Just this morning, while running to catch the light rail, I reached the cross street for K and 12th. I had the red hand signal but, as I always do when no other vehicles are passing through the intersection, I crossed.
On the west side of 12th, two state workers who had been waiting for the walk signal watched me enter the intersection. They looked at each other. And then back at me. And then they too crossed the street. This made me cackle with glee.
If you recall, I wrote a sidebar back in February to accompany David Watts Barton’s cover story about Sacramentans who had moved to New York City. As a recent transplant to Sacramento from Brooklyn, I took it upon myself to write a funny little perspective piece on the differences between the two cities. Here’s how it began:
Why are you all so afraid of jaywalking?
Honestly. It’s a light. You know that, right? You’re humans. Sentient beings. You can just cross whenever. Use your judgment. I sure as hell won’t stop you.
While your pedestrian habits did baffle me at the time, this was largely meant to be taken as a joke. But the response I received was pretty strong – particularly from others who’d recently moved here from out east. Here’s one sample, from a guy named Chris (who gave me permission to print his letter in the paper – so I’m assuming I can reprint a bit here):
As someone that moved to Sacramento from NYC this past Labor Day weekend, I very much enjoyed your article, “NYC to 916.” Your opening line, “Why are you all so afraid of jaywalking,” was hammer-to-the-head-of-the-nail dead-on accurate. What are they doing? I guess everyone around here has a lot of time to waste. I find it especially odd considering that as I walk around Midtown – a term that has taken on a completely different meaning since moving here – nearly every time I step off a curb to wait for the traffic to pass . . . it stops. That still boggles my mind.
Finally. Someone who understands me.
Soon, my piece made its way to Reddit, where locals gave me some insight on how and why things work out here the way they do. As user evergreenminty put it:
I recently moved from Sacramento to NYC and the amount of ridicule receive for waiting at crosswalks is astronomical and something people rib me about constantly. I showed a friend this article and they nearly died laughing.
I am pretty much scarred for life because my friend crossed while the flashing hand was counting down (while I waited) at an intersection a couple years back in downtown Sacramento and she ended up getting a bullshit ticket.
Okay. I get it. The cops are assholes about it in Sacramento. But I’m taking it upon myself to fight the muthafuckin’ man on this one. And I hope you do, too.
Jaywalking is a right. It is an expression of will. It is an assertion to the system that, no, we will not stand idly by on the corner when we know full well that it’s safe to cross the street on our own volition. Fuck your flashing hand, man. Fuck it.
So when you find yourself reading Sacramento police reports that end as such:
13-121534, Resisting, 7th St / Capitol Mall, 1623,
Officers observed a subject jaywalking and attempted to make contact. The subject immediately fled and the unknown subject was not able to be located after a search of a perimeter was done.
I hope you join me in celebration.
And to the jaywalker on 7th and Capitol Mall: Godspeed, my flight-footed friend.