Push Button for Stick Figure Dancing the Lawnmower
Nothing like waking up on a Sunday morning, desperate for a cup of coffee, only to realize you’re completely out of half and half, which by the way is not comprised of half of anything mixed with half of anything else, but that’s a story for another time. You could use milk, but it’s just not the same, and you really want that good fresh cup.
Cue my Sunday. Luckily, there isn’t anything in Richmond that isn’t within walking distance, like the convenience store at the end of my block. Despite the snow and wind, I put on my boots and bundled up, throwing a hat over my bed head. I was glad I slept in basic black pants that hid the fact that I was still technically in my pajamas. I started down the sidewalk in search of the Holy Grail in the form of a paper pint container.
The store is on the opposite side of the street and diagonal from my house, requiring me to cross two streets to get to it. No problem, right? Not necessarily. I get to the corner and see the sign that directs me to “push button for walk signal”.
I stare at the black circular button in the center of a yellow box in the middle of the pole. I think, “Really?” I look at the cars stopped at the traffic light, making eye contact with their drivers, trying to determine if they are waiting for my inevitable decision.
If I don’t press the button, will the light never change? Will it change quicker if I press the button? Does the performance of the traffic light even rely on the button at all? I mean, who am I that I have been granted such power? Traffic control at the simple push of a button.
None of that is accurate. The button just triggers the red hand graphic across the street to change to an obviously racist (I mean why are all the people white?) depiction of a person walking when appropriate. That’s what it really does, right?
I’m still not convinced. I truly believe it’s some kind of hidden camera social experiment to see how many people fall for the button concept, thinking it has some bearing on anything at all. Think of it as the twist in the next M. Night Shyamalan film. For 90 to a hundred minutes you spend thinking traffic is moving steadily and the light is changing at a predetermined time. A pedestrian approaches, pushes the button, and the camera pulls back to see a group of scientists on another planet recording how many people push the button.
Not me. I’m not falling for it. I really really really like to follow directions, but I also don’t like to be the punch line to another person’s joke. As I stand on the corner of 5th and Main, the Village Pantry sign looming not so far in the distance, my creamy grand prize so close, I find myself at the intersection of my own personal anxieties vs. the socio-morality of basic human existence. To press or not to press….That is the question.