Pet peeves

One of the perks of getting older is the constitutionally guaranteed right to complain about how all the good things in one's daily life are changing, and not (often) for the better.

I can clearly remember my father, a dedicated fan of Wagner, Verdi, Caruso, always called the great Caruso, and Irish tenor John McCormack, going off on me (as the kids say) for listening to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. He implied that my brain was suspect and my hearing would soon be faulty.

Since I remembered those days, and also could recall the feeling of pity I had then for the old man, so out of touch by my lights, I refrained from saying too much when, during my single-parenting days in the mid-'90s, my daughters discovered rap.

But I remember thinking those nasty thoughts that must have been the children of my father's ideas the first time he heard "Satisfaction" or "She Loves You."

Such as: "My God, I've raised ignorant, tone-deaf mutants."

I've written this rather long preamble as an excuse if you think what follows sounds slightly crusty. I'd rather you blame my age than my brainpower.

But ...

Anyone who walks as much as I do in and around Lower Queen Anne knows that being a pedestrian is harder in this day of the inalienable right to bear a cell phone while blindly piloting a German staff car disguised as a suburban (Dachau?) utility vehicle than it ever was before.

I've so far avoided personal catastrophe for a variety of reasons:

1) I can still run.

2) I can back up almost as fast as the younger Ali could.

3) I almost never forget to wait, not only for the yellow light but now also for the red - many of you no longer stop before turning right (or left) on red.

4) I've been lucky.

Anyone crossing Roy Street on the west side of First, by the defunct McDonald's, or one block west, where Roy feeds two ways into Queen Anne Avenue, knows I speak the unvarnished, old-school truth.

Someone will be killed there. Someone doddering, or inattentive, who is crossing on the walk light, totally in the right but, because of distracted, aggressive driving, totally in the wrong place at the wrong time.

You folks who are not looking, or worse, screaming at pedestrians because you want to turn right, or left, on red without stopping, ought to be ticketed, or worse.

The middle-aged fatboy in the silver Corvette who almost hit me at Roy and First, while turning left on red without stopping, then waved angrily at me to move when I stood in the crosswalk and gently tried to coax him out of his midlife-crisis-mobile - a plea he resisted, but didn't respond to until he was a block away, when he finally unsheathed his middle finger - will eventually kill or maim someone on the way to his fifth meal or sixth drink of the day.

But he's no worse than the tiny, beauteous, booth-tanned woman who could barely see over the steering wheel of her luxury SUV, and wasn't looking anyway because she was animatedly talking on a cell phone as she turned left on red, off Roy and onto Queen Anne Avenue, narrowly missing a very old woman in the crosswalk.

I was sitting at Ladro having coffee and watching the close calls that day.

The almost-victim was an elderly lady often seen in the neighborhood; she was dragging her half-empty little metal grocery carrier behind her. After her near-miss, the old lady might have stood in the street, rooted by terror, for the rest of the day, except for the nice young guy sipping a latte two chairs down from me. He went into the street and walked the shaken granny across to the safety (sorta) of dry sidewalk.

Drivers are worse here than they were 10 years ago.

More aggresive. Less attentive.

It's a fact, not a discussion point.

Yellow no longer means caution. It means speed up before the light turns red.

And turning on red no longer requires a stop and look around.

Ask anyone who walks.

Surveys and studies out of Canada - you know, the place where even poor people get medical care - show that cell phone users cause 25 percent more auto accidents than people driving without feeling the need to tell folks (via cell phone) they will see in two minutes anyway exactly where they are - "I'm at Mercer and Roy. I just missed running over some old woman who is too dumb to stay home and starve to death. Let's eat out tonight, honey. I feel like Ethiopian."

The lack of concern for the less fortunate, which allows government to cut health insurance to more than 50 million Americans with barely a protest from folks just like you, is seeping behind the wheel.

Climb out of your SUVs, turn off your cell phones, and walk around down here for a week or two if you don't believe this particular curmudgeon.

Do it before you run over somebody's granny.

And quit blowing your damn horn as soon as the light turns green.

The person in front of you who's not racing through the crosswalk is waiting for me to cross.

Leave her alone!

Freelance writer Dennis Wilken is a Lower Queen Anne resident.

You can reach him through

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