Thursday, January 27, 2011

Walk this way

Yesterday I was out traversing the cityscape, a two hour walk which ended at the house of a very dear friend, where excellent coffee, company, and conversation was shared.

Friendships should never be taken lightly. The amount of time spent cultivating some friendships results in someone who knows you so well you feel completely comfortable and safe in their presence, conversation flows freely and easily, there's never enough time to cover all the topics you can think of, but you know that there will always be a next time and it will be just as special.

While I was enroute, however, I noticed an elderly woman standing at the curb of one of our main thoroughfares. With her walker. She was watching the traffic intently, clearly wanting to cross, but it wasn't a lighted intersection, and there was no crosswalk. Immediately I felt a shiver of disquiet run through me. Right across the street was the senior citizens residence she was likely heading for. This particular sight is not an unfamiliar one in that area, nor is the sight of other elderly folk actually making their way across the divided six lanes of traffic. Usually I'm in a vehicle though. This time I was afoot, and I continued past her, wondering why the city had not installed a crosswalk there yet. As I walked, I watched the traffic; it was ebbing and flowing, but mostly flowing. I looked back at the woman, and I could see she was frustrated. I stopped, looked at the traffic, looked at the woman, looked at the traffic, looked back at the woman, and then, with a shoulder heaving sigh, came to a decision.

I made my way back to her and touched her lightly on the shoulder, while leaning down to ask, "Were you wanting to get across?"

She looked up at me. "Yes," she replied with a determined air, "but I think I might be here for awhile."

I thought that that was a pretty accurate assessment. I also thought she shouldn't have been there at all; elderly people, never mind those with walkers, should not be trying to cross such thoroughfares at the best of times, but it's still something they attempt far too frequently. Since it was obvious this woman had her mind set on crossing right at that spot, I thought it best that I accompany her.

"Okay, well, how about I come with you and make sure the traffic stops for you," I offered.

"Oh, that would be lovely," she said, and I could hear the gratitude in her voice. She then placed both hands firmly on the handles of her walker, as if preparing herself.

Right, I thought, let's do this thing. I waited until there was a break in traffic and then stepped out onto the street, placing myself between her and any oncoming vehicles (complete chivalry, when you think about it. I mean really, my slender frame is not stopping any cars if I get struck first). As cars approached, I raised my arms, making us more visible, and waved the cars to a stop. No problem. Yay for me. At the divider, I went to her other side, and did the same for the traffic heading in the opposite direction. Two cars actually couldn't even be bothered to stop, they just zipped around and accelerated past. But the others did, and we reached the curb without mishap.

"Thank you so much," she said, struggling up onto the sidewalk.

"You're very welcome, have a lovely day," I returned, and continued on my way.

Now, I'll be honest, I didn't like doing that; it set my teeth on edge. Seniors shouldn't be out trying to dodge traffic at unlighted, uncontrolled intersections. And if I'm helping them, I guess that makes me an enabler of sorts. But I can't just blithely walk past when presented with that type of scenario, and not try to ensure some elderly person doesn't get mowed down. If I prevented that from happening, just that one thing on that one day, then the good outweighs the bad, and that's really all that matters to me. That the good outweighs the bad.

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