Those people who have had the pleasure of running with me know that it comes at a risk – and oftentimes – a price. You see, I hate stopping at traffic lights and avoid it at all costs, even if it means risking my life. Being the BC native that I am, I have become accustomed to darting across streets, bridges and even highways without consequence. In fact, cars often slow down to let pedestrians cross even if the driver has the right-of-way. Why, you might ask? Because BC’ers are relaxed, happy, kind, patient and attentive, of course! In Halifax, where my brother lives, kindness from strangers takes on a whole new level. Drivers will literally hit the brakes if they see anyone within 100m out for a jog and will proceed to roll down their windows, wave excitedly and yell “Hello! How are you?!” The first time this happened to me I was so utterly confused that I looked down to make sure I was fully dressed, since I thought that this unsolicited attention might have risen by some accident like forgetting to put on clothes, or my shorts falling off. Fortunately this was not the case, and I continued through Point Pleasant Park receiving a cheerful hello from every jogger and walker that passed by.
So here I am in Toronto, land of busy streets and angry, impatient drivers, and what do I change about my street crossing tendencies? Nothing, obviously. Does it matter that it’s pitch black and that I am in my ninja attire, in all black with the only bright spots being the whites of my eyes? Or that it’s rush hour? Or that it’s blizzarding and slizzarding? Or that perhaps I DON’T have the right-of-way? Naw. Admittedly, I am prone to being ‘almost hit’ by cars, HOWEVER, I have never actually BEEN hit. This is a critical distinction, and I take it as a sign that I am cautiously risky. This is FAR different than being a reckless, ignorant, aggressive street-crosser. I am acutely aware of my surroundings (unlike the IPOD shufflers that litter the streets and can’t make out a fire truck from a dog barking) and take measured risks, calculating in milliseconds the likelihood of myself quickly making it across the street unscathed. I would go so far as to describe my feline-like agility and prophetic intuition as somewhat of a talent, or perhaps like a mysterious sixth sense. The problem is when the feline reflexes of my running partners isn’t quite as poised and ready to pounce at the switch of a light, or passing of a car, as mine are; and as a result I am pretty sure anyone that’s run with me has almost been hit by oncoming traffic. For that I am truly sorry (but not completely at fault).
Although I haven’t been hit, I have had some bad experiences. Take last winter, for example, when I went out for a run in the midst of a snowstorm at about 7 at night (smart). I ran around Queen’s Park for 45 minutes, as I was unsure of when I might suddenly want to bail from the run and go home. Well, when I had my fill of the QP, bail I did. As per usual I darted across the street perpendicular to oncoming traffic, though I trust I would have made it across with plenty of time to spare, had I not slipped on the road (blizzard’s fault) and gone crashing down on my side. All I remember is shooting pain and blinding lights coming at me from what seemed to be way too close to my head. I dragged myself to the curb just as a car whizzed by, barely missing my foot. I was in complete shock, but of course sprung up immediately, started my watch (which I had stopped mid-fall, like any normal person would do) and began running home. Apparently the fall and near-death experience did take the G.I. Jane out of me, however, as a mere ten seconds later I began bawling like a two-year-old, crying for my mommy. When I got home I called Jeff, who thought that my whole family had died in a plane crash. “No, I fell! I have a bruise!” I stammered while sobbing uncontrollably. I think the nickname ‘Baby J’ crossed his mind at this point, but when he got home and saw the massive welts on my hip, knee and elbow, I think he reconsidered.
Unfortunately, my impatience is not restricted to running. The other week, I was walking with my friend Mauricio from work to Ryerson, which are about 4 blocks apart. In this time, we were almost hit no less than three times. I think he was impressed at my ability to come so close to getting hit with such prompt succession. On our way back, I started to cross the street when a thunderous crash sounded from my right and an elderly woman on a motorized wheelchair came flying out onto the street in front of me. I jumped back and looked around in bewilderment, trying to figure out what had just happened. ‘What was that?!’ I found it hard to believe a senior citizen had indeed just shot out from the sidewalk at 50km/h and nearly run me over. I looked back at Mauricio, who was bent over, practically on the ground laughing his face off. ‘Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god!’ was all he could muster out. ‘You almost got hit by a WHEELCHAIR!’ Could that be a sign?
After this minor incident, people began to talk. So much so, that last week at work I was told that someone almost got ‘Janed’ on the weekend. When I raised my eyebrows at this comment, Mauricio explained that they almost got killed crossing the street. Apparently now this is synonymous with pulling a ‘Jane’. Finally, I have been forced to acknowledge this tendency that has carried me close to death. Perhaps I am too eager to cross, but I vehemently argue that this eagerness is a well-measured, life-proof calculation to enable the most efficient means of street-crossing. If I end up getting hit by a car, of course, this whole argument will be void. We shall see.