Crossing The Street

I judge people. All the time. You probably do it too, based on what you can tell about a person. By how they talk, what they wear, and how they carry themselves. By what you know of their family, where they went to school, or where they work. Maybe subconsciously by their skin color and accent too, though you’ll never admit it out loud. I know I do.

Judging isn’t a bad thing – it’s just a way to evaluate someone based on the information you have at a given moment. Sure, it can be wrong, but it’s just a baseline. Recently, I found another way to evaluate people that tracks pretty closely with real life.

Ready for it? Watch someone cross the street. Really, that’s it. You see, I’m of the belief that you can tell so much more about someone when their guard is down, when you can observe them doing something that’s so routine they usually don’t think twice.

There are four main kinds of people:

People who cross the street with reckless abandon. They really don’t care about the law, or anything for that matter. They’ll keep walking, traffic honking and swerving around them. They might not be aware of their surroundings, or they might just choose to ignore them. These are the wildcards in life. For the most part, they’re focused on themselves. They either believe everyone will bend to their whims, or just never take the time to pay attention to the world around them.

People who just follow. Most of the people you see will fall into this category. These people are just average. They’ll wait at the walk sign because everyone’s waiting at the walk sign. It’s probably the safe thing to do. Then as some people start crossing, they’ll look around and wait for a critical mass of people to start crossing before they go. Even if cars are coming – if everyone’s crossing… well, everyone can’t be wrong, can they? In life, you can always find them siding with the majority, never really making a decision for themselves.

People who wait for the walk sign, because “that’s the law.” They’re your typical law-abiding citizen. They’ll keep waiting, staring at their phones or just looking at the pedestrian crossing sign until the walk sign appears. Then they’ll cross and go nicely about their day. That’s mostly how they approach life as well: do your part, follow the rules, everything’ll be okay. At least they stand for something.

People who evaluate the situation for themselves and cross on their own terms. Finally, my personal ideal. These are people who don’t stupidly run across the street with a blatant disregard for their surroundings. Yet they’ll take a step forward, and as the last car passes they have no problem looking both ways and crossing. They realize that it’s pointless to sit and wait around for the last fifteen seconds while life passes them by and the street sits empty. They’re willing to take a calculated “risk” and not just follow rules blindly because “that’s the way it is.”

So next time you’re out walking, stop and look around. What kind of people are you surrounded by? What kind of person are you? Are you willing to be the first to cross the street when last car passes? And just remember: life is what happens while you’re waiting for the walk sign.

Don't Walk Sign.jpg


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There’s also a lively discussion on Hacker News.

 
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