Crossing a pedestrian crossing is an emotionally arduous task, a trial of the ego and a frankly embarrassingly soul-baring undertaking. There are about a million ways of approaching, executing and completing it, but most of these are wrought with worry, awkwardness and a begrudging sense of obligation - the last on the part of the driver, the crossee, of course.
The whole traffic-slowing process entails a number of nagging questions on the crosser's part: Where does one put one's hands? Does one wave or smile at the crossee? How fast must one go? Must one look busy or arrogant, greedy or confident? Does one strut, bounce, galumph, float or glide along the zebra-walk? In any case, one is being watched - the scrutiny is intense, and the crossee only lets one cross because he/she legally has to, a great deal of the time. Hell, it's not as if he/she wants to.
It's not always easy for the crossee either. Sometimes he/she must slam on the brakes and look a goon for stopping so suddenly; he/she is often troubled by whether to stop when the crosser half-starts crossing on the other side of the road; also, will the crossee get rear-ended by the following vehicle not following the two-second rule when he/she legally obliges, engages and indulges the crosser? What will the police think if the crossee accidentally overlooks the crosser and slips on through unhalted because of the blinding sunlight?
However, despite that, the bulk of our sympathy must lie with the poor old crosser. His/her role is akin to trying to take a catch in cricket: the whole world is watching, the pressure is on, and one's whole sense of privacy vanishes into the stratosphere. The worst-case scenario is falling over, or dropping one's luggage on the crossing, as the traffic is slowed further and the embarrassment grows larger.
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Then the old inferiority complex swells up; the natural assumption being the driver is more important than the walker so the walker must do his dirty business and make himself scarce without grace, ego or happiness as, low and behold, the crossee/driver is in a damn great hurry.
In fact, the only way to make the crossing an emotionally mutually beneficial thing is by taking a dog with you. For not only does the driver have something freer and easier to look at, the walker feels less responsible for causing the gauntlet-walking, traffic-slowing spectacle; a la, the doggie shares your responsibility. Consequently, the relief is huge. The crosser, with the onus no longer on him solely, can smile with the crossee smiling at the dog - unless, of course, the dog decides to let one go mid-crossing, then you're really in the poop. Nevertheless, give a man a dog and he will tell you the truth.
Don't get me wrong: there are some tremendously nice crossees; gracious, patient, kind, good-humoured and humble. But the crosser still gets that awful, maddening feeling that the crossee has seen one's soul or, worse still, seen one's shoes and saggy blue jeans with the low crotch dragging wearily behind.
Sure, not all crossers are self-conscious; some are as bold as brass, treating the process as if they're strutting their stuff at a Parisian fashion show.
Some ignore the crossee altogether, summoning their phone as a decoy. Some even traverse the crossing hopping, skipping, jumping, smiling, and whistling, to the marvellous entertainment of the neutral bystanders and, of course, the crossee. Yet most of the time the crosser is in full view, dying of fright and as susceptible to cannon fodder as the modern marvel of the stand-up paddle boarder.
So whether you're a motorist or a pedestrian: think once, think twice, think cautiously before using a pedestrian crossing.
Jem Beedoo is an Auckland musician.