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Examiner
  • Jeff Fox: Thoughtful civility is on the wane

  •  It occurs to me that we’ve forgotten how to walk.

    Specifically, how to be pedestrians. To be fair, we long ago forgot how to be drivers, so the common-sense, common-courtesy rules for pedestrians have no chance. You’re on your own, walkers.

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  •  It occurs to me that we’ve forgotten how to walk.
    Specifically, how to be pedestrians. To be fair, we long ago forgot how to be drivers, so the common-sense, common-courtesy rules for pedestrians have no chance. You’re on your own, walkers.
    The folks at CarInsurance.com did one of those things they should have known better than to do. They surveyed hundreds of adults, asking them basically the questions you find on the written portion of a driver’s license test.
    It’s not pretty.
    You have to get about four out of five right to pass in most states, and a bare majority could do that. Guess the areas in which drivers did the worst? Pedestrians and school buses. Perhaps some think “right of way” is Latin for “get out of my way.”
    Here’s the money question: Where must a driver give the right of way to a pedestrian?
    A. At a marked crosswalk.
    B. At any crosswalk or intersection.
    C. To any pedestrian crossing any street.
    Don’t overthink this. The answer is C – but 58 percent in the poll got that wrong.
    So that explains why I feel as if I’m taking my life into my own hands when I push a week’s worth of goods out the front door of Costco and inch cautiously toward my car. At the very place where a prudent driver would slow and look, the preferred option is to gun it.
    Maybe I’m cranky and imagining things, but it seems to me there was a time when both sides knew the rules – cross with the light, all that jazz – as well as the informal rules for such things as looking both ways before judiciously jaywalking. It’s a life skill.
    Our friends at the Missouri Department of Transportation point to state law, which says “every driver of a vehicle shall exercise the highest degree of care of avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the horn when necessary ...”
    The horn, by the way, was the one part of the poll on which drivers did well. I’d like to think that this is Kansas City, not New York or Los Angeles, and that means something about patience, politeness and not leaning on the horn, but all available evidence suggests I’m being naive, just as I’m being naive about how people should refrain from using my city as their ashtray by tossing their burning cigarette butts out the truck window.
    But, as the man said, it can always get worse.
    As I dashed across the Costco parking lot the other day with a two-year supply of peanut butter and pasta, I noticed something odd in the return-your-cart corral. Not only had someone left a cart with a random Wal-Mart bag – an exotic, odious and proliferating species – but this someone had been to Nebraska Furniture Mart and bought, I don’t know, a new TV. They left the box and all the innards, the Styrofoam padding and the endless plastic bags.
    Page 2 of 2 - In other words, this wasn’t the casual act of a litterer too lazy to walk 10 steps to a trash can. This was deliberate, with the investment of planning and action. A mess for Costco, and a calculated act of anti-civility.
    As a species, I think we’re headed for new lows.
    Follow Jeff Fox on Twitter @Fox_EJC.
     
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