In step

I’m walking down Fourth Avenue after picking up a book at the library yesterday, and a man crosses to my side of the street. He’s smartly attired in a dark dress shirt and black pants and talking pointedly. I assume he’s got the Bluetooth ear-thingy in but then I see he doesn’t. He’s just talking. We cross the street together and happen to be pace buddies, although I push my stride a little so that I’m not actually beside him. While emphatic, his speech is not loud and the noise of traffic drowns out most of it, but over my left shoulder I hear fragments of a non-stop complaint that sound like this:

…not CIVilized…
…trying to cross a STREET…
…get in the WAY…
…wait TWO seconds a man cross the STREET…
…no way…
…no reSPECT for the common man, for the FELLOW man…
…all he wants a place to LIVE and a decent job…

We walk for at least a block together, and it occurs to me that although he had been sounding off even before he joined me on my side, someone had nearly driven over us as we stepped into the crosswalk and his vitriol might have something to do with that. Then halfway down the block, a woman drives out of a parking garage and halts on the sidewalk in front of us, blocking our forward progress. I’m slightly miffed, but my miffage is almost immediately assuaged by the fact that there is already a running, verbal complaint audible in my left ear. It occurs to me that the man might well be channeling my own sense of pedestrian entitlement, as though his body and vocal cords were a receiver and amplifier of my own indignation.

I could protest that I was simply an innocent bystander, that I just happened to be walking at the same pace slightly in front and to the right of a crazy person, but the fact was, many of the phrases I was hearing seemed to be from thought patterns that I would have to admit to having entertained in my own head, and pretty recently, too. I get tired of nearly being struck by motorists, and it happens a lot. Was the man just picking up and broadcasting my own signal? The fact that he was walking behind me and I couldn’t see him heightened the sensation that I was hearing a voice in my own head. The scary part is, the voice just didn’t seem that foreign.

What a horror it would be if my most self-pitying, resentful and uncharitable thoughts were suddenly bullhorned to the world around me via some inductive crosstalk between my own magnetic field and that of someone with a looser tongue. And what if I couldn’t shake that person by turning right down Cherry? What if that person remained at your left heel always, like some figure out of early twentieth-century German literature. The whole episode made me want to think kinder thoughts.


6 Responses to “In step”

  1. 1 Kip June 30, 2011 at 19:13

    I find myself with dual personalities. When I’m driving, I am complaining about pedestrians. When I am ped-ing, those (expletive deleted) drivers are so inconsiderate! At least you had a human next to you. Most of us have the Angel on one shoulder and the Devil on the other…noise in both ears! Wait, were you walking next……

  2. 2 Louis July 1, 2011 at 01:17

    Wow. That’s incredible. Like having your own play-by-play announcer: “He’s walking down fourth….crossing Seneca..stepping into the street….OH! That Corolla almost picked him off!!…and he doesn’t like that one, folks…” I’m usually like what Kip describes, but I find here the traffic laws and enforcement and safe crossings at such a premium, one must be extra cautious and extra patient…and breathe…this is not always easy.

  3. 3 Janet July 1, 2011 at 06:06

    That is eerie. I’m reading some Stephen King stories at the moment. Between your experience and those stories my mind is whirring.

    • 4 Matt July 1, 2011 at 08:16

      Kip, LOL.

      Lou, I think if I lived anywhere else but Seattle I would understand that peds are just like turkeys in a turkey shoot. Thanks for the reminder to “breathe”. Best plan in any situation.

      Now you mention it, the whole experience was rather StephenKingish.

  4. 5 Angela July 1, 2011 at 14:28

    Sweet Husband :).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


The Great Seattle Gargoyle Hunt


%d bloggers like this: