I have always worried far too much about what other people think. These anxieties have gotten me involved in some difficult situations. Until yesterday, however, they never threatened physical harm. Last night I learned a brutal lesson about trusting my instincts and putting myself first.
Walking in the winter is dangerous. It’s dark, it’s icy, and visibility is reduced. As someone who walks a lot, I consider myself to be an excellent pedestrian. I follow all traffic laws, keep my phone in my pocket, and never jaywalk unless the road is absolutely clear. Considering the amount of intersections I have crossed in my thirty years, it’s pretty amazing I have never been involved in a single altercation. It scares me how close I came to breaking this streak less than twenty-four hours ago.
There is a cross-walk just a few blocks from my house that is fairly tricky. We live on a busy road and cars tend to drive faster than laws dictate. Unless there is a stop sign, they probably won’t stop. Most of the time I don’t cross at the above-mentioned cross-walk because there is no such sign and I’ll end up standing at the corner waiting for hours.
I’m sure you’ve been there.
Shiva and I had just left the house for our evening walk and I’d spotted a slow-moving small dog ahead. I didn’t particularly feel like going through the stress of passing the dog, nor did I feel like waiting around until the dog and handler either turned a corner or got farther away.
The other option? Cross the street. The nearest corner? The dicey one.
This is the point I chuck common sense aside and put fear of what strangers will think of me ahead of my own safety.
I hate standing at corners. I feel like everyone is staring at me. Is that totally weird? Ah well, at this point you already know I am full of strange issues. Street corners make me nervous. I worry drivers will be annoyed at having to stop or that I won’t move fast enough and drivers will start honking their horns. When I have Shiva with me, I will typically turn my back to the road and work on some basic tricks with her. I feel this makes it obvious I am not going to cross in the hope that drivers will just keep going. Usually I never cross until every car is long gone.
Last night I guess I was in a hurry or I just decided not to wait. I looked to my left and the road was clear. I looked to my right and saw a car approaching from a decent distance away, with more than enough time to stop for me. At least, there would have been enough time if the car wasn’t speeding.
I didn’t realize how fast the car was going until I was in the middle of the cross-walk with Shiva out ahead of me. Her head was down and her eyes were fixed on the grass at the other side of the road. Shiva was in the perfect place at the perfect time to get hit by the speeding vehicle.
Don’t worry. I yanked her back in time. Shiva is fine. If she wasn’t I would be writing a completely different post. However, she came very close to not being fine and it’s a fact that still has me a little shaken. I don’t think the driver behind the wheel even slowed down.
Then, if that wasn’t terrifying enough, as I stepped back to prevent our bodies from getting in the way of the racing car, another car was sped up to the intersectio on my opposite side. The driver of this car was slightly more observant and did manage to stop with the car’s bumper a milimetre away from my leg, but for several seconds, I was too stunned to move. I stood there staring at the windshield. The proverbial deer in the proverbial headlights.
Awful, awful, awful.
Eventually I did manage to scramble back on to the curb and let the cars continue on their way. Funnily enough, for the first time, as I stood on corner and caught my breath, I no longer cared what others were thinking. I should have felt like a moron for making a mistake in public, but I didn’t.
When it comes to the safety of myself and my dog it doesn’t matter who has the right of way. Sure, those vehicles should have stopped. It’s the law. The point is they didn’t. If Shiva had been injured (or worse), being in the right would have meant very little. Knowing I didn’t look ridiculous waiting by the side of the road would have been even less comforting.
It doesn’t matter how confident you look if you’re dead.
I am vowing to take this important lesson to heart. It probably won’t change everything – worrying about others’ opinions of me is something I will probably always do – but in instances where it’s better to be safe than cool, I hope I will err on the side of safe. Besides, no matter how hard I work, I usually end up looking silly anyway.
May as well be silly and out of the emergency room.