I took a break from blogging here because I hit someone with my car a few weeks ago and have been dealing with the legal fallout.
This happens to all drivers at some point, doesn’t it?
I spend everyday driving around the big city for work. More than ever, this has also come to mean swerving around videochatting pedestrians, daydreaming with their mouths open, like zombies attached to earbuds. I’ll admit this with immunity, because I have nothing else to lose: I also daydream behind the wheel. About hitting these pedestrians.
At first, the prospect of hitting someone with my vehicle was a worst case scenario I kept in the back of my mind. If I backed up and hit a hydrant, or made a close turn out of a driveway and scratched another vehicle, my Pavlovian response would sound like a Howie Scream. My work vehicle was insured, but I screamed anyway because 1) invoking the insurance helps build the case to my employer that I am a reckless driver and 2) people are often hostile when their car gets damaged.
If anything terrible did happen while I was behind the wheel, I’d unlock the worst case scenario box and think, ‘At least I didn’t hit anybody’ thus putting any traffic violation, or bumped fender into perspective.
But then I began to test myself. I’d ease off the brake and edge towards the crosswalk while waiting at stoplights. I liked the looks I got from pedestrians as they walked in front of me. The ones that noticed my vehicle creeping in on them glared hatred, threw up their hands, yelled at me to watch it. Good on them. I looked asleep at the wheel with my eyes open.
In my dreams of running over pedestrians, especially the ones that are actively not paying attention to their surroundings, I laugh and smile because they definitely deserve it.
I don’t need to be God or a judge to know when someone deserves punishment for their stupidity. However, the type of punishment enacted is for God or a judge to decide. Most of the time, these little sins of the jaywalker do not break a law of enough importance for an officer. Similarly, vigilantes do not need to enact their personalized justice on jaywalkers because jaywalkers are not violent criminals (though they are still evil). And it is not my moral compulsion to carry out justice like a vigilante for a sort of ‘Trucker’s Justice.’ With confidence I can say that–while I am behind the wheel–my moral compass was stronger then those irresponsibly walking around on the street. (before my cynicism kicked in.) While I am on the street I am just another evil pedestrian.
What makes pedestrians so evil is that they have done nothing to earn this ‘Right of Way,’ besides being given the benefit of the doubt that they can walk responsibly after reaching the age of consent. They have all been given this right, even when they are wrong. On the streets of New York, their strategy is to be aggressively passive aggressive. Yet I am the one punished for following the rules of the road.
Pedestrians are conditioned to be the worst kind of person, believing that drivers are always at fault for killing them or hitting them. Fellow New Yorkers chant ‘Sue! Sue! Sue!’ when a cabby accidentally bumps an idiot pedestrian, attached to headphones, aggressively crosses the middle of a side street without looking.
The idiot family that I hit deserved to be killed. What do I have to lose by being honest? My defender can’t save me; they were immigrants! I sunk the eightball, there is absolutely no hope that I won’t do hard time, even given the circumstances.
Here’s the play: It’s a two way street. I am driving the speed limit, 35 mph, and there is no one in front of me or behind me. My lane is clear. The day is bright, the sun is warm, and I have my window rolled down. Both my hands are on the wheel. I’m listening to WFMU.
Traffic in the opposite direction is gridlocked, all 15 ft. box trucks. They are not budging. I am lucky to be driving this direction. At this rate, I will be done with work early.
Suddenly, from behind the box truck three generations emerge–granny, daughter, granddaughter in stroller–and step directly in front of my vehicle. Things could not have lined up more perfectly. I felt the stroller crunch beneath my wheels, and saw the bodies soar in the air.
I do not curse or scream because I can’t. It was not my fault, right? I was obeying every law, they were jaywalking. They were evil. I am the victim. I broke no laws. And now I am in the street and I won’t look at the carnage. I think I can look at the body in the street that is not moving, or the bodies under the truck that are also not moving, but I’ll never know if I can’t because I won’t. This is nothing that I did. This is what they deserved by crossing in the middle of the street from behind a wall of trucks, believing they had the right of way, when they didn’t. What was so important that they had to break the law? No one would catch them breaking the law. Or, if a law enforcer did catch them, they would never enforce it. But the law exists for other reasons, I think.
I take out my phone before someone screams at me to call 911. ‘If it’s so urgent then you call 911 asshole.’ I am dialing 911 now, or pretending to, and I look down the street at the crumpled body of granny but I don’t walk over immediately. I take a minute of squeezing my eyes shut tight. I give myself a headache. In solidarity with the dead immigrant pedestrians, the living pedestrians traumatized by the carnage begin chanting ‘Sue! Sue! Sue!’ But they are dead, they can’t sue. Their family can sue, the city can sue. I didn’t do anything wrong.
‘I’m a pedestrian too,’ I say to nobody in particular. My eyes are still shut tight. ‘I’m usually a pedestrian. I moved to New York just to be a pedestrian. I hate driving. I prefer to commute to work by subway, always have. I just took this job because I need the money,’ I explain to the 911 dispatcher.
So my life is going to be over for me…I won’t be able to blog here anymore, not for a while. I’ve started to keep my secrets somewhere else online, where they can’t find me. My defender thinks I have a case, so maybe I shouldn’t be publishing this? I don’t believe in my chances, this is a really hot case at the moment and the papers are so thankful for it that they sent my family a fruit basket.
I used to think that I’d lived with dread. But now that I will lose my freedom and my life on a date that is TBD, I actually know what dread feels like. The worst is coming. I am not at peace because I know my fate is losing my freedom.
Why did they have to be immigrants? If they were any other family I’d have a chance….I still don’t believe in karma. Irony on the other hand…