Monday, April 23, 2007

The near death of an iPodestrian

Whenever my husband and I walk around the city, we bear witness to any number of “close calls” – cars almost hitting other cars or pedestrians, pedestrians balancing so close to the edge of the sidewalk they almost get hit by passing buses, motorcycles risking dangerous maneuvers, etc.. It seems that even if a pedestrian has the right of way here, all bets are off, especially when it comes to taxis. Cross the street at your own peril – and many pedestrians often do. It is the only way to get anywhere in the city. Walking in the city wasn’t totally virgin territory to me, I did go to high school in the middle of downtown Nashville. But if I thought traffic was bad there, boy is it bad here. And Thessaloniki is nowhere near as bad as Athens.

So even though I was used to walking in city traffic, I was definitely not prepared for walking in Greek cities. At first I was a timid mouse, never wanting to cross the street unless I was absolutely sure nothing would hit me. But as I’ve gotten used to our Thessaloniki neighborhood I’ve picked up on some of the aggression of the locals. I know the traffic light patterns, I know when I can cross, and I know what to watch out for. I’m almost at the point of showing my aggression with a big smack on the back of the car when some asshat decides to turn onto Agia Sophia even though there is a throng of pedestrians crossing with the right of way, but so far, I’ve refrained.

Pedestrians here seem to be unusually skilled in walking while talking on cellphones. I can’t walk and talk at the same time. Well, that makes me sound like an idiot. I can walk and talk, but I can’t walk and make nice on a cellphone. Something about talking on a phone requires my complete attention, and since I never mastered the whole patting my head while rubbing my tummy thing (hey, at least I can tell time!), walking and using a cellphone is downright impossible. But most people in Greece seem to be able to make the most adept maneuvers while walking and talking, especially if they have one of those earplug attachments that makes me think we are living in a nation of absolute nutters until I see the wire hanging out of their ear.

Yet, others don’t quite seem to have the hang of walking and iPodestriating. While my husband and I were out the other night, we watched a young woman, totally absorbed in her iPod, step right out into the road in front of a vehicle. Luckily this particular vehicle wasn’t moving as quickly as vehicles usually do, and it waited while Miss iPod stood in the middle of the street, apparently distracted by the voices in her head, and decided, at the last minute, to turn back around and disappear back into the portal she stepped out of. She did finally notice the car as she turned around, but she was saved by the red light. Still, she remained completely unfazed, as if her alien commanders had forgotten to explain to her about cars and their function in this brave new world.

This young woman illustrated one of the reasons I hate distracting devices such as iPods. You just don’t pay attention well enough when you have shit in your ears. I have to have total awareness of my environment to feel comfortable – I don’t even like wearing headphones at home. But I am sure, after some time, Greeks will adapt themselves well to commuting with an iPod. Survival demands it.


Kassandra said...

Ha ha I died (laughing) while reading this. Could have been a page out of my life - or any of our lives I guiess... it's a real typical snapshot of modern greece. And by the way I HAVE smacked the hood of a car for similar perpetrations. I suggest you do it too - it feels GOOD!

amerimom said...

Stopped in to check out your blog for my first time. Enjoyed your post. Interesting, I thought I was reading about an adventure in crossing the street in New York. I did also read that in New York a law was being looked into being passed to make it illegal to cross the street with Ipods as people were not hearing the traffic, causing accidents.

Yianna said...

I once saw a young guy here in Athens almost run over an entire family of five (mama, baba and three kiddies under the age of 10) because he ignored a red light as he was cooing into his cell phone. The dad started pounding on the car and a policeman, who had witnessed it all, even started screaming at him. You know what this young guy did? He laughed and did that open-palm thing with his hands, flipping off both the police and the young family. He never stopped talking on the cell phone.

melusina said...

Kassandra, I'll definitely try it sometime. Usually they are going too fast. ;)

Hi Amerimom! Glad to see you here. They should pass laws, people need to pay attention!

Yianna, Thanos and I actually saw a motorcyclist get hit and knocked off his bike by crazy Athens traffic. People like the guy you saw are really rotten jerks. I'm sure he isn't going to be giving anyone an open palm if he smashes into a tree, or gets charged with vehicular manslaughter (god forbid that ever happens).