You see, I want to earn my self-righteousness on the road. That way, I feel no guilt when a wall of teenagers on cell phones comes at me expecting the sea to part, and I bump into them. I just smirk at their bad pedestrian-hood. Happy holiday tourists smiling at window displays? I blow past them, mere inches away. Even if they can't see my dirty look, it's there. With cars, I'm just as rude. As soon as that light changes, the crosswalk better be as clear as a southern summer sky. If the driver is impatient and starts rolling past that line, I look her right in the eye with a telepathic message: I have an umbrella and I'm not afraid to use it.
My first day in London I walk to the grocery store around the corner from my flat. Having a new city to walk in is like getting a brand new car, but better. I whistle a happy tune until I get to the crosswalk and realize that there is NO CROSSWALK. On the pavement just a message in white: "Look right". Well, what good is that going to do me if the cars coming from the right never stop? The traffic lights are just out of sight, and the pedestrians are looking left, looking right, their eyes wide. The light finally changes and the oncoming cars stop. We stick a toe into the road and more cars careen around the corner without pausing like we're a flock of sad city pigeons who get whatever they deserve.
I'm still optimistic. Maybe it's just that one busy intersection. I try a quiet side street near a school. Halfway across and a taxi comes hurtling from out of nowhere. I keep walking and he shakes his fist at me. Nowhere do I see a stop sign. No stick figures flashing in helpful green and red. I walk toward a bus stop and see a gigantic poster with a face taking up the whole frame. His eyes stare out, a dead blank. His earbuds dangle grotesquely: "He changed the track and didn't see the car coming." What dystopia is this!
I'm losing hope, but then I spot a big flashing yellow bulb next to what looks like a crosswalk. Could it be? It's a busy avenue and cars are speeding through it, but then a miraculous thing happens. As I begin to approach, a car slows down. It stops. After a day of walking around I don't know if this is a dirty trick. Maybe he'll plow me down as soon as I reach the center. But no, I cross unmolested. I can't help it, I smile and give a low wave. Pathetic.
One day in London and my pedestrian hauteur has shriveled into a sad gratitude at cars who don't run me over.