People, I don’t dash anymore

Published 5:44 am Thursday, April 1, 2010

Spring has sprung, and I’m back on the bike again.

Watch out world. I brake for blondes and make wide turns around politicians.

The other day I was biking in downtown Austin’s central business district, during the heavy shopping period sometime between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. I pulled up to the pedestrian crosswalk  along North Main Street at the Third Avenue Northwest intersection and began the time-honored routine:  Stop, look and listen before you cross the street. Then, I did it again and then a third time.

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No traffic in sight, I proceeded into the crosswalk only to discover the traffic lights at Fourth Avenue and Second Avenue had apparently changed and traffic was advancing. I retreated to the curb.

My hesitation cost me a safe crossing.

Vehicles passed from both the north and south directions.

After the rush hour traffic ( two pickups and a van I recall), I squinted north and south and determined it was safe to cross the street on my bike.

When I edged into the crosswalk, sure enough, a vehicle appeared from nowhere, honked and drove by, causing me to retreat again to the curb, while cursing to myself.

“If patience is a virtue, I am a most virtuous man,” I thought, preparing to go where, it seemed, this sight-impaired man on a bike, hadn’t gone in a long time.

Fearing I was attracting a crowd of spectators, wondering “What is the old guy on the bike doing?” and in danger of being arrested for loitering at a crosswalk, I stepped on the bike pedals and came to an abrupt halt, when a teenager came up behind me and dashed across the street.

Naturally, I swore again at a millennial blithely dashing across a street that had become a minefield for me.

There I stood straddling my bike beaten by a dash.

People, I don’t dash anymore.

Gave it up one heart attack, a triple-bypass operation and other surgeries, declining vision and a few too many birthdays ago.

My dashing days are done.

I was getting worried by then. The nightly assault-in-the-Plaza Lot  prime time was approaching and I didn’t want to be taken into custody as a person-of-interest, so I plunged across the street on my bike and made it to the other side safe at last.

Feeling frustrated, angry and embarrassed at my inability to perform a simple task, I, of course, relieved myself by swearing aloud. Then, I  swore a second time and something odd happened.

The wind picked up, and the skies darkened. It was too early for Christmas in the City. When I heard a loud, booming voice, I knew it was not an irate Farmers Market vendor.

It was God.

“The swearing was annoying. People take my name in vain all the time. But I also heard a cry for help. I will give you one wish. What is it you want?” said God.

Caught in the moment of my street crossing frustration, I replied, “I want underground tunnels dug beneath the streets at every intersection in Austin to allow old guys on bikes to get where they’re going because those crazy motorists aren’t going to stop for anybody in a crosswalk …… please.”

God reacted immediately. “Your request is selfish, and you are vain for asking for something nobody else has ever requested,” He replied.

“I’ll give you another opportunity to wish for something that will benefit all mankind.”

I thought for a moment, and then I told God, “I’m a man and now in my senior years I find myself still trying to figure out  women.

I wish for all men we could understand women. How they feel inside, what they are thinking when they give men the silent treatment, why they cry, what they mean when they say nothing’s wrong and how men can make women happy.”

The wind continued to blow and clouds swirled overhead. There was only ominous silence from above.

Finally, God replied, “Do you want one lane or two lanes? Should the tunnel be lighted and air conditioned? Do you want baskets of petunias hanging from the lamp posts? How about rest stops along the way? I’ll get the city engineer working on this immediately.”

Happy April Fool’s Day, friends!