As I was crossing a busy street the other day, I wondered what the way someone crosses the street tells us about them. I posit that no two people have ever crossed the street in exactly the same way. There’s a lot more to crossing the street than we consciously consider.

There’s always some risk to crossing the street. You might get run over. If there’s a crosswalk, or a traffic light, it’s a little safer. But sometimes there isn’t one nearby, or you may not even care if there’s one nearby. I wonder how many people have been run over within line of sight of a crosswalk. The line between risk taker and Darwin award can blur.

At night, one weighs the rate of approaching headlights with the velocity of one’s stride. Some check right, then left. Some check left, then right. Some maybe even go left right left, or right left right. But surely, nobody goes a fourth. Then there are the actual criteria.

Some will go whenever they think it’s clear, plus some margin of safety, which varies from person to person. Others will wait until there are no cars coming from either direction. I prefer that myself, whenever possible. But the longer I’ve been waiting, the less patient I become.

I feel like I learn with each passing pair of headlights. I think to myself, “I could’ve made it that time.” Whether we like math or not, our brain is doing something like a lot of math, to figure out if we’ll be in the clear. As more intervals pass, our confidence increases. We cycle prediction to outcome until we become one with the road.

Or maybe it’s just an illusion. Maybe it’s really just that impatience, masquerading as confidence, imploring us to go forth?

I wonder how I compare to others in crossing the street. Am I a risk taker, or am I on the cautious side? Does the way we cross street say something about the way we live our lives? I hear that there are aggressive drivers who are otherwise calm. Perhaps there are aggressive street crossers who are otherwise calm, or vice versa.

I think I’m somewhere in the middle. I don’t want to get run over, but I don’t want to wait all night. My risk tolerance increases with my impatience. I let caution rule until it gives way to my inner boldness. The headlights go from a hazard to a challenge, especially if I’m hungry, or cold.

Perhaps I’m overthinking this. After all, it’s just crossing the street.

In pursuit of magic