First rule of the road: Everyone remember just who comes first
January 30, 2014 11:00 PM
By Peter Leo
Here's an update on rules of behavior for key areas of human interaction. Let's hold all questions until the end of the column.
Pedestrians: When crossing a street, proceed into the intersection without breaking stride, looking around or, most important, looking up from your cell phone.
This applies particularly if the light or right of way is against you. Just forge ahead, but, please, no undignified attempts to hurry out of common courtesy or common sense. It's the driver's job to make adjustments and avoid killing you. But you have a responsibility, too: Never worry about getting obliterated. You might miss a text.
One caution: Do not behave this way when crossing an interstate, because you can't count on self-absorbed drivers being alert to your needs while doing 70.
Bicyclists: You have been empowered to see yourselves as equal to motorists -- wait, make that superior, because of your exceptional health and environmental awareness.
When there is no bike lane, make a point of riding in the middle even when there's room for you to slide to the right. And ride at a leisurely pace. This might leave motorists fuming. That's OK. In fact, it's the whole point. Don't even think of moving over when it's safe and clear. You must assert your rightful status.
Also, you probably should be wearing safety gear, with a light or two at night as an accent to your cool black outfit. But here again, if you don't, it's the driver's responsibility to watch out for you.
And situational ethics always apply. Behave like a car when it suits you. When it doesn't, behave like a non-car. That is, run red lights, go between cars at lights and ride on sidewalks, at breakneck speed if need be. Scaring the wits out of pedestrians can be an unfortunate but irrelevant consequence.
Motorists: You rule the road. Bicyclists are an annoyance worthy of extinction. However, be aware that running them over can have serious consequences. It could affect the finish on your car, maybe even produce a dent or two. So put cyclists in their place by coming as close as possible without leaving any flesh wounds. (Same goes with pedestrians.) Blasting the horn as you pass by is optional but recommended.
After parking, if you check your side-view mirror before opening the door, you risk missing an opportunity to really slow down a bicyclist coming up alongside. And make sure to open the car door all the way at all times, especially on narrow streets and as traffic approaches.
As for those well-marked crosswalks where pedestrians have the right of way, take it as a suggestion, not an obligation. Ditto, of course, with stop signs. And when the light turns yellow, as always that means not to slow down, but to gun it. If you wind up in the trunk of the car ahead, come on strong in the ensuing discussion, should you still be alive.
Pedestrians, motorists, bicyclists: Don't wave thank-you when someone allows you into a line of traffic or lets you cross against the light. That's a sign of weakness and awareness of a larger world. Also, if you take a moment to acknowledge kindness, you run the risk of missing an important tweet recounting the latest high jinks of your best friend's cat.
Gym enthusiasts: Whoa, did I say gym? I mean fitness center or health club enthusiasts.
The following rule is routinely disregarded but catching on: Guys in the know wear shirts with the sleeves cut off. True, this is like wearing a sandwich board that screams: "I am an ..." Wait, that was uncalled for. The jury will disregard that last remark.
These guys are simply promoting the virtues of working out by calling attention to their impressive bodies. This also explains why they huff and puff and groan at full volume, slamming down the weights after pulling off a super-human feat.
To the uninformed, they are lifting weights way too heavy to get much out of it. Wrong. They are reaching out to us because they are role models for aerobic health. Just ask them. Also, bring your cell phone but limit calls to fights with relatives or discussions of work-related matters that drive home your importance to fellow exercisers.
As for you antiques who don't wear earbuds, when someone comes into your TV air space, it's his right to change the channel, no questions asked. If you challenge him ("Hey, what am I, chopped exerciser?") don't be surprised by a look of exasperation at your failure to honor his needs. Besides, who wouldn't want to watch the Jerry Springer Channel?
Peter Leo of Squirrel Hill, a retired Post-Gazette columnist and occasional Portfolio contributor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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