11 March 2015

Against the Grain

You know how places can have quirks that are unique to them? Many of them are stereotypical, like women in Texas all have big hair, Chicago is windy, or English food is terrible (that one is true). Stereotypes are based on reality or the reality of one's experience, but they can't be the only thing that defines a place The fact is places do have characters and quirks.

When we first moved here to the filling in between NYC and Boston, we were shocked by the number of people festooned in dark clothing who would walk into traffic, typically against it, at night. At first we thought it was a fluke because where we live there is no such thing as a sidewalk. Anywhere. If there is a sidewalk, it spends half the year covered in snow anyway, so not a lot of value on offer and it seemed people were forced, when walking, into the streets. But this kept happening, no matter where we found ourselves in this neck of the woods. People would just be walking into traffic at night in the street. From time to time, they simply dart across the road. It was too frequent to be a fluke. Was it some kind of dare? A death cult? I had, and have, no answers. I just knew I had to be mindful while driving at night.

Now after nearly three years here, this phenomenon has not abated. Even as I drove home from the train station last night, I must have played "Dodge the Dingus in the Street" no fewer than six times in less than two miles. I should point out that I drive a hulking heavy piece of environmentally offensive American steel in the form of a GMC Yukon. I doubt I would even feel it if I hit one of these people. It's madness.

Maybe it's that colonial spirit of rebellion. Maybe it's some kind of empowering statement. This much I know - it's exhausting. I'm tired of playing "Frogger" when I drive at night. I was no good at it in the creepy, musty arcade in the mall in 1982 and I'm not much better now as it plays out in real time. Would it kill people to, if nothing else, buy some reflecting tape? Then again, if they did, that would take away one of the quirks that defines life here. I'm willing to see that happen.

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