Hopes & Dreams
Published in

Hopes & Dreams

Bitch in the Street

Or Middle-Class Lives Aren’t Worth Much

A Story of Residential Life in Modern Times

Photo by Dennett — The manmade pond on the sharp curve in my neighborhood

My townhome circle is just off a two-mile long, meandering boulevard lined with townhomes and condos and with side streets leading into neighborhoods of single-family homes. It is a densely populated residential thoroughfare lined with woods, man-made ponds, and a natural lake. I would estimate that more than half of those living in the attached homes are retirees.

There isn’t one business or office on the route, but mid-way there is a crossing street that leads to an elementary school less than two blocks from the boulevard. At that intersection, there is a well-lit, well-marked, city-maintained crosswalk, manned by a crossing guard during school opening and closing hours. The boulevard is also a two-lane connector between two major streets in our city.

Most of the traffic on the boulevard is not from neighborhood residents, but school traffic or people using the street as a shortcut to get from one major street to another.

On weekdays, lines of cars from either direction waiting to turn onto the school’s street pile up between 6:45 am and 7:45 am and from 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm. The going-to-work traffic starts getting heavy at 6:30 am and coming-home-from-work traffic at 4:30 pm.

Our street also has a sharp curve about 1/10 of a mile from the school crossing.

Photo by Dennett — The curve by the pond in the early morning

On one side of that curve is a manmade pond and on the other side is a wooded area beyond which is the natural lake. Both bodies of water are occupied by ducks — Muscovies, black-bellied whistling ducks, Mallards, and two domestic white ducks. These waterfowl like to move between the pond and the lake. The whistling ducks and Mallards fly where they want to go, but the two domestic ducks have clipped wings and the Muscovies, although capable of flight, have heavy bodies that are slow to get airborne, resulting in their preference to walk — or a better description is waddle — slowly.

Photo by Dennett: Muscovy, white domestic, and black-bellied whistling ducks on the manmade pond.

The two-mile boulevard is lined with sidewalks used by neighborhood students walking to the elementary school or by the middle school and high school students who have bus stops on the street. Also, we have a large dog population in the area and with the townhomes and condos not having yards, dog-walking is a major activity. And, there are those who walk, bike or jog for exercise and pleasure.

Our boulevard not only has heavy automobile traffic but also considerable pedestrian and canine traffic. It is a busy place, particularly in the early morning and evening.

The speed limit on the boulevard is 35 miles per hour, which I believe is too fast for the conditions, but regardless, almost no one obeys the existing limit. Cars race from one end to the other, often hitting speeds of 45 or 50 miles per hour.

You would think the traffic would be slower during the school zone hours, but those speed restrictions actually result in higher speeds on either side of the school zone. Knowing the speed drops to 20 miles per hour and that traffic tickets in school zones double in cost, the cars and trucks try to make up for the school zone slowdown by driving even faster before and after the flashing school lights, sometimes screeching to a halt behind backed up traffic.

Negotiating the sharp curve while speeding is tricky and sometimes unsuccessful. Since moving into our neighborhood 18 months ago, we’ve seen three cars run off the road at the curve — two hit privacy fences and one hit a tree. Long-time residents tell me stories of cars that ended up in the manmade pond, one upside down. I often see skid marks on the road and tire tracks through the grassy area between the boulevard and the pond where cars didn’t maneuver well enough on the curve but were fortunate not to hit a tree, a fence, a dog or a person, or to land in the lake.

Photo by Dennett: Recent skid marks where a car ran off the road. There are currently 3 sets of skid marks in different areas on the street.

Some of the off-road marks are from cars who were traveling too fast when they came upon a group of Muscovies crossing the street going from one body of water to the other. I know of one Muscovy duck that was hit and later found dead in the woods. The Slow Duck Crossing signs on either side of the pond are too small to be easily noticeable. And, I figure if the drivers won’t slow down for people or dogs or school traffic, they sure as hell won’t bother to slow down for ducks.

Photo by Dennett

My husband walks our 15-year-old Pekingese and I walk our two ten-year-old dogs. Except for our early morning weekend walks when traffic is almost nonexistent, each outing feels like we’re tempting fate. Both of us have experienced nearly being hit, even while walking across the well-lit, well-marked crosswalk — at night and in the day.

