I am not sure I am going to get my head round these smart new ideas for crossing the road in the central London, based on ak’s description of the new pedestrian system at Oxford Circus. That is, I presume it is a system, and somewhere the system has an intelligence, an electronic super-surveillance cybernetic-netted system, or for want of a better word a mind. And the mind has feelings; of course it does, it wants us people walking on foot to trust it!
I am benign, the mind says, And walk, don’t walk, if you little darlings trust me we will all get along fine.
Walk / Don’t Walk. For those of us who travelled the USA in the 1960’s and 70’s, those ubiquitous signals that lit up with the traffic lights at what they call intersections, and we call crossroads, became our friends. Walk / Don’t Walk also said, We are benign.
And I for one always completely trusted them.
In those days the Walk / Don’t Walk rules for walking across streets in American cities were simple. If you stepped off the sidewalk outside the Walk / Don’t Walk areas, you were a target. It was called jay-walking, and as well as ending up in hit-and-run hospital or dead, you were of course also breaking the law. That is democracy. In those days the motorcars were big and had wide shiny chrome fenders, alcohol was cheap and the vehicle dashboards had holders for cans of beer and half bottles of bourbon, and the drivers were also mostly taking ‘mother’s little helper’ valium on high dose prescription.
Added to which for us on foot the drop off the road edge of the sidewalks were big too, in order to accommodate the storm drains which ran underneath, so stepping off you could easily trip and fall, and even if you didn’t trip, you had to concentrate looking down at the drop so hard you would probably not see that rusty open-topped red-neck truck with the stars-and-bars on its bonnet bearing down on you. Hippy faggot, the open-topped red-neck truck would scream past you, the slip-stream wind grabbing at your tee-shirt.
Walk / Don’t Walk. That is democracy. And maybe it was that time I was on my way to the cinema at the big concrete slabbed wall-and-windowless shopping mall to watch Death Race 2000, about a not-so-distant dystopic future of ‘us’ on foot as hit-scores for ‘them’ in cars. And maybe I had got to the mall walking, following a bare earth track to the edge of the street, before crossing it and then pushing through the hole in the wire ring perimeter fence on the other side.
Because if you wanted to, you could disagree. Walk /Don’t Walk. I could go my own way and Walk / Don’t Walk wouldn’t care. That is why I trusted them.
I am benign, the new mind at Oxford Circus says, And walk, don’t walk, if you little darlings trust me we will all get along fine.
The hell I do.