The dance of the zebra crossing
Watching the array of cars flash by, Alan Carlton feels the power of the pedestrian
I TAKE a couple of steps to cross the road. I then see a car turning the corner and coming towards me so I abruptly stop. At the same time as I see the car and stop, the car sees me and stops. Both I and the car are still. We are both motionless. We wait for each other to move.
Well if the car is not going to go then I will. I start to cross the road. Simultaneously the car decides it’s time to drive forward. We both move towards each other. And then we simultaneously stop again. We are mirroring each other. I now look at the driver. Trying to decide what is the next step in our dance. The next step is to share a laugh.
I continue my walk alongside a major arterial road. Ceaseless streams of cars. An endless noise constantly changing. Trucks provide a throbbing, deep, bass sound. Motorbikes provide a shriller, sharper sound.
The never-ending steam of cars perseveres. It keeps on appearing from nowhere and giving me views of the very fortunate drivers. The drivers are all fit and healthy. They can all control the car by moving their bodies. They can all see the road and the other cars and hopefully me.
Somebody has gone to the trouble of teaching them how to drive. Somebody has become frustrated sitting next to them pointing out the obvious.
The drivers are all driving in a car which cost money. Most of them have jobs and have saved up to buy the best car. Which is normally a different car from the next driver.
The drivers are all watching the other cars and obeying all the rules. They are all driving on safe roads maintained by the fluorescent brigade leaning on their shovels.
And I see one guy driving and sitting next to a furry companion. The curious dog sits under a seatbelt and peers around. That guy looks very happy.
I squint for a closer look at the next car as it flashes by. Dangling, swinging objects hang from the mirror. The car is a blank canvas which has been decorated. And the final work of art is displayed for everybody to enjoy.
And next car is a polished, gleaming car showing pride. With mag wheels and very thick tyres. This gleaming, shiny car is not stained with stickers.
Unlike this car. A doll on the dashboard, flags from the aerial and bumper stickers. Telling everybody what footy team is the best.
And now a car with cushions. Soft indulgent cushions lying unused in front of the back window. They are very useful for making the driver happy.
I then hear music pumping, thumping and causing a car to rock and roll. The driver and passenger both sing along.
And I see a lucky guy who owns more than a car. He owns a mobile phone and he sits in his balloon of silence and talks to people he’s doing business with. He doesn’t have to search for a public phone. He doesn’t have to hunt for petty cash. He can settle and solve the issue now. He can save himself time. Today he can be more productive. He is making the economy and us all richer.
Time for me to re-cross the road. All the cars obey the traffic lights and stop when told.
All of the drivers are very fortunate. They live in a prosperous country. They live at a time when they can afford to buy a car. They can paint it their favourite colour. They can decorate the car. They can fill it with cushions. They all drive carefully and consider the drivers next to them. And next to them is another driver obeying all the road rules. They are driving on a road devoid of potholes. They can conduct business at the same time.
The drivers are all waiting for me to cross the road. They are all very fortunate and very lucky. Except for one thing. They have to sit and fiddle with their steering wheel and watch me dance across the road.