Jaywalking and the danger of hesitation
I normally don’t consider myself the type of person who is hesitant but there are certain moments when I find myself not acting instinctively and instead following rules that, at times, are not appropriate.
Jaywalking is one of those times when I find my judgement is impaired by a conflict of following rules and assessing the situation and reacting on instinct. It is a really strange conflict for me as most of my life is dictated by doing what feels best for me and choosing which societal rules and customs I will follow and which ones I won’t.
I am not really sure why jaywalking is such a confusing act for me. Maybe it was growing up in a town without any traffic lights. When I moved from the little hamlet of Montrose, BC (population 1,600) to Vancouver, BC (population 600,000), I had to learn very quickly how to survive in the big city. I learned which parts of the city to avoid late at night. I learned how to hail a taxicab. I learned how to order my favourite Starbucks coffee. I also learned that not paying attention when you are running across Granville Street can get you killed.
Maybe it was a close call that scared me into always waiting for the walk signal no matter the time of day now. If you want to see people who really know the art of jaywalking, go to New York City. People in Manhattan seem to know how and when to jaywalk. I remember standing on the corner at Time Square waiting for the walk signal when I witnessed hordes of New Yorkers just crossing a busy street when it looked like they could make it. The walk signal or stop signal seemed to be just another part of the background lights in Time Square.
After feeling like an idiot for standing and waiting for the walk signal for the tenth time, I decided to try and do what the locals did – only problem was, I hesitated a split second. The mass went out against the rule, I hesitated and was nearly run over by a yellow taxicab. He blared his horn at me and I jumped back. A local then yelled at me and said, “Ya stupid tourist! Trying to get yourself killed?” Hesitation nearly got me killed because I wasn’t using my instincts. My feelings of not wanting to standout nearly got me taken out!
Now living in Kelowna, BC (population 100,000) I find myself standing at crosswalks and waiting for the walk signal – even at times when there is no traffic! At times like this, my wife usually makes fun of me and jaywalks leaving me once again standing on the sidewalk feeling confused and conflicted with a need to follow this rule and lack of instinct with jaywalking.
Jaywalking got me thinking about how rules that sometimes don’t apply can dampen our instincts. Without question, there are many rules and laws that are in place for good reason. I am happy most people follow rules like driving on the correct side of the road or stopping at a red light while waiting for traffic. Wait a second, why do people who jaywalk stop for a red light while driving their car in the middle of the night when there is no traffic?
Hesitation can be a feeling that should be respected when it is a product of intuition but hesitation when it is clouded by external rules and fear of judgement or fear of making a mistake can lead to poor choices for your self.
How do we know when hesitation is intuitive and not externally influenced? The answer is practice. The more we practice not hesitating with decisions when the stakes are low, the better we get at tuning into our true self and learning when we can safely jaywalk.
I am practicing my jaywalking. I still feel like I am doing something wrong but I am also learning to listen to that part of me that says, “Brett, there is no traffic – nothing is going to happen.”
This article is by no means meant to be taken as a recommendation to jaywalk or breaking rules. Learn to trust your inner guide and follow the rules and customs that make sense to you.