Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Human Sheild

As I was crossing the busy intersection of 57th St. and Broadway today I realized how strongly I rely on ‘the human shield.’ My level of reliance depends on my surroundings and my mood, but I’ve stopped paying full attention to the cars in the street and moved my focus to the pedestrians working to cross the street with me.

When I’m faced with a red-light situation and one of my fellow pedestrians step out into the street I take a look up or down the street to see what the oncoming traffic looks like. If several people step off of the sidewalk in anticipation of crossing, I usually step out onto the street before glancing onto the street for cars, bikes or busses headed our way. Although most of this has become instinctual, based on thousands of city-street-crossings over my lifetime it’s still a bizarre realization.

I must believe that my fellow pedestrians will create a human shield to protect me from the metal fenders or handlebars barreling down the street at me. I must think that NYC strangers are only there to protect me and watch over my every move as I sail through the city unharmed (well, usually unharmed.) And unfortunately I must think that others, in packs, will not make stupid mistakes like walking out into oncoming traffic.

As I think this out loud it sounds asinine…insane…and clearly stupid. And, I’m not exactly sure where this habit came from or how to stop it. I wonder if they have some sort of insert you could put in your shoe to shock you from doing such silly things as using the human shield in busy streets during the day. I don’t know whom I’d trust to hold the remote to any such shocking mechanism but perhaps that will be my next invention.

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