A Crazy Thing Happened on the Way Home from School Today

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Two weeks into living in town, and I am LOVING my ability to get places on foot. We’ll talk about how awesome it’s been in coming weeks. But I had a crazy, crazy experience today that I just had to share.

I’d just dropped CJ off from school and was crossing the street right next to her school. It’s a crazy corner – it doesn’t have the fastest traffic of our walk commute, but people swing around the corner like it’s just a curve in the road. As I crossed, a very big, black SUV started swinging around the corner – and it didn’t look like she was going to stop. So I put up my hand – no, not my middle finger, my HAND – in a “Holy cow, STOP!” kind of way.

And she honked at me.

You have got to be kidding. (That’s what the guy walking behind me said.) So I walked over to talk to her. And here is where you say, “Meika, seriously. What the blippity were you thinking?” We’ll get back to that.

She hit the gas and accelerated past me, FAST. Total road rage; completely out-of-control.

Throwing up my hands, I started walking home but stopped after a few steps. Thirty seconds earlier, I had crossed that street with my six-year-old. She was dropping her child off at the same school. We do this every day, twice. How can I just let this go? What about everybody else who crosses this street, what about the KIDS who cross here by themselves every day? I decided to see if I could get a picture of her license plate so I could report her for reckless driving. Or something. I don’t know.

And that is when I got to talk to her.

I wasn’t planning to approach her; she pulled up to me. She was stopping, she said! Why did I hold up my hand like she wasn’t going to? She honked to let me know that she saw me! (Ahem.) I told her that honking sounds aggressive, always, that the way she swerved past me was incredibly dangerous, and that if she hit me with her beast I’d be dead. She told me that she’d had a lady punch her in the face before in traffic and was afraid that I was going to do that to her. In the end, we both apologized and treated it as a miscommunication.

So you remember the other day how we talked about our cars making us all into a bunch of Neanderthals?

[When we get in our cars], millennia of linguistic development and body language melt away, replaced with a blaring horn. No wonder we don’t like each other anymore.

We’re like a bunch of cavemen, grunting at each other in the dark.

Which brings us back to the “what were you thinking?” question, which is also what I asked myself on the way home as I was wondering why this kind of thing doesn’t ever seem to happen to anyone else. I came up with a few things, and here’s where I’d like your thoughts, too.

First of all, most of us don’t walk very many places; I’m walking much more now than I was just a few weeks ago. This may not be as unusual as I think for people who frequently walk.

Second, although I don’t really think deeply about it in the moment, I categorize this as bullying and feel as if I have a moral obligation to stand up to it for the preservation of our civil society. Seriously. It’s a hundred million little things like this that create our culture and set its tone. This isn’t how we’re supposed to treat each other. SO STOP IT.

Third, I have an underdeveloped sense of self-preservation and should probably be prepared to get punched in the nose someday.

So what do you think? What are some appropriate responses for a pedestrian who encounters a threatening driver? And what can we do as drivers to make sure that this is never us?

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10 thoughts on “A Crazy Thing Happened on the Way Home from School Today”

  1. I believe that pedestrians and bicyclists, by extension feel vulnerable and exposed. I applaud you for trying to strike up a dialogue. We need to do that more often and not feel like we were in the wrong even when it’s not our fault. We are quick to blame cyclists and walkers for pushing the boundaries when we do it often in our cars and don’t seem to notice that.
    The more we walk and ride our bikes, the more considerate we will be around other pedestrians and cyclist. Keep up the dialogue.

  2. It’s the drivers No. 1 job to keep everyone safe…especially pedestrians. That lady was totally out of line. Thank God no one was hurt, but on a cold, icy morning, it could have been different. Slow down crazy drivers!

  3. In the state of Florida it is the law that you must stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk regardless of they saw you coming or not. If they step into the crosswalk it is your responsibility to stop for them. This is often forgotten by my fellow co-workers on the road behind our hospital as we are all walking to the parking lot. There have been many times where some of us have almost been hit.

  4. Way to go! I wish I had more courage. But thinking ahead for the sake of our children makes the awkwardness bearable and necessary. Keep it up and I will too.

  5. In this crazy time we live in that could be dangerous, but I also applaud you for the way you handled it. I would like to see Michigan’s law makers do the same as in Florida and give pedestrians the right of way in all situations.

    1. It is a crazy time we live in. I’m trying to find out exactly what the law is in Michigan right now, because I know that pedestrians do have the right-of-way under some circumstances. I’ll let you know what I find out.

  6. Your dialogue is great — this is a big, deadly issue in my town, Hopewell Nj, and in NJ generally road rage is so severe — but honestly you should speak with the school and report her conduct to a legal official if possible. We have crosswalks now with blinking lights, but I am very, very careful. Also, I’m not sure I would agree that beeping is always aggressive — people are defensive and on edge, but also reflexive? In any case, learning the genuine art of non-violent communication with these aggressive people is helpful, and can also teach others how to handle their unruliness and regain some humanity. Just my thoughts.

    1. I can’t tell you how much I’ve appreciated hearing everyone’s perspective here. Are you referring to the woman who was killed in the crosswalk recently, Shelly? That’s what I found when Googled it – just curious. You nailed it here – I’m going to reply to the rest of your comments in a follow-up post.

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