I’m in the city to visit my daughter Christy. Out of my comfort zone and timid, I edge slowly into the road as if cars would come barreling down. Then my daughter yells as she strides boldly into the middle of the street in front of me, “Hold it up higher!”. You mean they’ll all stop if I merely tell them to? Well… apparently so. I’d always imagined that city drivers were too focused on getting wherever to notice a mere person in their way. (Not to mention the lure of that cell phone in their lap.) I’m not a risk taker so silly notions get planted over the years.
In 2008 Seattle got funding for a small pilot project aimed at pedestrian safely — colorful flags so crossers could be more visible to drivers. At certain intersections a small collection of orange, yellow and green flags were tucked into metal tubes attached to the poles, much like arrows nestled in a quiver. You walk up to the corner, grab your favorite color and step out into traffic. Oh, and hold your breath.
Although Seattle probably did this to save the cost of more signals, playing traffic cop is much more fun than pushing a button and waiting for permission to cross the street. Holding the flag high is important. I already know this because it’s something we used to do when a water skier had dumped behind the boat. Holding up a red flag warned approaching boats that a head was floating nearby.
I’ve never been much of a city girl and was always intimidated by the rapid pace of it all, which always demands instant decisions. I’m a lot like the country mouse visiting her city mouse cousin, adapting to circumstances I’m not used to. But these new circumstances always wake me up. Large cities have never been on my radar, other than avoiding them whenever I could. There’s been no thought beyond the negatives — too many people, too much noise, too much traffic. And all that frantic zip zip zip everywhere.
The notion has built up so much in my head over the years that by now it’s a bigger deal than it ought to be. Maybe that zip zip zip of higher energy is a good thing, more excitement. I’m sure my adrenaline gets stagnant living such predictable days. The upsides to living in a large city were obvious on our latest trip north. We got up in the morning and WALKED to breakfast. We needed some propane and WALKED to the hardware store. And everywhere you looked, ethnic diversity! oo-la-la. Maybe I could adapt to city life after all.
If you’re not a car person walking to restaurants is pure heaven. Rural living has lots of benefits — peace and quiet for sure — but walking to anything other than another street or, if you’re lucky, a nearby park is a real treat.
I’ve moved a lot over the years and have learned, there is no “perfect” place to live. Every town and circumstance has its upside and its downside. It’s always some sort of a trade-off, but we’ve been lucky, so far the ups have outweighed the downs.
The crossing guard “profession” always fascinated me when my children were small. Making sure your little charges cross safely was a certain kind of nurturing I admired. It seemed then like the perfect job when you had no other. It’s a little late, but the idea still rings true — in Seattle I got to be my own crossing guard!
[Alas, I’ve since learned from Ms. Google that Seattle’s pedestrian program was scrapped several years ago and existing intersections are maintained solely by the local community.]
SECRET: Tiptoe out of your comfort zone… just a little. Practicing this once in a while broadens your view of the world and will make you a more understanding person. Always a good thing for moms and dads, friends or lovers.
Weeded out this week: Big cities are NOT the evil places I’ve always imagined! Been blowing that notion out of proportion all my life.