The Angry Pedestrian

The following is angry. Cusses and such. Deal with it. If you cannot confront anger then you are a child. Go read Dr. Seuss or something. Because I’ve finally come to the conclusion that my hatred of the car is in full-bloom, pathological or not. This is a rant, and I may disagree with parts of it as soon as tomorrow. But for now, I mean it from my heart.

I am an angry pedestrian, and today I figured out why. I bitch about Korean drivers, and yeah, a lot of people drive (even when stone-cold sober) as if they’re stinking drunk; people drive in crazy selfish competitive me-first ways here that boggle my mind, and I imagine that if guns were legal, road rage would be a major cause of death. But there are enough idiot drivers to go around worldwide, and I remember nearly being killed (yes, actually nearly being killed) several times in different cities in Canada by self-important, inconsiderate idiots behind the wheel. We habitual pedestrians know of this illness, this global epidemic of driverism, that seems all too inescapable.

Drivers have a mistaken perception that having their own car is a form of freedom. As having very reluctantly co-owned a vehicle, I can attest to the fact it is not. It is ridiculously imprisoning, except in certain situations. If you live outside of a city, you probably need vehicle. If you live in a city with horrendous public transit, you need some kind of car. Most people I know personally have no need of a car beyond their own identity formation. (Much less two or three cars. Much much less the ridiculous grotesque technofoppish hyperindulgent selfish idiocy of of an SUV.)

Sorry, but that’s the honest truth. You think you need those cars. The junky on the floor thinks he needs the heroin. He is a model for you, oh proud driver of whatever the hell you choose to drive.

And yes, it is analogous. Fuck you, it is too. You’re an addict, you’re poisoning yourself, me, your gradkids, and worse, you’re running your tanks on cheap oil that needs to be fought over in a war. (And if you you cannot admit that it’s at least a major part of things, you, too, best go off back to Dr. Seuss and Dr. Strauss.)

I know, cars make weekend road trips easier. They make it easier to get away once in a while. This is not what you use your car for, though. Even if you once intended it only for that purpose, you don’t limit yourself that way. You drive it to work. You drive it downtown. You drive it to friends’ homes that are reachable by bicycle. You drive it to parties. You drive it to school. To the library. You use it all too often and you don’t know it. That’s it: you don’t know. Just as a heroin junky doesn’t know how absolutely chained-up and ridiculous and pathetic he really is, until it’s far too late. And even then, he keeps taking hits.

Look at yourself, hunched behind the dashboard, sunken eyes and shivering hands clutching the steering wheel. Oooh, the speed. The power. The turbo-injection to your identity. And the monumentally significant convenience of it all. Convenience you’re willing to have anything paid for, because you have to pay so very pathetically little.

And you think, given all that, you have the right of way, even when the law dictates it is mine, because you’re a driver and I’m a mere pedestrian?

To put it simply, fuck you.

Look at me. I may not be a model of health. I may only be walking a few blocks from the bus stop to my apartment. But I am not making noise. I’m not contributing to noise pollution. I am not contributing to air pollution. I am not contributing to health care bottlenecks in doing so, where your sedentary automotivism very likely will do so. (I prefer to cycle when my back is better, and cycling, again, is far cleaner, quieter, and healthy than driving.) When I got long distances, I use public transport, and my one vice is using taxis a little too often, something I wish I were restrained from doing by higher prices which reflect the real cost of a taxi service: the values of a driver’s time, plus pollution and damage to urban habitability. And of course I accept or ask for rides to places sometimes when I know people are going there. I appreciate them as conveniences (thank you Myoung, Nick, Dad), but like with the taxi, I think they ought to be out of our all-too eager reach (yours and mine alike) for the reason that they do serious harms that are not reflected in their prices. It’s not cars per se but the whole culture of the hidden, stolen free ride (or cheap and easy ride) that I object to. And cars and drivers are both deeply embedded into it, and it is deeply embedded into them. And it goes without saying that such as it is, it’s very hard to do anything about all of that.

But when I am on that crosswalk and the walk light is green, the law dictates I have right of way. It’s a small window of time and space and I am these days pretty scrupulous about not asking much more than that. Fuck you if you think I should give up even that. Plain, straight-out, fuck you if you cannot spare the 10-15 seconds it takes for someone to cross the street, after they’ve waited two minutes or more for the chance.

Plain old fuck you.

