Crossing the street on Tuesdays and Fridays have become moments of pure joy for me the past three weeks.
Is there a puppy on the other side of the road, you ask? Someone handing out cash? Ice cream?
Nope. Not even close!
The crosswalk light has been activated.
We live on the east side of A1A, otherwise known as BEACHFRONT AVENUE thanks to the lyrical genius that is Vanilla Ice. My yoga studio is a 7-minute walk on the west side of the road. Tuesdays and Fridays are my never-miss yoga classes, and for almost a year and a half now, I’ve played the frog in Frogger trying to cross that 4-lane road.
The thing about drivers in Florida: they drive a lot of large trucks or fancy cars with punchy acceleration. They see pedestrians as they might see a soda can tumbling across the road–I’ll try not to hit it, but if it ends up under my tire, eh.
There are no crosswalks on A1A. Even if there were, this does not necessarily stop cars from caring if there are humans using them. There are very few stop lights. Which means if you want to cross, you wait for an almost clear lane on one side, and then full on sprint, dodging cars in the other three lanes, to get to the other side. Post-yoga, this does nothing for my newly aligned chi.
Three weeks ago, I approached the intersection where months before they had painted crosswalk lines and installed lights, only to cover them with black garbage bags keeping us all in suspense as to when the lights would be given life.
Tuesday evening, the bags were gone. I hesitantly stepped up to the edge of the road. I pressed that shiny silver button that never has any tension and makes that clanky sound when you hit it 18 times in a row, wondering as you smack it, is anything really going to happen? Then, within 30 seconds, I saw the cars start to slow down AND come to a full stop. It worked! Then that little white-walky-dude shined bright from across the way, beckoning me over. I crossed the street waving at all of the cars like it was coronation day and I was in the back of a horse-drawn carriage. I had a dopey smile on my face that said, “Thank you! Isn’t this amazing! You stopped! I’m walking! Life is amazing!”
I got to the other side, with only 10 seconds to spare. Turns out you’ve got about 40 seconds to pick ‘em up and put ‘em down, and then the most miraculous thing happens.
The traffic light starts flashing red! After the highly attentive drivers stop at the light, it starts flashing and assuming there are no more pedestrians, they punch that accelerator and are on their way!
To bring back some 80’s parlance, we call that a win-win!
I kid you not that I have not stopped talking about this crosswalk system to anyone who will listen (and now read, assuming you still are) for three weeks and the sheer happiness and fulfillment and wonder it fills me with every time I use it.
As a pedestrian, there’s nothing more nerve-wracking and dangerous than trying to cross a street in a state dominated by drivers who are seemingly looking to take people out.
As a driver, there’s nothing more aggravating than sitting at a red light when there are no cars or people around.
Personally, I don’t want to die and I don’t want to wait in traffic. (I am very particular.)
What if there is a third option?
Now, as I imagine the planning board discussing the situation, this is how the scene played out:
What if we could create something that is safe for pedestrians and only mildly inconvenient for drivers?
What if we combined safety + logic + convenience + empathy for everyone involved?
What would THAT look like?
THE CROSSWALK AT BAY AND A1A IN NEPTUNE BEACH, THAT’S WHAT.
How often do we dig in and see only two options for situations we’re dealing with?
My way or their way. Right or wrong. Smart or stupid. Capable or not.
Binary is basic. Limiting. Combative. Boring. Tension-fueling.
What if we make it a practice to look for that third option?
If we get in a routine of asking, what if there’s something else?
What if there’s something we’re not seeing?
What options and possibilities are there to explore?
In this case, what would work for the pedestrians and the cars?
I think that’s why my joy ratio keeps growing every time I head to and from yoga and hit that button. There’s a thoughtfulness that comes through–for all of the people involved. It’s logical. (I mean God-forbid.) There’s an assumed understanding reached by the pro-crosswalkers and the pro-drivers.
They took a serious issue, safety, and made it work for everyone.
My idea for you this week: can you look for an area within your team that you could bring logic, understanding, and empathy to? Bring a third option into a binary situation?
Maybe it’s a safety issue. Maybe it’s a morale issue. Maybe it’s one of those things you just keep doing because it’s how you do it. Maybe it’s something that makes you say “this is stupid” every time you do it. Maybe it’s something that doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but with new eyes and a new approach, could open up a continuing joy-flow like I’m experiencing.
Maybe the crosswalk is a “little thing” and the happiness it’s bringing me seems out of whack. For me, I find when we focus on the little things, the basics, they eliminate some of the massive, big, and overwhelming things.
When the little things are fueled by thoughtfulness, caring, empathy, and logic–I’ll skip across the street and wave like a fool every day!