Pedestrian friendly doesn’t necessarily mean friendly pedestrians

I keep seeing on television that Dallas is becoming an urban mecca, a place where it’s easy and fun to walk everywhere. Well, almost everywhere. OK, maybe between the car and the house, and vice versa, as well as inside NorthPark Center.

Anyway, the point is it’s not all that unusual — or at least it’s no longer out of the question — to see a real, live pedestrian on a Dallas street these days. You know, the type of sophisticated, sleek pedestrian looking to cross the street or walk from one retail location to another just like in all of those TV commercials for new cars.

All of this is pretty typical in large cities. In New York, pedestrians basically have the right of way, and drivers know to beware of people walking everywhere, ignoring street lights and signs at will. The same is true in Chicago, in Boston, in Washington, D.C., in San Francisco — all places with dense urban development and a city environment that favors walking from here to there.

One of these days, we may get there in Dallas, but I’m not thinking that day will occur before I’m fitting myself for a flash-fried resting place in a pine box.

I did, however, encounter a single said pedestrian on a city street the other day. This bearded walker had a backpack and seemed content to be traversing the city afoot, at least in as much as I could tell from my vantage point in the driver’s seat of my car.

It was late in the day, and I had on my wrap-around, cool-a-few-years-ago sunglasses. I was sitting at the stoplight, patiently waiting for the light to turn green. The street wasn’t crowded. This guy was the only dude around, in fact.

So I was surprised when, as he passed along the crosswalk in front of my generally unremarkable vehicle (a Mini Cooper), he decided to salute me after what he probably assumed had been a hard day for both of us.

Only his idea of a salute was a little risqué for a PG-oriented magazine, and it was lacking a couple of fingers that typically denote an indication of respect.

He was rather blasé about the whole thing as he crossed in front of me, too. He stopped precisely in the center of my car’s hood, turned intentionally toward me, pulled out the digit of respect, and made it clear he wasn’t “pointing” at the car next to me or the one behind me — no, this salute was clearly intended for me.

Then, just as deliberately, he holstered the weapon, turned back in the direction he was headed, and crossed the street in plenty of time to beat the signal change.

I have to admit the whole thing caught me off-guard, and I was glad my reflective sunglasses hid the at-the-moment bulbous whites of my eyes.

I thought about reaching for my open-carry weapon until I remembered I don’t have one, for that exact reason. I considered rolling forward a bit to ensure he knew I wanted to provide a salutation of my own. And I wondered if I should have rolled down the window and given him some directions about the next place he could go.

But by the time all of this had floated through my brain, the light turned green, and the driver behind me also seemed to believe I was in need of a salute, this time of the audible kind.

So I slid through the intersection and continued on my way home, marveling at the wonders of living in what is becoming a truly urban city.

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