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.

Dear ESPN,
It's not you; it's me

Dear ESPN,

America has always been a divided nation. We began life feuding between Loyalists and Colonists, fought bitterly about States' entitlements vs. a strong Federal government, divided ourselves into either Confederate or Union, disagreed on our role in the world and even established a declaration of War on the young people asking for Peace and Love.

For the past thirty-or-so years no matter who was in the White House or what disaster was in the news or who was dating whom, a high percentage of half the population could always find something to talk about, or at least make pleasant conversation. All you had to say was, "Did you catch SportsCenter last night?"

Keith Olberman, Dan Patrick, Robin Roberts, Rich Eisen, Boomer and the late, great Stuart Scott - as cool as the other side of the pillow! It was the news we needed; the news we waited for and looked forward to, presented with boxers a little bit looser than on previous shows. It was Mike & Mike on the way to work, and SportsCenter once we got home. Every day. We guys who are now between 40 and 70 were as faithful as could be, and to some degree helped make you what you eventually became.

ESPN, I figured we were headed for trouble when you took the excellent, brilliant show called "Olberman" off the air after Keith called for Goodell's resignation. I like to watch networks that have not painted themselves in to a corner of conflicting interests, preventing their employees from being critical of a league or even reporting the news objectively. I know I'm weird that way. It's not you; it's me.

I knew things were worse than I'd realized once Molly took over on First Take and morning SportsCenter started to look more like The View than anything I'd ever imagined would be on ESPN. Don't get me wrong me wrong ESPN, I like pretty women and cleavage as much as the next guy, but I don't want to look at cleavage while I'm thinking about football. And middle-aged (anchor)women dressed in prom dresses, apparently believing they are the age they tell people they are, make me queasy in any setting. It isn't that there are women doing sports - Doris Burke is easily a top-five commentator and Suzy Kolber is the very best. But isn't there a 'setting-appropriate' way to dress along with an 'age-appropriate' and 'profession-appropriate' manner? I must be odd that way. It's not you ESPN; it's me.

When cable and satellite subscriptions began to droop, and layoffs were inevitable, everyone knew it was just business. It also (I'm willing to venture a guess here) gave you a chance to clear out any 'dead wood' and maybe even some 'old wood', in line with the shift to programming more suited for the AppWatchers. The bright, younger cheaper personalities that survived the layoffs are all excellent - smart as whips, write great articles, good insight. But it is a bit hard to swallow having someone introduced as a 'Senior Writer for ESPN' that truly looks like the aforementioned prom dresses were recently worn by and borrowed from them, especially when some true hall-of-famers were inexplicably dismissed (we miss you on Mondays MT). To some of us, a 'senior' reporter remembers Mr. October and remembers how their heart was beating as Bird intercepted that inbounds pass and remembers watching Joe Cool march those 9ers down the field - and not someone to whom they are history lessons. Probably no one else feels that way. It's not you; it's me.

For these and other reasons ESPN, I planned to break up with you. But while writing this letter it has become clear that you have already broken up with me. We, the longtime faithful, the initiated, the now in the wrong demographic have been tossed aside with no regard, for a hope that the AppWatchers will make up the difference. Good luck. Meanwhile, SportsCenter has become a gypsy - a second class citizen that seems to never be on the same channel at the same time in the same format - so I watch PTI to get a little sports news. Once you decide that Kornhusker is too old I will stop paying DirecTV the $15/month to get ESPN, and watch the few decent MNF games at a bar.

Let's not think of this as a farewell ESPN, but instead a thank-you; we had a great run.

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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