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Saturday, May 24, 2008

death by altruism - a pedestrian's dilemma

I appreciate small acts of kindness. When people open doors for each other on the way in or out of a store. Or, when a neighbor is unaware that her dog is running around the neighborhood and you return the dog home.

What I don't appreciate so much is when I'm walking around town or in my neighborhood and a car stops to let me go by. Well, I should clarify.

Scenario 1 - In my neighborhood when a car stops for me it's usually the only car on the road. So if they just went ahead and drove by I'd still be able to make it across the street before too long. This situation is a bit annoying but I can still appreciate the sentiment.

Scenario 2 - The other case I often encounter is when a road is really busy and a car stops to let me go by. The problem here is that while this car might have control over his particular lane, he has no control over the other lanes of traffic. Knowing this I don't always proceed across the street (the driver often gives me dirty looks as I wave at them to keep going). In the past year I've seen pedestrians almost get hit probably 10 times from this particular scenario. Different streets, different places but the same situation. (I realize sometimes stopping in this way is the only way the pedestrian is going to be able to make it across the street but that's not the most common case.)

When I was in high school I got into a car accident from this type of situation. I was turning left on a busy road. Two lanes of traffic stopped for me and unfortunately for me, there was a third lane that wasn't well marked. I turned across the first two lanes and was half way into the third lane. As I came to realize this was a full lane (a few feet into the lane) and stopped a Suzuki Samurai was coming by and nearly swerved out of the way but then swerved back and ran into the left front corner of the '71 Ford Custom (4 door sedan) that I was driving. The nice thing about driving a tank-like vehicle is that when you get into that sort of wreck with a toy-like vehicle it doesn't do much damage. This minor accident cost the insurance company around $2k for the samurai and for the Ford Custom we just had to buff the front left bumper. Just for a full picture in your mind-- this incident happened when I was driving home from a baseball game I had played in with the two Korean foreign exchange students we had living with us in the car. So I was sixteen, dressed in a full baseball uniform talking to the police and the other driver with two high school age Koreans who could barely speak english.

a '71 Ford Custom (the one I drove was a lighter color)

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