On Saturday, Tamar and I walked to breakfast, intending to break our fast at a trendy cafe maybe two miles from our place. We walked along a busy street on the way to the cafe and a quieter street on the way back -- after finding that the line at the restaurant was far too long to endure.
As we walked in both directions, we'd approach intersections and find that a car would come to a stop at the corner directly in front of us, blocking the marked or unmarked crosswalk. The driver would wait for traffic to clear, ignoring or pretending to ignore us standing there, and proceed just as if we had never existed.
The same thing happened four or five times: the same thing. A couple of times we waited for the car to vacate the crosswalk. A few times we walked around the car.
We were not scofflaw urban cyclists nor were we outlaws of any stripe. We were a couple walking to breakfast on a Saturday morning.
I'm sure the same thing has happened to me dozens or hundreds of times in the past, but it struck me especially that day -- it was so blatant and so frequent.
Not one driver halted his or her imperial progress to let us walk across the narrow street in front of the car. Not one driver bothered to back out of the crosswalk so we could pass.
Rudeness is the default. Defensiveness is the default. Sharing roads is a fantasy. Merely acknowledging the presence of others in "your world" is rare good manners.
Maybe this is just 21st Century human nature. Maybe it's urban America in decline. Maybe it's individual rudeness multiplied a million times. How did we get to this place?