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.


Mike said...

If you like pedestrians in Boston, you should try us in new York.

Liesl said...

Oh, man. Driving in Boston. Wow. It's just...oh, man.