Ever since I was a little boy, my parents trained me quite vigorously to look both ways before crossing the street. I agree that when we become men and women, we must put childish ways behind us, but to this childish practice I have clung most tightly. When I became old enough to drive, I found an extra suggestion was added, that is, to look left first so as to see the nearer oncoming car, since drivers have a tendency to drift part way into the nearer lane before accomplishing a glance in both directions. But as one can see, the practice of looking both ways is steadily maintained. The system seemed (and still seems) to me a brilliant compromise for pedestrians and drivers alike. However, I have discovered that this art of looking both ways has largely been lost to my generation. I have seen both soldiers and students on a number of occasions step out before moving vehicles with little care, and when the car comes to a screeching halt inches before them, they turn their heads in nonchalant recognition of the fact and continue their relaxed pace to the double yellow line and the land beyond.
I have developed several theories in attempts of explanation. The first is a cultural shift theory. Having grown up around roads and vehicles our whole lives, we no longer frighten at the idea of a speeding mass of metal. Collision may be a quick path to death, but it is also a mundane path to death. The triviality of cars thus conquers the seriousness of a car crash. Men have become fish, swimming in an ocean of automobiles, and have forgotten they could drown. Another theory was based in psychological rebellion, as I alluded to earlier. The reasoning would follow that it was necessary to look both ways as a child, but true adults no longer require the childish things their parents taught them. This theory comes with the added benefits of a sense of pride and maturity, such as young men feel when they smoke or drink. Of course, the sense is mere illusion. Whatever the theory, it would have to explain why youth are the greatest violators of the youthful principle. Those more aged tend to continue looking both ways ritualistically, perhaps religiously, whether from the fault of their closed and captive minds or the blind process of natural selection which curtails the growth of the self-proclaimed free-thinkers. My final theory was more simplistic, having less to do with the reasoning of the child than the parents. Here, in an attempt to free the minds of their children, parents did not train their children in the first place to look both ways before crossing the street. Perhaps the lack of training stemmed from apathy or mere idiocy on the part of the parents instead of any philosophy so thought out. In either case, the children’s minds then were free to roam in whatever direction their innocent hearts desired, even if they led onto I-35 Northbound.
While all these theories I only mean half seriously, one thought I did not have was actually stated by a freshmen college student who chose not to look both ways. Instead of theorizing from my arm chair, I confronted quite literally the man on the street. In short, he believed since pedestrians had the right of way on campus, he no longer needed to look before crossing the street. In other words, the street was his right; traffic must bend to his will. This theory more than any other frightens me. The fallacy is obvious, but the logic is solid. It reminds me of a fancy I had as a child that if I only walked on the double yellow line, no car would ever touch me. In any case, he clearly does have a right to the road, and traffic is expected to sway for him when he occupies the road, regardless of time and location. If any car were to hit him, it would be the fault of the driver. In terms of justice, the pedestrian remains innocent. Who am I to tell him to look both ways? He has the right not to look and the moral expectation to meet with no disaster no matter his course. In one sense, he can do no wrong in pursuit of the other side of the road, or even standing in the middle of the road if he wished. I can try to inspire in him fear, but fear is for the weak and captive minded, not for those with the world at their hands and whatever heaven they wish before them. What have I to offer against the greener grass on the other side? Whichever path he may choose, justice belongs to him; the pursuit of his will and direction rightfully lies free of consequence. Yet one must wonder how even the boldest, most brilliant theories of moral right and justice stand against a speeding SUV.