Life, Death, and Lighter Fare

Harry Drabik

   I had a brush with The Everlasting last week. Or maybe you’d prefer to term it Fate or Luck. However you wish to call it; one second the normal world is ticking along followed by a flicker later so-much if not all up for grabs.

   My brush (that’s literal and fairly accurate) occurred in a pedestrian crosswalk, one I use often but am now sensitized to see askance as a potential death trap. I was near midway across when a driver grazed me. A graze is not a full-on hit. I’d call it a graze when a vehicle skims you and you feel the brush of the fender as it passes the backside of your body. Startled by this contact I pivoted quickly as the face of an angry driver flickered inches away, close enough to touch, as the car continued on toward the lights at the next intersection. Wondering “What happened,” I was dazed enough to not come near thinking to get a license plate number; much less important in the moment than thankfulness at being alive and more importantly uninjured after a call close enough to be a cardiac test. Thanking lucky stars etc. I reached the opposite curb when a driver pulled up to ask if I was OK. They thought I’d been hit. It was that close.

   A brush with mortality, a near miss, a failed long-shot pass would normally be minor topics on my scale of importance. But the sudden whip snap of life-death, health-injury was a reminder of the rules of common order we observe in daily living. A town such as Grand Marais with high numbers of visitors on foot has a scattering of marked pedestrian crosswalks giving people safe places to cross Highway 61 along the 30mph portion where it passes through town. I use some of these quite often. The rule is simple. A pedestrian in a crosswalk was the right of way. But there are subtleties. Though overly fastidious driver sometimes do so, they do not have to stop for a person on foot who is near or looks at a crosswalk. It’s when the pedestrian steps off the curb onto the roadway that right of way comes into play. Now obviously the pedestrian who steps off three feet in front on an oncoming vehicle not only asks for trouble but is causing a dangerous situation. Stepping abruptly in front of an oncoming vehicle is a bad pedestrian act as clipping a walker from behind is bad driving.

   For the most part pedestrians and drivers get it right most of the time. Injuries are rare, though in a pedestrian vehicle joust you know who will suffer most damage. I’ve no idea why the driver who grazed me did so and didn’t stop after doing so. Were they too embarrassed, in too much a hurry, too angry, or simply unwilling to admit an error or wrongdoing? Guess we’ll never know, but I can point out several things. One: non-injury does not mean no harm was done. The twist my body did put a strain on my hip replacement that is quite bothersome. Two: in relation to how we observe traffic laws and procedures creativity and variety are not social benefits to be seen as progress.

   The lighter fare of the week arrived equally unsought but without injury when a young woman from the U of M College of Education called. She was, I say without hesitation, well on her game being articulate and prepared. If I’d find fault (required by my personality [or lack of] type) I’d question her friendliness. Her outgoing curiosity about my day, whether things were going well, and so on were sincerely put but were no less off-putting. Coming from a stranger on the phone her concern took on an inveigling characteristic I saw as a stealth technique to lull me properly and establish warm friendlies before the big donation hit. She started at $500, but went to $200 at my robust snort-guffaw. We settled on $100, about the max I’ll pay for a disturbance call no matter how charming and adroit the caller.

   For the week I was down one minor almost-accident and a hundred dollars. Though the hundred, I have to say, gave a dividend I’m still enjoying and mulling. The eager “you can pay by credit card” caller gave a tidbit of contention worth repeating because it shows, I think, differences in perception and intent. She was adamant and proud to say the College of Education was the most diverse college of the University. Wasn’t I proud of my college for being so? Not convinced that I was proud, I said “If that means we’ll all be happier of we understand one another I’m not sure I’d go along.”
   “Oh,” she responded nimbly, “the world we live in is diverse. We need to be able to live in it.”

   Hers was a nice and noble notion, but I also thought it a case of the jargon tail of diversity waggling the dog of intellect. Take her statement in its two parts. First is the world we live in more diverse now than it was even three generations ago? I think not. At least in terms of large nation states and groups enforcing and imposing codes of dress, behavior, food, prayer, speech, and etc. with increasing vigor and rigidity I might think diversity was on the decline from a time when social and commercial intercourse was not hemmed in by conventions representing orders that admit little scope to diversity.

   The second part of the statement is true but has, I feel, a subtle twist requiring that the diverse adjust to and accommodate the non-diverse. I find it a curious and perplexing to turn diversity into a burden and place it on the backs and futures of some for the benefit of others. It seems an unhappy form of diversity that surrenders to division. But regardless, I’ll send my alumni contribution. I see it as a small gift to an organization that has come sadly to hail cozy ideas above critical analysis.