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.


Teachers and the Sun

Where would we be without teachers? It's like asking where we'd be without the sun. The warmth we need to grow, the illumination we need to see new things and the undying pull to keep us on the right trajectory are things we expect both the sun and our teachers to provide for us. The sun doesn't have much choice, and at least theoretically we can count on it to continue to deliver until it inevitably burns itself out. Teachers do have a choice, and when they burn out society loses a little warmth, a ray of light and a steadiness of direction.

People become teachers for reasons varying from following in family footsteps to following a calling. Teachers are as diverse a group as any professional faction in America, but generally speaking, teachers are lovers, not fighters - they are by nature nurturers, encouragers, promoters, educators. At a median salary of about sixty thousand dollars per year, they often donate as much time and effort as they are being paid for, giving of themselves, their knowledge and their … teacherness.

The President of the United States of America now proposes adding a couple more line items to their job description, including arming themselves and being trained to counter-attack terrorists and murderers. Eighty hour weeks AND a chance to kill and be killed - for $60K per year? Where do I sign up?! I bet I'll even get to pay for my own gun and ammo!

The rationale being dispensed is that criminals love 'no gun zones', and that may be true. Another thing that is true is that guns scare kids. Guns scare many teachers too. Scared people do not do their best work.

Adults, particularly those for whom shooting a gun is a fairly regular occurrence, may find comfort in the presence of an armed guard in a classroom, believing that good will triumph over evil and that this bad-ass teacher can take out any punk that comes down the hallway, as if we are educating our children in a real-life Batman movie. On the other hand, to kids - even teenaged kids - guns just mean the possibility of shooting, hurting and killing.

What criminals don't love, are metal detectors. If things have deteriorated to the point where schools are generally not safe places to be, let's lock them down. There are millions of issues with this, especially in secondary grades where students change classrooms every so often, just as there are millions of issues with arming teachers. The difference between the approaches is that once students and teachers pass the entry points and the doors are locked, they are 1) safe and 2) not trying to learn or teach while scared for their lives. As a bonus, young idealistic bright people that are considering a career in teaching will not turn away at the prospect of having to work in an unsafe environment or being pressured into carrying a gun.

Just as we need the sun, we need teachers in order to survive as a society. We must pay them better, reduce their work load, show our appreciation more often and take action now to give them a safe work environment before there's a next time.



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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