Zombie Pedestrians

Once upon a time in a land called America, schoolchildren were taught how to cross the street by their parents or their older siblings. Red light means the cars stop, and green light means the cars go. Wait for the red light and make sure the cars have stopped, look both ways, carefully cross the street. For decades, first graders across the nation successfully crossed the street without tens of thousands of dollars' worth of flashing lights and annoying beeping and counting and pictures of a cute little walking man at every stinking intersection.

Those early pedestrians understood that the cars were bigger than they were, and that they needed to pay attention to the traffic and what was going on around them; a grasp on reality that many of today's pedestrians have not yet achieved. As more and more laws are enacted on the pedestrian's behalf giving him the 'right of way', fewer and fewer pedestrians are taught what the right of way is or how it works. The phrase itself is frequently reduced to a weapon, something righteous for disgruntled have-nots to hold on to and disparagingly yell at those they perceive to be the haves.

Being granted the right of way means the legal right of one entity to proceed with precedence over others in a particular situation or place.

Here are some things that having the right of way does not mean:
  • It does not mean that cars can't crush you and bikes can't run you down and that you are invulnerable.
  • It does not mean that you have no-fault insurance; that you can't be held liable for an accident.
  • It does not mean that it is OK to dawdle your way across a six lane highway while twelve cars are waiting in the left turn lane, eight of which will have to wait for another light cycle because you are poking.
    Pedestrians expect drivers to be courteous toward them but seemingly never consider returning the favor. Hustle across the street when you can! It is OK for pedestrians to be considerate too.
  • It does not mean that you can stop paying attention to the world around you. Walking down the street staring at your phone, crossing intersections and parking lot entrances without ever looking up is both dangerous and stupid.
A wise man once noted that the only thing you know for certain when you see another driver's directional blinking, is that his directional is blinking. Similarly, the only thing you know for certain while blindly walking down the street empowered with the right of way, is that you are entitled to the right of way. You do not know if every driver and biker sees you and is willing and able in that moment to accommodate you. It is reasonable for pedestrians to expect drivers to be paying attention and it is just as reasonable for drivers to expect pedestrians to be paying attention.

Pedestrians are a part of traffic, not above it.

Not everything that looks like progress automatically is. Do the crosswalk lights and timers make us a safer society, or just lazy? Or worse? Early in the morning in Any City, USA you can find people waiting for the little walking man to give them permission to cross the street, though ten minutes have passed since the last car did. Is it a fear of getting caught crossing against the light that maintains them on the corner like zombies, or more frighteningly, did crossing against the light never even occur to them?

Perhaps the issue is neither safety nor laziness, but conditioning. Law enforcement and government routinely use tricks like pulling drivers over for not using their directional to change lanes although there was no other driver behind them to see it, to turn citizens into less thoughtful beings.

Always use your directional.
Always wait for the walking man.
Don't think.

Pedestrians have the right of way.
Don't look.

Always do what the officer says.
Don't question.


Question everything!
Look around and around!
Most of all, think, think, think!

Cross when it's safe.
Blink when it is necessary.
Enjoy the right of way and be considerate.


We're all part of the same big traffic jam. The sooner we stop honking at each other, the sooner the traffic will clear.


NEA Declares General Strike!

If I were a kid or a teacher in America, as I have been in the past, I would not want to go to school tomorrow. If I found myself there anyway, I'm sure I would spend half the day looking over my shoulder to see if there was a kid with an assault rifle coming down the hallway. It is beyond shameful that in this great country, loudly proclaiming "America First", kids are last. Our children are collateral damage along the path of payoffs, bribes, backroom deals and gentlemen's agreements. Of all the despicable things the current occupant of the White House is - and the list is long and varied - being a lackey for the NRA is the worst. Anyone with a shred of a human soul remaining and the power to affect change that is not in the pocket of the NRA would be compelled to do so.

The bigger problem is lobbyists in general. Lobbyists are the single biggest detriment to democracy in this nation. They routinely sway policy contrary to public opinion, desire and mandates while lining the pockets the of the very officials we elected to take care of us and our interests, and not the interests of big tobacco, big pharma, big oil and the NRA. Everyone seems to assume that lobbyists are supposed to be running around with unlimited expense accounts and no scruples about how to use them; that they are part of the system. New Flash! They are the corrupt part of the system! Lobbyists need to be outlawed, but of course that won't happen, because the lobbyists will lobby against it.

In the meantime our children and teachers are being slaughtered. We salute the young people that are standing up and talking back and calling bullshit on this disgusting, disgraceful lack of courageous (or any) action on the part of our leaders. The sit-ins and lay-ins and meetings are inspiring, but they will not disrupt things enough to prompt our representatives to take action.

If the NEA took a stand, and informed Congress that America's teachers would not report to work until they felt that updated gun laws (including the elimination of assault weapons for non-military personnel) were put in place in order to create a safer environment for students and teachers, Congress might pay attention.

Teachers tend to be overworked and underpaid. The last thing they want to do is forgo a paycheck (or several!) But anything short of a complete shutdown is not going to affect Congress at all. They'll just pull the curtains and tune it out. Now, if teachers don't go to school, kids can't go to school. If kids can't go to school, parents can't go to work. If parents can't go to work, the country starts grinding to a halt. Even the biggest 'friends' of the NRA are only going to be able to listen for so long to their constituents complain about the real hardship that is being caused before they finally do something.

I suppose that if the NEA amazingly found some collective cajones and did this, they could be vilified. It would place parents at hardship. However if you put yourself in the place of a teacher faced with a storm of bullets headed toward you and your students, with a split second to decide if you will sacrifice yourself for the sake of these kids, and in doing so leave your own kids fatherless or motherless, what would you do? Is there any rationale for putting our teachers in that position? If the teachers did walk out, would you really blame them? Wouldn't the inconvenience be for the best interest of your and all our kids? And worth it?

Drastic times require drastic measures. If the definition of insanity is repeating the same action while expecting a different result, then we are insane to expect Congress to act unless we create a big mess. NEA - I have tried to come up with another solution, but I fear it is up to you. Teach us how to stand up and get things done. Please.

A graduate of Portland State University, Steve (Reeno) Kloser is the author of Beginning Band - A Guide to Success and Let's Make Music - Classroom Recorder Course. He is also an accomplished teacher, conductor and composer, having penned numerous pieces including La Vida and Fly With Me.

Teacher, web developer, Packers fan and proud American, Reeno's usually slanted outlook often presents an unlikely perspective on issues old and new.
Reeno currently lives in Portland, OR.


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