Jay walking; poetry in ASL?

Grant Barrett gbarrett at AMERICANDIALECT.ORG
Wed Aug 4 00:24:01 UTC 1999

On mardi 3 août 1999, GEORGE THOMPSON <thompsng at ELMER4.BOBST.NYU.EDU> wrote:
>        As a New Yorker, I jay-walk whenever possible.  Crossing at the
>intersection puts you at risk of sudden death; crossing in the
>middle of the block gives you some chance of seeing what's coming
>before it gets you.  The idea raised by several in the discussion of
>this term, that jay-walkers move in a curved or crooked line that can
>be likened to a J, baffles me.  Unless I need to enter or leave the
>roadway between parked cars -- a situation I avoid, it being nearly
>as dangerous as crossing at the crosswalk -- I cross the street in a
>straight line, even if an oblique one to the sidewalk.
Now then, Mr. Thompson. I do hope you'll pardon me, but as a fellow New Yorker, I find that I do cross the street in the form of a J, although I have some doubts about its status as etymological evidence.
Here's how it happens: You're in a hurry. You're just past the middle of the block, probably on a wide one-way avenue, probably walking downstream with traffic. (Nobody ever does a true J on a some rinky-dink lane). You have to cross the street, but the crosswalk says Walk before you get there. So you step off the curb, not quite to the corner, not quite in the middle of the block. You begin traversing, but cars that have turned off the cross street are now headed your way. Your life is in danger. You walk just a little faster, but a little taller, too, and you puff out your chest. It's the ostrich effect: you'll look like a bigger animal to the oncoming yellow beasts and maybe they won't attack. You, however, are forced to bend your straight path: the cars that have stampeded past are now in the way. The only easily available path is the crosswalk: except for a little impatient encroaching by revving motorists, it is wide open. You have accomplished your goals: crossed without waiting for another signal, and made a shorter path than a right angle.

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