You Dead In the Street

by: Homer Marrs

I know how I’m going to die. I don’t mean that I’m psychic, although sometimes I think I am. This is not one of those times. I know how I’m going to die because I get presented with the same death-defying scenario twice a week.

I’m going to get run over in a crosswalk.

Dear car-drivers of America: Do you know what the bleep a crosswalk is for? I’ll give you a hint: the answer is in its name. “Crosswalk” is a word composed of two smaller words, “cross” and “walk,” two little verbs that smush together in a German kind of way to make one lovely noun that straightforwardly means what it sounds like. A crosswalk is a place for people to WALK aCROSS the street.

Are there any questions? I realize this is probably a lot to start out with, and while I’ve understood this concept for years now there are many who still need help grasping it. Take your time, let it sink in, don’t rush it.

It’s a cross….walk. Where people walk ….across….the street. It is not called a “carspeed,” a “hurry-before-the-pedestrian-gets-there,” or a “my-vehicle-will-kill-you-hipster-scum-so-stick-to-your-principles-all-you-want-you-still-won’t-survive-this-collision.”

That last example summarizes the reason I know how I will die. (Aside: I do not consider myself “hipster scum.” It just sounds nice. My actual breed of scum is unaffiliated.) I step into the crosswalk, a car approaching the crosswalk continues at the same speed, I continue forward because he is legally obligated to stop, he either keeps at his happy pace and then slams on the brake and curses at me or puts the pedal to the metal and high-tails it across the painted lines before I reach his side of the street.

Both situations irritate me, but I especially don’t like being yelled at when the law is on my side.

I think the big problem is that a lot of people genuinely don’t know that you have to stop your car at a crosswalk when a pedestrian is in it. A lot of drivers seem to think it’s a first-come, first-served situation; if their car can fly in front of the walkers fast enough, they’re in the clear.

Worse, many drivers seem to think they have the right of way because they’re driving the dangerous machinery. Like, “Might makes right, biped! Get a Hummer and maybe I’ll respect you enough not to flatten you to 2-D.”

Just the other day I was crossing the street with two friends. Cars were approaching us at a moderate speed, but still pretty far away from us. We could see them clearly and they could see us clearly. If the cars were to keep at their current speed, we’d be roadkill for sure.

My friends started to jog and trot out of the road to get out of the way. I chose to keep walking at my pace. I wasn’t trying to tempt fate, but I didn’t feel like running, and I knew legally I had the right of way. And realistically, I didn’t think the driver would choose to mow me down.

Exactly what I predicted would happen did. I’m not psychic, but in that moment maybe I was. I continued at my healthy pace—a moderate stroll, nothing pokey but no hustle, either. The car slowed down abruptly, as though I’d appeared out of nowhere and hadn’t been in its plain sight for the past 100 meters, then the irate driver yelled, “Why don’t you get out of the road?” I finished crossing, turned and said, “Because it’s a crosswalk!”

The car sped off. My friends told me how large they thought my testicles were. Up in the window of a building on the corner, a man who’d observed the whole thing called out. “Whatchoo doin’? You goin’ a get hit!” I looked up at him and shared a smile, for he too thought the whole scene was funny.

“I was in the crosswalk, that’s what it’s for,” I said honestly.

“OK, but you dead! You dead in the street!” he replied. I’m pretty sure he was telling me my fortune more than giving advice, but part of me wouldn’t mind dying that way. Just as long as the traffic cop decided it was the driver who deserved the ticket, not my corpse.

Note: This was originally posted in Nightspots magazine in Homer’s column “Marrs Attacks”.  He will be reading tonight, May 14th, at Townhall Pub (3340 N. Halsted Street) for Word Is Out.  8 o’clock, $5 at the door and you get an awesome companion lit zine with work by Marrs, Adam Guerino, and Patrick Gill.  

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