But dammit, this goes deeper than that. My walking is not something that puts me lower on the totem pole than you. Sorry, but no, there is no moral equivalence here. However little the bad is from your choosing to drive instead of walk or cycle, my walking bears none of it. My walking is an act for sustainability; for ecologically friendly life. My not owning a car translates to a net abstinence from doing a certain kind of harm that you are doing likely every single day of your life.

So while you’re hurriedly putt-putting your way wherever you need to go, if I step out in front of your car, beckoned by a light you’re choosing to ignore, do not speed up. Do not slow down but approach me threateningly. Do not honk, or look incredulously at me. Yes, I am walking out in front of you purposefully, you idiot. You’re not appreciating just how tolerant I am of you, you polluting son of a bitch. You’re not grasping how much slower you’d be getting wherever you’re going in a sane, decent world.

Because behind that wheel, it’s all about you, you, you; you lose touch with the world around you, and grasp of reality. You forget that cars are not a fact of nature, but something people build and something people—for now—tolerate. You’re not appreciating that you don’t have control of the world, and your freedom of movement doesn’t come at any cost whatsoever.

But I’m going to take every chance I can to remind you of it. So when I cross the street, on the goddamned crosswalk, and you’re running a red light slow enough that you’re unlikely to kill me, I will always force you to stop, inconveniently, before the crosswalk, with the ass of your car out into the street. If you’re going too fast, I might throw something at your car or yell something unspeakable (much more unspeakable than anything I’ve written here) at you. I may, in the shock of nearly being killed by your lawbreaking, “accidentally” spit on your car if I am close enough, or chuck my bottle of water at it. If you reverse at me without any sign of being aware you’re about to hit a person, I’ll bang on the hood of your trunk, and come to your passenger window and holler at you for being a moron. If you park on the bicycle path, don’t be surprised to find a gob of gloppy off-colored phleghm on your door handle or windshield, because, dear asshole, it’s not your fucking parking lot, and you’re not a gift to the world from Jesus just because you got a fucking driver’s license once. (I’ve seen old men do this—spit onto misparked cars in their way—and I approve heartily.) If a photo will get you a ticket, I’m going to make sure my camera had plenty of batteries.

And don’t you dare clip me, or try to cut me off and expect me to just take it. Don’t you fucking dare.

Because, you addict, you idiot syncophant, you selfish carbon-farting monstrosity, I am one angry fucking pedestrian.

11 thoughts on “The Angry Pedestrian

  1. GO GORD!

    Now, if there were only some way to beam this into the head of the @#$% idiot that honks at me for giving the pedestrian the right-of-way when the pedestrian should have it….

    (My worst close call as a pedestrian involved a red sports car running a red light when I was on crutches. Crutches.)

  2. *bows to the rant god* :)

    This is just fantastic, and as a full-time pedestrian I wholeheartedly agree with you. :)

    (linked, btw)

  3. Oh, yes, we can. (Reaches for inhaler.) You first, though! Me, I already expend enough energy telling the pretty-boy smokers with the Japanese hair to take it outside if they MUST smoke.

  4. I’m with you and I do drive. However with my new job (starting in September) I will no longer need to drive and am looking forward to the subway. At least on the subway I can read, it always feels like I’m wasting time when I drive because I can’t read books.

    I’m with Scott on annihaliting all smokers.

  5. Gord, you’ve become something of a hero in my eyes for taking such a stance and living by it. Pedestrian by choice, I’ve accepted rides, engaged taxis more times than I can count and at much higher fares than you might be paying. Friends pressure me to get a car. Thing is, I don’t think we really need them, save for exceptions such as the elderly or handicapped. Perhaps if petrol ran out then our governments would have to seriously explore alternatives such as monorail. Gods know, light rail is nothing more than a bloody pathetic joke.

    Seattle has been ready to expand monorail service from it’s Seattle Centre to Downtown route for the last few years. Unfortunately, petty politicians and those afraid of progress have largely held it at bay. Ah, then there’s the greedy. Let’s not forget that bloody lot. Were they only to step outside the box, they might actually cover most of Washington. The same could be repeated in San Antonio, Dallas, Denver, Phoenix. Perhaps the US wouldn’t have to start wars over natural resources then? After petrol, what’s next?

    This is one of the strongest things you’ve ever written, Gord. In the words of my favourite Doctor, it’s “fantastic!”

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