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 Guns

"I want to tell you about my idea for assault rifle vending machines" is a quote from Fester Trim, one of the candidates for City Council in Pawnee, Indiana. Fester's solution to car theft is that we should all mount shotguns on our dashboards that kill anyone that tries to steal our car. Fester also believes that the way to end schoolhouse slaughters is to arm our teachers. Thank Goodness Fester is just a character in a sitcom; a caricature of an NRA Gun Nut, and that his over-stated suggestions would never be made by real politicians in real life.

What? The last suggestion isn't from Fester? It's from whom? Are you sure?

America's best, by and large, do not go into teaching. There was a time when the smartest of half the population became either a teacher or a nurse. Women that wanted to and could work had few other choices. For America's kids, it wasn't a bad deal - competence at school and at the doctor's office. As the 70s dissolved into the 80s and female presence in the workplace gradually expanded, many women began to choose not to teach, instead pursuing more money, prestige or both.

In a world of self-made billionaires and IPO fortunes and T-shirt bonanzas, going into debt to get a Master's Degree in order to land a low-paying job in which
  • you will have to work many more than forty hours per week,
  • you will sometimes be appreciated but just as often be really hassled by selfish parents,
  • you will never be given enough time to do the job as you'd like to do it,
  • you will be constrained from seeking to achieve excellence because all kids must be treated the same, no matter how dissimilar they are
is less and less appealing every day. We don't have enough good teachers as it is! We need to find ways to incentivize our best and brightest to become teachers, and adding target practice to the curriculum is most surely going to steer them in the opposite direction … and they will be running, not walking. To add insult to probable injury or death, you can bet your sweet bippy that if teachers were given guns they would be required to buy their own ammunition!

It has been said many times, but it is worth saying again: The person in the White House is not out of touch, he is out of his mind; truly. And a puppet.

Nothing small is going to change things. We need a massive social uprising. The NEA must declare a general strike. The NEA must send a message to Congress that our teachers will not return to work until they are provided a safe work environment. Everyone in this nation is entitled to a safe work environment except our teachers, where are kids are. How messed up is this? Is there not one mention of 'safe work environment' in teachers' contracts that some hotshot lawyer can use to figure out a way for these teachers to strike without losing paychecks?

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. How long do you think that will go on before Congress opens a dialogue? Be forewarned that even if a miracle happened, and stricter regs were put into place, it would only be a first step, because laws aren't always enforced. But it would be a giant step for America's Mankind.

You have the power NEA, and it looks like you are the only group that does. Use it.

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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