Welcome to New Zealand, where we will take great pleasure in killing you.

January 5, 2009

Dear Driver of the Red Station Wagon:

I want to thank you for the time we spent together this morning.

You might not remember me. In fact, I’m guessing you don’t, if only because it’s obvious you didn’t see me. I was the one crossing at the light. You were the one coming out of the through lane, nipping across the left-turn lane and zipping past my nose.

Maybe you remember the strange look on my face. That’s the expression someone gets when their life flashes before their eyes. Oh, look, my first bike. Yo, Grandma: long time, no see.

One of my brothers reads meters for a power company. Over the years, he has been bitten by several dogs. But I love the particular story where, instead of apologizing for the nip, the dog’s owner was actually pleased. Seems she had been concerned about Fido getting on in years and losing his spirit. But taking a piece out of my brother obviously demonstrated there was still some zip left in the old boy.

I felt the same way this morning, Dear Driver. While certain parts of me have slowed down — my willpower, for one; my fat-burning mechanism, for another — it was kind of you to prove my adrenalin gland can still pump with the best of them. Although I will admit it was touch-and-go for a minute there with my bladder’s sphincter.

Yeah, I know, Dear Driver, you carried right on with your shopping and I’m obviously safe and sound at home, so it all worked out OK, eh? Sweet as, as they like to say here.

But our close encounter of the bumper kind was not my first brush (literally) with dismemberment while engaged in the risky task of walking into downtown Napier.

I do this hike on a regular basis, to save gas, to do my part to protect the environment, to keep active, and, it’s becoming increasingly clearer, because I obviously have a death wish.

The two accesses to McDonalds are particularly notorious black zones. I have no proof that saturated fat can ruin your eyesight so it might just be a situation where people are in a hurry to eat. Or, after eating, to use the toilet. Either way, it’s just plain scary.

And it’s not like I’m exactly invisible. You’d think the extra weight I packed on in 2008 would actually make me easier to spot on the sidewalk. Apparently it just makes me a bigger target.

So I did what all irate people do — I rang a government agency and bitched at the first person to answer the phone. Her name was Brenda and she works for the New Zealand Transport Agency. This is what it says on the NZTA website: “Our business brings us into contact with nearly every New Zealander through everything from driver licensing and ‘drive safe’ advertising campaigns to road signs.”

A fortuitous choice of words, actually, because it was “contact” I was most concerned about.

I ask Brenda who has the right of way on a sidewalk (footpath), me or the joker trying to kill me. She puts me on hold, digs out her copy of the Road Code, and quotes:

“(A driver is) entering or leaving a driveway that crosses a footpath . . . must give way to the people using the footpath.”

Brenda says this also applies at intersections controlled by traffic lights, because the painted crosswalk is classified “as a pedestrian crossing.”

Great, that’s answers my question. Thank you.

But somehow I don’t feel safer. Brenda understands the rules. I know that because she just read them to me. Pity none of her countrymen have a bloody clue. Pity that one day that blood might well be mine.

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2 Responses to “Welcome to New Zealand, where we will take great pleasure in killing you.”

  1. megan said

    I think it’s time to wear high-vis vests and bright orange hard hats on the walk to town. Maybe a stop/Slow sign will help.

  2. Lily said

    Have you tried crossing the road in L.A? I say a short pray to whichever god may be on duty or in the general vicinity whenever I leave my house! Not even the sidewalks are safe.

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