Monday, July 7, 2008

On Your Mark, Get Set, Stroll

Countdown to Boring
© 2008 Leighann Lord

So I'm strolling through lovely downtown Lincoln, Nebraska, when I notice that the "Don't Walk" sign has a count down timer displaying how many seconds you have to make it across the street. Half the fun of crossing the street is not knowing how much time you’ll have to do it. Can you saunter or will you have to sprint?

How and when you cross the street says a lot about your level of risk tolerance. When you see a "Don't Walk" sign do you stand complacently on the corner waiting until it's perfectly safe to cross, or do you seize the chance for a little exercise and excitement? The rush of it gets your blood pumping. That's why we ride roller coasters, visit haunted houses and attempt to do our own taxes. It's a momentary fear with the subconscious conviction that we will survive. And when we do, it's exhilarating. We have looked death in the face and gave it sexy wink.

The truth is, even if we have the right of way to cross the street it's never perfectly safe. Drivers run lights. Car brakes fail. If you're ambling profile reminds a heart broken driver of the back stabbing ex who recently did them wrong, you might want to hustle it up.

On the risk-o-meter it's not sky diving, parachuting or running for public office, but there are quite a few variables to calculate when the "Don't Walk" sign is flashing: distance, foot wear, health, reaction time, time of day, flow of traffic, the patience level and attention span of the drivers.

Admittedly, the consequences of not making across the street in time can be dire; fatal even. A count down timer is a simple, yet logical addition that helps improve public safety. I’m sure there are days when even the most adventurous appreciate the heads up, but it does lower the fun factor.

There was a safety campaign many years ago that encouraged pedestrians to "Cross at the Green. Not in Between." But like the yellow light for drivers, there is something about the "Don’t Walk" sign that just eggs us on. It speaks to our inner daredevil, goading us to go for it. Whether it reads "Don't Walk" or shows a picture of a stationary figure the sub-text is all "Dirty Harry:" "Do you feel lucky?" Don't we always.


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