Thursday, September 8, 2011

In his awful majesty

When we drive, it is a largely conscious-less activity. We cruise along, listening to the rhythmic stirrings of the car interacting with our favorite album, reacting to the drivers around us in a silent, cacophonous dance of steel. I found myself in this mobile cocoon of mechanism today until I was sharply torn out of my world by a figure of pure sublimity.

Transportation in the downtown area is a grand, hyper game of frogger. Busses and tour boats crawl along through the flow of maddened, desperate drivers. As the Hondas and Toyotas duel for multi-lane supremacy, bicycles flit about like gadflies, largely attending to their own business but occasionally stinging one of their much larger counterparts, setting off a ripple that ends with busses careening across lanes and cars scrambling to make turns. As I joyously played my part in the game today, I found myself in yet another featureless intersection, hedged in by towering financial institutions and cheap merchandise stands selling T-shirts glorying in the self-love and boorishness of Boston Bruins fans.

I bathed in the simultaneous green lights that had seemingly been gifted upon me from heaven, and slammed the accelerator, desperate to get my monthly fix of over-twenty-mph driving. As I did so, pedestrians scurried to and fro, deftly skipping between cars as pedestrians are wont to do. Gradually, I became aware of a bent figure picking his way across the intersection directly below one of the green beacons urging me onward. I noticed the dexterity and timing of this archaic figure and mused of his destination. A 80+ yoga class, perhaps? The weekly doctor's appointment? A smile flickered across my face, betraying my self-amusement.

Suddenly, the man straightened. Arising from his hunched posture, the man turned, scowling. I was immediately arrested in his gaze of pure scorn. From his eyes, I felt an endless hatred of automobiles and all drivers thereof. As he stood, exactly in the center of my lane, I realized that this was no simple breaker of the law. As Gandalf and the Balrog, he and I both understood exactly what was going to occur in this intersection at that moment. I dug deep to find the courage to match his gaze, faltered, and fell to the onslaught of insane pedestrian pride. On any other day I may have locked eyes with a simple pedestrian who would have cowed his head to my rightful domination of the streets and fell into line. Today I was the subject, he the master. I jerked my wheel, barely sliding into the adjacent lane and barely zipping around the monumental man proclaiming his ambulatory supremacy. I fearfully glanced in my mirror, in awe, and saw him recede into the distance.

My memories of Boston driving, undoubtedly, will mix together into a melange of parking tickets, inevitable body work, and raging Italians. My encounter with this man, however, will always remain vivid and unique. I will always remember the day I saw the man.

He; the defiant, the suicidally indifferent to laws of traffic and physics -

the King of the Jaywalkers.