It was after midnight on Saturday when the Film Festival showing of SPL-2: A Time For Consequences got out. The film is a stunning 2015 martial-arts epic that stars Tony Jaa and Wu Jing. The badass extravaganza culminates in a fight scene that seemed to have run at least 40 minutes and must have taken 12,000 people about five years to create. The movie reaffirms my stereotypical belief that everyone in Asia (the film is set in Hong Kong and Thailand) is a man in his 30s who, for no particular reason, in addition to his day-job, also happens to be a ninja. (If I ever visit Hong Kong, it will be tremendously disappointing to discover that people don’t settle disputes by resorting to a monumental martial-arts showdown in the middle of the street.)
The film’s grand finale was an appropriate prologue to the epic battle that I myself would face trying to scoot home on a Saturday night in the city. (My epic battle involved a lot less ninjitsu, but if I had had access to any throwing stars, a katana, or nunchucks, I’d have figured out how to use them. What’s there to know, really? The pointy ends go towards the people who piss you off.)
Not being a complete idiot, I knew that traffic would be bad. I was expecting the standard bunch of drunken lunatics, driving like rabid hyenas in SUVs — the size of which would outstrip the operator’s meager special-relations skills. I was not expecting every street west of Broad and north of Spruce to be at a stand-still. Two choices presented themselves:
Option A: Start my engine, pull into the street, and wait for Godot.
(My love of absurdist plays notwithstanding, Option A didn’t seem like the way to go.)
Option B seemed better: Keep the engine off and walk the bike until I found a clear street. After all, walking at a rate of 3.5 mph is faster than sitting at a rate of 0.0 mph. (I even double checked the math on this: D = (R)(T), so T = D/R. Having a zero in the denominator results in some sort of bad effect, like the Universe coming to an end or the Earth careening into the Sun.)
And who in their right mind wouldn’t get out of the way of a vehicle being pushed down the sidewalk?
As it turns out: Everyone.
I briefly considered trying to get around people, but then said The Hell With That and plowed down the sidewalk with the same blasé sense of entitlement that everyone else had. Glee quickly replaced Guilt, as I pushed the large, obvious machine in a straight line and watched people struggle with the Herculean task of summoning sufficient cognitive function and motor skill to negotiate the situation. Taking a single step to the left or right would have been an adequate solution, because the sidewalk did not abut any significant hazards (e.g., a river of fiery volcanic lava, a tank of man-eating sharks, or a car moving at a rate of speed greater than 0.001 mph). Some questioned my right to be on the sidewalk, wherein I pointed out that — with the engine off — I really just had a very large purse with a headlight and two wheels. Nevertheless, people grappled with what to do and a select few distinguished themselves by figuring out how to share the sidewalk.
Faced with these anthropological data, I could come to only one conclusion:
Pedestrians Must Be Licensed. Yes, like drivers, lawyers, electricians, doctors, airplane pilots, and aestheticians, people should be required to demonstrate that they have a certain minimum level of Pedestrian-Related Skills.
Sadly, not everyone has what it takes to be a pedestrian. As a threshold matter, a would-be pedestrian must be able to Think. This criterion alone would likely eliminate 95% of people from consideration. (An entire industry would need to be developed to haul non-thinkers around in rickshaws or wheelbarrows.) Candidates would also need to be able to maintain an average sustained speed of 3.5-to-4.0 mph and reliably travel in a straight line. The ability to look where you are going and to distinguish between red lights and green lights is also key. And the general sense that walking out in front of on-coming vehicles is bad would also be needed.
A License To Pedestrian could be suspended or revoked for offenses like Walking While Stupid; Walking While Annoying; Walking Under the Influence; and/or Walking While Being a Dude-Brah.
Simply put: Being a pedestrian is not a right, it’s a privilege.