Why do people walk into the road when they can see traffic heading their way? You’re sitting in two tonnes of fast moving metal and they’re stepping off the kerb giving you the hard look… their eyes saying: “Come on, I dare you, knock me down, make my day.”
It baffles me.
Yesterday I was waiting at a traffic light: third back in the line of cars, in the middle lane – when a woman started to cross. The cars in front of me had already pulled across the junction, but I hesitated when I saw her coming from my left. Thinking she may have missed the light cue – I hooted. She swore, slammed her hand on the bonnet and kept right on walking.
Straight into the car blowing through the light in lane next to me. It knocked her flying. The kid driving the car was beside himself – he hadn’t seen her, he said. She came out of nowhere.
“Ja – but were you speeding?”, asked two traffic cops; who had run up from the junction ahead of us where they were conducting training manoeuvres with newbie cops. Little white gloves flashing in the distance, drivers doing their best to understand what they meant. “If you were speeding then we must hold you responsible. Pedestrians always have right of way.”
The woman was out cold. The kid started to cry.
“She walked right into him”, I interjected. “She walked straight in front of me as I was pulling off – and she told me to go fuck myself when I hooted at her. It is absolutely her fault”
The cop flinched but looked me straight in the eye: “Listen we are all innocent until proved guilty.”
“Really?” I said, “you have just been telling this kid it was his fault – that pedestrians always have the right of way.”
“Well they do.”
“Not if they cross against a light and walk into moving traffic. Then that’s their fault. Not the driver.”
“If he was speeding then he must come with us to the station and give a statement. We will also breathalyse him.”
“But how on earth are you going to know whether he was speeding or not? How can you possibly work that out now?”
The cops both stared at me.
The kid, meantime, had taken himself off to the side of the road, where he was making a phone call. Still crying.
At that point the woman came to, staggered up, wiped her bloody nose on her hand and limped over: “Fok julle almal*.” she told us. We all reeled back at the stench of sweet wine and tik** on her breath. ”Fok Julle” she said again, in case we hadn’t grasped the subtlety of her message, and tottered off.
The two cops started after her.
“Ja, well ok,” said the male cop. “She is obviously very intoxicated and so we can’t be sure what really happened here.”
“You can go”, he told the boy. “but next time drive slower.”
“And thank you for your assistance lady, but really the pedestrian is always in the right.”
They shook my hand and were on their way.
The kid got in his car and drove off without so much as a backward glance or word of thanks. Behind me the traffic, show over – started to hoot in furious union.
As I drove away it occurred to me that what had happened was pretty much life distilled. One moment you are quietly minding your own business when a nutter causes trouble, you defend the innocent, get into a beef with authority at which point both naif and lunatic flee the scene and you are left at the mercy of the ravening hordes.
What’s that saying – when the student is ready – the teacher will arrive?
(*Fok jullie almaar – Fuck you all. **Tik – crystal meth. )