But, you aren't waiting for it, are you? Nope, you're already gone.
That's okay, I know you're in a hurry. You know what? I'm not in a hurry, I'll wait for you.
You know who you are: as soon as you wander (or speed walk) to the corner, you press the big, shiny button on the light post for the walk light, so you can cross the street. But 4 seconds later, the two visible cars within a half-mile have gone by, and you boogie across the street and on your way. No problem. Mission accomplished. Pressin' buttons, and gettin' things done.
60 seconds later, I come along in my car--I know, I'm a bad person for driving the 5 miles to work every day--and what do I find but a red light. No problem, I'm a patient driver, red lights happen all the time. But then the walk light comes on... it stops traffic in both directions... all of us carbound folk look around for the lil' ol' lady we're expecting to see, waiting to cross the road... but, where are you?
Maybe its a pet peeve. Maybe I'm the only one who notices this, and everyone else is happy to wait, or just doesn't notice. Maybe.
If, on the other hand, this scenario seems familiar to you, or even, dare I say it, you've pressed that button without a second thought, then maybe you should read on. And if by chance, this happens to you when you're driving AND you also press the walk light button without thinking (And I know you do) then by all means, read on, and perhaps bookmark this page for future reading whilst performing self-flagellation.
Before we get started, let me just say that there is a fine line between a rant and respectful, social commentary. I'm pretty sure that line runs right through here somewheres.
Pressing the walk light is an implied contract, between you and the people around you. See? BOOM, I just came right out and said my thing. I'll explain later. We live in a world, that is populated, my dear friends, with other people. People who care about the world they live in, just as you do. America, especially, is an experiment in freedom, and we American's revel in our freedom. We can do whatever we want in America right?
Not really. And that, is where I believe the problem lies. I know careless walk light pressage is a small issue, but what better, than an insignificant issue to test the American ideals of freedom and liberty. Y'all remember this little diddy, right?
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. - Thomas Jefferson
That's from the Declaration of Independence. Life and liberty, baby. Our rights! Sweet. Life we got, but this liberty thing is a little trickier. Jefferson explains liberty this way:
Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual. - Thomas Jefferson
So its not a whatever-you-feel-like-it kind of deal. Your liberty is limited, and so is mine, by the equal rights of the other. Its not the law that prevents you from pressing the walk light when you don't need it. Or, heaven forfend, allowing your kid to smack it over and over and over again, while you wait for the bus! for real yo, seen it. And this one too. check it out. Or--and this one makes my skin ccraawwwl--purposefully pressing the walk light with the express intent of slowing and or stopping rush hour traffic so that you can wave ELECT ME FOR... (Mayor, city councilor, or whatever) signs at the folks sitting in their cars, trying to get home. It boggles the mind! Who's going to vote for the chump that made their commute last an extra 10 minutes?
So how does all this highfalutin talk relate to walk lights? Like so: when you press the button to call for the walk light, you're making an implied contract with the people around you, regardless of whether they are standing next to you, or are in a car down the road that you can't even see. Just because you can't see me, don't know me, or are just in a hurry and hedging your bets, that doesn't mean its okay to hit that button to stop traffic for you if you have no intention of using it. You have a social responsibility to the rest of us, to think about someone other than yourself.
And that's the trick right? If you're using the light to get across the street, then I'm right there with you brother. Press away. Cross at liberty and pursue your freedom! But if you're planning on just crossing the street as soon as you get a break in the traffic, why press the walk light? In most cases, the walk light won't even activate until the next light cycle. What that means is: its not going to come on until the light turns red anyway, so if the light is going to stop traffic, you'll have plenty of time to get across the road then, so just wait for the traffic light.
And pressing the walk light won't make the lights turn red any quicker either. Any more than pressing the call button for an elevator 19 times will make it travel any faster, or skip over other floors, in its efforts to get to you and your trembling, button jonesing fingers.
So whats the right thing to do? Its simple; be careful with other people's time, and expect them to be careful with yours.