Route 196 is a busy state road that connects Brunswick and Lewiston. Cars move along at a steady clip in daylight, ferrying folks from one town to another. There are faded crosswalks, of course, and according to my connections in town government, they are not scheduled to be repainted until spring.
I cross Route 196 on foot two or three times a day; sometimes, like during the cold spell we’ve been having, not a once. Depending on my mood, I may wait patiently or I may demand that traffic stop.
After all, IT’S THE LAW.
A good scholar of the law, state Senator Garrett Mason always stops for me.
If I’m in a kind and patient mood, which I usually am, I’ll wait until there is no traffic and zip across the road quickly. If I’m in a hurry, I put one foot into the crosswalk, take my right hand and dramatically point downward towards the faded paint while simultaneously looking directly at the oncoming motorist. Sometimes this technique works and sometimes it doesn’t; we live in an age of distraction.
Oddly enough, it’s often large logging trucks and 18 wheelers hauling dangerous petro-chemicals that slow down when they see me in the crosswalk. Since I’m not a total BLEEP and I know a little bit about the laws of physics, in those situations, I take my right hand and kindly flag them to keep going because I know momentum equals mass times velocity.
These are the trials and tribulations of small town life.
On Monday at noon, the first day of the Arctic freeze, I headed out to the post office. I got across Route 196 the first time, no problem. I collected my mail and retraced my steps. I was standing on a small bank of snow next to the crosswalk when a little boxy economy car screamed to a stop directly on the faded mark. With no regard for the traffic behind her, the woman driving the car rolled down the passenger window and leaned over to address me.
I was a little nervous. Was I going to get a lecture about crosswalk etiquette?
(Remind me to tell you about the time when I was five and got disciplined by a Morse Oil Brothers truck driver about running into the road.)
No lecture. The frantic middle-aged bespectacled woman demanded:
“Is this the road to Lewiston?”
You can insert any number of less than ladylike epithets here. They were all swirling around in my brain.
Observant, that’s me. I saw the cat carrier on the passenger seat and putting two and two together, I knew I was dealing with a crazed cat lady.
Looking straight into her frenzied face, I said “YES.”
Then, in the blink of an eye, she rolled up the window and sped off, not even letting me cross the road. I shrugged my shoulders to the man driving the truck in back of her, who had slammed on the brakes when she stopped for directions. He let me cross.
As I made my way up the street towards home, indignant thoughts tumbled around in my head like numbered balls in a bingo spinner.
But then my house came into view and a serene calm descended upon me like a dove. Yes, a dove, not a cat, and I said to myself:
“Excellent! That crazy cat lady just wrote my Friday blog for me.”
The next time you’re happy motoring through Lisbon Falls on the road to Lewiston, please keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. And if you see a tall, dark-haired woman standing in the crosswalk, please stop lest you end up lampooned in her blog.
Speaking of Lewiston, make sure to check out the Sun-Journal this Sunday to read my latest EATS column, which is not about cat food.
You may recall that in Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” (published in 1953), running over pedestrians was a sport, especially popular with the young. Life now imitates art, I guess.
Living out in the country, on busy Route 9, cars now whizz past at 60 and 70 mph, even though the area near the school has a speed limit of 35. People in a hurry to where and what? Riding my road bike always feels like I’m going to battle, me on my 25 lb road bike, hugging the edge of the pavement hoping not to dump it, while 4,000 lb hunks of metal hurtle past, just a few feet (3 feet, it’s the law!) my left pedal, content to force me into the ditch.
This is the spawn of American Happy Motoring, but you already knew all of this.
Try not to get hit crossing “the road to Lewiston.”