Eyes left! And right… And up…

This week while continuing to get my marathon training schedule back on track I’ve been fighting the urge to be intolerant.
Particularly on the roads where my normal manners seem to disintegrate into shouting “you muppet!” at people when they act like total idiots.
Of course… I’m totally oblivious to my own faults, but that’s the marvellous level of hypocrisy that we all seem to possess. (I just though I’d get that issue out of the way before I enter into a full on rant.)
There are some things on the roads that do worry me a little more than people being in the wrong lane or trying to drive up my exhaust pipe.
Zebra crossings for instance… There seems to be some collective amnesia related to that part of the Highway Code which is sweeping Hertfordshire at the moment. Maybe something has changed when I wasn’t looking but drivers are supposed to stop and let pedestrians cross.
Instead I’ve seen and – on training runs even when I have stopped patiently – been on the receiving end of rather too many near misses recently and while pedestrians can make it difficult by dithering at the side of the road, a lot of people seem afflicted by what I’m going to call fixed stare syndrome.
In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy the late Douglas Adams introduces, among many other wonderful things, the Joo Janta 200 Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses. These turn opaque when danger approaches so that you don’t get stressed by your impending doom and therefore develop a relaxed attitude to danger.
Something similar seems to happen to a lot of drivers approaching crossings, or coming up to roundabouts.
The reasoning seems to go like this: If I don’t see the pedestrian or the car that actually has right of way coming on the roundabout, then they don’t exist.
So, to maintain this blissful sense of ignorance I will stare straight out the front of my car as though locked in some kind of neck brace. I’m sure one or two probably are so afflicted, and I hope they get well soon. But on no account must I look left or right, or in my mirrors.
I suspect the majority just have a belief that the (non-existent of course, as we have established due to some kind of Uncertainty Principle) car or pedestrian will actually manage the situation for them allowing Mr or Miss Fixed Stare to blithely float on towards their destination.
It’s utterly terrifying.
I’ve even seen a lady driver nearly hit a police car (I mean a proper police car all bright colours with “POLICE” emblazoned on it) going onto a mini roundabout because she just wasn’t looking; thankfully the police booked her for it.
Maybe she’ll learn from it now before she kills someone.
It is part of a sad trend in that people are driving and walking around with their eyes firmly shut. This is a shame. There are so many wonderful things to see if you just look beyond some fixed point a few feet in front of you.
In older cities at least, looking up is a revelation, seeing past the bright high street facia and signs to see the architecture and features that are often above and that someone took masses of care and attention with.
The natural world is full of interest, again even in towns. My wife and I spotted a kingfisher in our local park recently and stood and watched it in the act of successfully fishing for a magical fifteen minutes, while any number of people walked past, oblivious of the PWM going on for free in front of them.
I suppose they could always go and watch something on Youtube rather than see it unfold uniquely in front of them.
I guess you could say “good for you, shame for them”, but on this at least I am not so selfish. I want to share the experience.
Please, open your eyes next time. You – and the small child on that Zebra crossing – will really appreciate it.
And I’ll try really hard to practice what I preach.