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Crossing the street at my own (bleeping) pace, thank you



Reflective Thursday

Back in April, when there was still snow on the ground, I slipped on ice on a sidewalk on Lake Ave. near Traverse City’s Old Town Parking Deck. It was just a slip; I didn’t even fall. However, I’ve been dealing with a lagging foot injury ever since.

I first thought that it was a passing injury that would heal if I spent a weekend laying on the couch watching the first week of the NBA playoffs. It seemed as good of a home remedy as any, and it included ice (and ice cream), elevation, and beer. What was there to lose?

Now, the NBA Finals are on and if either the Spurs or the Heat called me up to step into action (out of dire need for my wicked court tenacity) I’d most regrettably need to decline. The foot just won’t heal. Needless to say, most of my days aren’t as intense as an NBA game and I can’t spend my entire life on the couch so I gimp around the best I can.

My point of reflecting on this isn’t to complain about the City not clearing sidewalks in front of public structures in a highly trafficked area (done that). Nor is it to gain anyone’s sympathy (I’m on the mend, thank you). Instead, it’s a reminder that not everyone out there is moving at mach-ten or higher.

Empathetic shoes

I’ve written about walking speeds and speeds at crosswalk before. Normally, I’m one of the faster ones and well within the 4-feet per second that most people cross a street. With this injury, I’m reduced to about half of my normal pace, around 2-feet per second, maybe a tad faster, sometimes a little slower. I really noticed it the other day when my pace tested the patience of an otherwise considerate driver. The driver stopped (as is city ordinance) and waved me to cross, only to lose patience as I proceeded and finally giving me a gesture from behind the windshield communicating something like, “WTF? Can’t you go faster?”

As I gimped across 8th Street, I could only shrug back an explanation:

Sorry, I’m going as fast as I can. I understand you expected an active looking man to move a little quicker, but that just ain’t happening today. Perhaps you’d like to kick back and relax a bit before driving around with your obvious pent-up rage. Now, excuse me while I continue across the second-half of the street at the pace I’m capable. But first, let me tie my shoe.”

Before the injury, I was already aware of the need for streets/sidewalks and crosswalk times to be designed with a wider range of abilities and speeds. During the last two months I now have the empirical understanding of what it is like for people with injuries, disabilities, or just slower cadence than the majority of people to get around.

I know how it feels to stub one’s injured foot on a broken sidewalk and surprisingly have a jolt of pain race up my leg that forces you to sit. Right there. Now.

“Why is that man sitting on the sidewalk?”

He’s dying. Keep moving, honey.

And, I appreciate a bit more the feeling of holding up traffic because there is no higher gear.

I also have a new appreciation for my coming years as an older person who hopes to age in place. Even if my normal good health and luck carries into my elder years (I’m 40, and thinking about it) I can’t help but wonder what the City will be like when I’m not hobbled by injury, but just naturally slower. Or, slower simply because of the years behind me and an increasing attitude of just not giving-a-damn how fast I get anywhere or care who I hold up a few seconds.

For now, I rest and distract myself imagining a call from Coach Popovich.

And, remain engaged on building a city fit for the needs of all.


Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are that of the author and do not represent the opinions of writers previously published here or any of the organizations, committees, commissions or other affiliation the authors may belong to, unless so stated.

  1. Franny Bluhm
    June 13, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Very funny. And I am not chuckling at your misfortune, but I can so appreciate the scenes you describe. A bike fall had me hobbling for 6 months. And so do we all want to be able to age in place and use this beautiful city for the next 50 years in an easy slow pace.

  1. June 13, 2013 at 10:54 am

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