Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Homage to the pedestrian/2: the mutation - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Photo by Steve Webel (CC)
"Green light, let's go!" We used to say it when we had just got our driving licences and our underage brothers were in the car with us. In Kuala Lumpur, on the other hand, if you are dressing the part of a pedestrian you'll need to say that sentence at any age. Actually the slower your reflexes become the more you'll have to anticipate the traffic conditions. 
I'm waiting for the green light before I can cross Jalan Sultan Ismail Road, a wide city artery cutting the business district into halves. Here it is, with long strides I try to kick away a bad premonition. The green man has been blinking since it showed up and it really seems that there is no time to waste. As soon as I get past the center line curb what I was fearing actually happens: we get a red light. I reckon that it is one of the tricks of those cunning city officials, who want us to clear the junction as quickly as possible. I am still confident that they'll leave us a sufficiently long interval to reach safety before they release the vehicles that are screeching by the stop line. Hell no, they give them a green light! I'm forced to complete the crossing with three mighty chamois-like jumps. 
How did they calculate the timing? Did they hire Carl Lewis as a test-consultant?
Maybe they count on the fact that people will stop at the curb, making use of two green light turns to complete the crossing. But behind all this there might also be a sordid conspiracy with a ghastly ultimate aim: the total extermination of the pedestrians, a cumbersome and annoying species, not strictly necessary anyway. They lure the biggest possible number of specimens into a trap settled right in the middle of the road, like the one that I just fell into, just to release their motorized beasts, thirsty for pedestrian blood after having been forced for long seconds into a cage made of white lines that was nailing them down to the junction.
But they didn't take into account the interposition of Mr. Charles Darwin, outstanding man of science as well as friend of every pedestrian. Natural selection will turn us into sturdy groups of two-footed gazelles paradoxically crossbred with a slightly washed-out breed of cheetahs. Under the new guise we shall survive and proliferate: through leaps, rushes and crossed lanes the fight will continue for long.
Dear exterminators, you won't make it: the genocide you're dreaming of is not around the corner yet!

You can read part one here

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