Step Out and Look Straight Ahead

Wednesday, March 27th, 2019 at 10:48 am

I have learned something about being a pedestrian in these crazy Asian cities with thousands of motorbikes whizzing by like biblical locust plagues. It seems pretty clear that if you wait for a break in traffic you will die of old age before you ever get across the street.

What you need to do, I was told, is look down the street for whatever is coming in the next few seconds, avoid stepping in front of it, but then just walk out steadily and calmly .  Look straight ahead and whatever you do,  do not look at the traffic. People on motorbikes will see you and plan their route to avoid a collision.  What causes accidents is pedestrian second guessing—seeing  something coming and reacting by stopping or speeding up.  Just breathe and walk.

And it works. It is a crazy feeling to cross the street almost as if you were blind, but I’m still in one piece.

“There must be a lesson in this,” I thought to myself.  And of course, when I think there’s a lesson, I can usually come up with one, so for what it’s worth, here it is.   It’s easy to be stopped in our tracks by too much information, in this case the data point represented by every bike whizzing towards you.  It’s easy to think you need to react to everything, when in fact, the opposite is true.  Dithering can be deadly to an idea or action whose time has come.  Second guessing decisions, getting wrapped up in “what if’s,” can be utterly paralyzing.

And it not just uncertainties in our personal lives that the constant whoosh of too much input affects.  In these awful times, it is easy to get sucked into following every story and getting outraged over every horror of the daily news cycle. It’s all motorbikes bearing down on our vulnerable, frightened psyches.

Sure, this is oversimplified, but there is something to it. There’s always something headed  straight for us, often a whole streetful of things. We can focus on that  and get slammed, or we can step out, look straight ahead and just keep going.

 

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