Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Death to Car Culture

I was almost hit by a car today.

This isn’t a novel situation when you’re a pedestrian, but the encounter today came close enough that my heart was pounding a good 10 minutes after the fact.

At first I was shocked. Then scared. Then relieved. Then livid.

I didn’t have my phone on me. So don’t tell me I shouldn’t cross the street with my head down oblivious to the world.

I wasn’t jay walking. I was crossing a street at an intersection, on a green light.

I was with my co-worker, we were a couple of feet apart, and we’re taller than average – it’s impossible that both of us were both in her blind spot.

It was the afternoon. There was no rain. Visibility was perfect.

I’m telling you this to let you know that in this instance, the driver was 100% at fault. That’s not always the case. It was here.

Lee was a couple of feet in front of me. Given the angle the car was turning and how we were walking, there were a couple of seconds once I realized the car was not stopping, where I thought, “Lee is going to be hit, then I’m going to be hit, and there’s nothing I can do about it!”

Thankfully between us waving our arms around and screaming, she slammed on the brakes. I heard Lee yell that she was an idiot. I heard people on either side of the intersection shouting. She stared at us blankly.  As we stepped away, she uttered a weak, “sorry.”

“Yea!” I turned and yelled. The only thing I could think to yell just then. I should have added, “you should be!” but I felt it was implied.

Then she drove off. I wish I could say I got her plate and called 311 or something, but I didn’t. I was mostly glad that neither of my legs were broken.

I’m over it. I’m so over car culture, but I don’t know how to make that statement as an individual other than not owning a car, which I don’t. I’ve never owned a car in my life. Yes, I know how to drive, yes I have my license. Yes, sometimes I even enjoy driving. It's fun. It's also dangerous as hell.

People moan that social media is the downfall of our society, but I would argue that already happened decades ago with cars. When it became our god-given right to drive 2 ton pieces of metal around with no regard to the fact that we can kill with these machines.

Driving makes people assholes. My most calm, compassionate friends get aggressive behind the wheel. Add on a stressful commute, a bad day, and you are a ticking time bomb with next to no regard to the very real humans in your path.

I’ve been a pedestrian in a city for a decade. I cannot begin to tell you the things that have been shouted at me for having the audacity to walk across a street when I had the right of way. Actually, I could tell you, but my grandmother reads this blog, so I won’t.

There are a lot of things one can worry about in this world, that don’t concern me very much. I’m not afraid of flying. I’m not afraid to walk alone at night in the city I live in. I’m not afraid of the flu, or of eating foods a couple days past their expiration date as long as they don’t smell funny. I probably should be more afraid of being shot, but that’s a post for another time. I am afraid of cars. As a passenger. As a driver. As a pedestrian.

I don’t care if that woman driving was on her way to work.  I don’t care if she had just received tragic news. If she was in an emotionally compromised state, she never should have gotten into her SUV. Maybe she was under the influence of something. If she was, there were no checks in place to make sure she didn’t operate heavy machinery. Nothing she was doing, nowhere she was going, would have been worth 2 humans.

I think it is ridiculous that I still have to answer, multiple times, when re-entering the country whether or not I’ve had a fever or visited specific African countries during my trip abroad, but renewing my drivers license took nothing more than me paying $25 online.

Self-driving cars can’t come soon enough. Hurry up Google and Uber, I trust your algorithms a million times more than strangers’ driving abilities.

To everyone else, every time you drive you have the opportunity to kill someone. I hope it never happens, but please keep in mind that it could.

Does this make me unpatriotic? It feels like it. Am I better off moving to a country like Denmark where alternative forms of transportation are more widespread? Maybe. Except it’s hard to just move to Denmark when you’re not a citizen.

I don’t care if I sound like a preachy liberal. I don’t care if I am self-righteous about this. Your right to drive is not worth my life.