Gender Rules for Crossing the Street
I walk everywhere. Not needing to have a car is a blessing of living on the East Coast. Janna walks everywhere, too. Sometimes, we walk together — and therein lies the rub when it comes to combining our love of walking — because we usually have trouble crossing the street.
When Janna and I walk alone, we walk fast. When we walk together, we hold hands, and our pace is generally slower and more meandering.
When I have to cross the street alone, I always defer to a car in the intersection, because I have, too often, almost been run over by indifferent drivers. There seems to be a generally understood Rule of the Street that if a man needs to cross the street, the man waits for any car to pass, and then he crosses the street. I don’t even tempt that meme anymore. I just always stop and wait for the car to pass. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, the driver will wave me to pass, and I do, but I always run, because even though I’ve been given permission to “cross” — the car is always creeping forward and never actually stops.
When Janna walks alone — I have watched this from a distance, and confirmed it with her in the unobserved specific — she always crosses the street in front of a car. She expects the cars will stop for her and let her cross and, in fact, they do, and they don’t even slowly creep forward as she passes! It’s pretty amazing to watch her control traffic just because of — what appears to be — deference to her gender.
When we walk together, holding hands, we find trouble and miscommunication at the crosswalk. If there’s a car approaching, I want to stop and let the car pass, and Janna demands that we cross and make the car stop. My experience tells me to stop. Her experience commands her to go!
What to do?
We usually end up having a small tug-of-war-of-hands as she starts to cross the street and I instinctually pull back to stop her. She yanks me forward and we often find ourselves in the middle of the street pushing and pulling in opposite directions.
Sometimes, I’m smart enough to stop holding hands before the crosswalk, but that usually ends up with Janna crossing the street without me and me waiting for the car to pass and Janna waiting for me to follow her. Never make Janna wait — if you know what’s good for you on a walk!
I have learned that, when we walk together, the Gender Rule for crossing the street seems to defer to her: Cars will wait for the two of us as the girl trumps the boy in the meme of street courtesy. I usually try to slow down and at least wait for a driver acknowledgement that we can cross the street together, but Janna doesn’t care if the driver acquiesces or not — she’s the pedestrian and she has the right of way. I agree with her in general, but in the specific experience, cars on the East Coast don’t care about pedestrian rights, and I prefer not to seek insurance compensation from a hospital bed.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned during my walks is to always watch for the white backup lights on the back of a car. If those white lights are on, be extremely careful, because the car is engaged in Reverse Drive and all gender rules are suspended. White lights mean danger — you’re going to get backed up on in seconds! — and the car doesn’t care if you’re male or female.