by Matt Writt
My girlfriend and I have a running joke about pedestrians in Memphis' roadways. Driving around town can be like playing Frogger, except you're in one of the cars and the idea is to keep from hitting someone. This game is called Memphis Frogger.
Drive around Memphis on any given day, and you'll likely see someone on foot crossing a street at an inopportune place or time. If jaywalking is even a crime in Memphis (is it?), it's not policed.
I'm convinced that this phenomena is entirely unrelated to gender, race, economic status or any other designation I determine while passing at 35-45 miles per hour. But it's a peculiarly common behavior in Memphis. (More than anything, it's a statement about our car-centric society and the lack of pedestrian friendly roadways, but that's a topic for a post that's not titled "Memphis Frogger.")
This morning, I saw a group crossing the street from a parking lot to an office building. As the group came to the curb and looked at traffic, two waited on the curb while one person stepped into the roadway.
It occurred to me that these are the two styles of crossing the street.
Style 1 are the people who stay on the curb until they see a gap in both directions of traffic. They've calculated a way to get all the way across before they step off the curb.
Style 2 takes it one lane at a time, starting with the closest. This is where Frogger begins.
The one thing that amazes me is that I've never seen anyone splattered by traffic (see above). As far as I've seen, both styles will get you across the road. Style 1 may cause you to wait for a few minutes. Style 2 may land you on the center stripe of Union Ave. with traffic screaming past on either side of you. But you'll get across.
Crossing the street is mundane. It's just about the definition of a mundane activity. But I think it says something about how we make decisions in our lives.
I'm not trying to sermonize about risk taking - "Are YOU the sort of person who will jump right out there?" - because I don't think there's a right or wrong here. I just know my style, and you won't see me stranded halfway across the street.