DARE TO ASK: Some 'trot' at crossings; some do not
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
Often when I stop my car for white people crossing the street, they break
into a silly little "trot" that lasts a few seconds. I've seen this primarily in
whites over 25. What gives? Are they trying to show "courtesy" to me?
C., Central California
In my experience, African-Americans do the exact opposite. They walk even
slower -- especially if they notice the driver is white. It's almost as if they
feel it's their opportunity to get back at the white man for "keeping 'em down."
It's "You sit there while I take my sweet time walking across the road!"
Robert, 36, white male, Newnan, Ga.
My method behind the madness is because drivers around here have a tendency
to "jump" forward on red lights. Pedestrians have been "bumped" by cars doing
just that. We actually had a guy in a wheelchair crossing the road get hit by a
car at an intersection recently.
Maighen, 24, white female, Dallas
I'm trying to get out of your way, so we can both go ahead with our business.
So, you're welcome -- even if you don't appreciate it.
Craig, 42, white male, Chicago
I trot, and I'm neither white nor over 25. I do it to show the driver I'm not
taking his courtesy for granted. My boyfriend is white and 27, and he crosses at
a snail's pace under the same circumstances, because he hates cars and considers
it his little act of rebellion.
Nik, 24, black female, San Francisco
White kids under 25 are worried about image. It's a shame that thinking of
other people gets made fun of.
Andy, 30, Columbus, Ohio
This is all about attitude, not race, says Cynthia Lett, executive director
of the International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals.
"It has to do with how someone feels everyone else should treat them. If a
person feels the world should stop for them, they'll go slow, and if they feel
they might be inconveniencing others, they will walk faster."
While nobody should cross the street when a car is nearing, those who trot --
Lett prefers "scoot" -- do so as if to say "Excuse me, I'll be out of the way in
a second," while saunterers are basically saying, "I'm here, pay attention, I'll
get out of your way when I feel like it."
Whether people think white or black people do one or the other is likely
moot, because it's typically defiant younger people of any race who are the
slowgoers, she added.
And is it really more polite to get out of the way a millisecond faster if
you shouldn't be crossing in the first place? Consider this entry from The
Meaning of Liff (Crown Publishing), a humorous dictionary of made-up words:
"STURRY (n., vb.) A token run. Pedestrians who have chosen to cross a road
immediately in front of an approaching vehicle generally give a little wave and
break into a sturry. This gives the impression of hurrying without having any
practical effect on their speed whatsoever."
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers, or mail to
Phillip Milano, c/o The Florida Times-Union, P.O. Box 1949, Jacksonville, FL
32231. Include contact information.