Our Peke can’t walk as far as the younger dogs, so my husband crosses over to our circle from the other side of the street where there is no designated crosswalk. In spite of Ben’s extreme diligence and caution, I live in fear that he and Chanelito will be pancaked by a speeding car one day.

The stretch from the street to the manmade pond consists of a wide piece of grass, a sidewalk, and then a wider grassy area that slopes down to the water. Twice I was walking my dogs on that sidewalk when cars careened off the curve — one landing inches from us and the other crossing the sidewalk in front of us and onto the grass, stopping just short of the pond.

In spite of light traffic, our nightly walks are as scary, if not scarier, than the daytime ones. Drivers think darkness hides their law-breaking behavior and speeds increase. On Friday and Saturday nights, there is the additional concern of intoxication.

The well-lit, well-marked school crosswalk becomes magically invisible in the night. Or, maybe it’s just us and our dogs who are invisible in spite of two street lights shining brightly down on us. Time and again, cars come barreling from one direction or the other and don’t slow down for us, much less stop as three signs instruct. I’ve had to run to avoid being hit in the crosswalk.

One night last week, the cars and trucks seemed to be competing to see who could travel faster down the boulevard. I was narrowly missed crossing the street from one circle driveway to another. I yelled, “Slow down” but the driver was blasting music and didn’t hear me.

A few seconds later, a jacked-up black pickup came barreling down the boulevard. I’d guess his speed was at least 45 miles per hour. My husband was getting ready to cross the street to where I was. From my vantage point, I could see the truck a few seconds before he could. It was obvious the truck was speeding and showed no signs of slowing down. I screamed at my husband to stay where he was.

As the pickup breezed by, I yelled, “Slow down!”

His windows were open. He heard me.

His tires screeched as he made an unplanned turn into the last townhome circle before the pond. He narrowly missed one of the parked cars as he came out the other side of the parking lot, speeding in my direction. He slowed to a stop beside me and screamed:

“You motherfucking bitch! You can’t tell me how to drive.”

I said:

“You were speeding. This is a residential neighborhood. Slow down.”

His reply was:

“I fucking drive the way I want, bitch!”

By then, Ben had crossed the street and stood in front of the truck glaring at the man.

As soon as he saw I wasn’t alone, the driver swerved around Ben and into the other lane and took off rapidly. He made an illegal U-turn at the school crosswalk and flew by us with his arm out the window and his middle finger extended. A real class act.

This is the world we live in. I know these problems are not only in my city or in my neighborhood, and I realize other areas have much worse problems, but these are the dangers we face daily.

When did people become so contemptuous about traffic laws? When did civility become a lost art?

People have no consideration or respect for anyone or anything.

Fifteen years ago, if a driver was angry at something an almost 65-year-old woman yelled at him, he would have ignored her. Now, that woman — me — gets cursed out with filthy, despicable words by a 40-something-year-old man! Not only that, but the driver was willing to turn around and come back just to swear at me and then make an illegal U-turn, all the while continuing to speed.

My great-aunt Helen once said:

“Most world problems could be solved by good manners.”

I seriously wondered if she was slipping into senility after hearing such a simplistic and juvenile solution for the complex problems of the world. But, after some thought, the logic and wisdom of her words grabbed my attention.

What are manners but a way to keep people civilized? The Golden Rule in action is what makes us better than cavemen. Rules for considering the feelings and needs of others are what create a peaceful and livable society. If people treated one another with respect, spoke kindly, listened politely, and worked on solving differences and problems while using manners and respectful behavior, there really would not be many problems left in the world.

We need only look at the man who resides in the White House to see the worst of American behavior and attitude.

What has happened to Americans that we are so nasty to one another?

Neighbors tell me they lobbied our city in the past for speed bumps or traffic circles but the city says they can’t afford it.

Ironically, the neighborhoods with high-end homes have speed bumps and/or traffic circles every few blocks.

Our middle-class lives are worth less than the lives of our wealthier residents.

Or perhaps, our lives are worth nothing at all.

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Dennett

Dennett

I was always a writer but lived in a bookkeeper’s body before I found Medium and broke free — well, almost. Working to work less and write more.

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