Friends, meet Otis. Otis is the Town Sot. Otis is a walking, talking .30 BAC at 0900 hours. I’m not kidding. Otis goes to jail on a weekly basis for drunk in public. He is a blight upon the Earth. He smells like desperation, shitty vodka, and urine. Every winter, we all assume he will die. He never does. He will outlive us all. Otis is like a super kick-ass steroid cockroach.
But you know what? Otis is smarter than a handful of people I met yesterday…and here’s why.
I was sitting on a major thoroughfare that has a trail crossing bisecting it. This crossing is controlled by signal lights. When vehicular traffic has the red light, pedestrian and bicycle traffic has the green, and vice versa. We get complaints about the intersection all the time. Either vehicles are running the red or the cyclists crossing the road in the crosswalk ignore their red light. Pedestrians are just as bad, if not worse. They “don’t want to bother the cars” so they don’t push the button that cycles the light allowing them to cross with the little white silhouetted man. Typically, they’ll give a casual look right and left, then dash across the busy street in what they interpret as a safe maneuver.
Believe it or not, there is a vehicle code section in California that requires pedestrians to wait for the actual “walk” signal before crossing the street. Know what that means? That means I can write ’em for not doing it.
Right now, I can hear a number of you saying, “That’s a chickenshit ticket.” Perhaps, perhaps. I might have been willing to listen to your argument…before yesterday. Yesterday, I saw Otis.
Otis walked (and by walked, I mean sort of stumbled and slithered in his Otis-ness) to the threshold of the crosswalk. I saw Otis’s left hand float up as if unbidden and push the pedestrian button.
“What’s this?!?” I thought to myself. I took my shades off to make absolutely sure I wasn’t hallucinating. I saw Otis stand there for at least 20 to 30 seconds (a full 15-20 seconds longer than your average, sober adult). Sure, he was swaying, but he didn’t move toward the street.
Lo and behold, the lights cycled, the little white man appeared, the audible tone sounded and Otis stumbledslithered across the street! Un-fucking-believable!! Right then and right there, I decided that I was going to cite every single person, be they cyclists or peds, that failed to do what Otis just did.
Otis is a functioning alcoholic, folks. He was able to figure out that playing Frogger across a busy intersection is a quick way to a painful experience and perhaps an early grave. Otis. The guy that obviously has no concern for what must be his basketball-sized liver and his surely pickled internal organs. Otis pushed the damn button.
But you, jogger? You just want to keep that pace up. You, cyclist? We are already well aware of your sense of entitlements when it comes to the vehicle code.
Otis is smarter than the lot of you. Kinda makes me wish I could buy the poor bloke a better brand of hooch. My helmet is off to you, Otis.
At least until the next time I have to arrest your drunk ass…but when that happens, I’ll be sure to tell you this story and how your unlikely actions inspired me.