To beat the Red!
(... or, 'The Loop!') 1992
In St. Paul, Minnesota or for that matter in other cities as well people are inclined to call a certain area of the city, in particular a busy area, such as downtown St. Paul, the Loop; it's kind of an area you circle around in a loop with you automobile. Drivers do it to look at girls, sell drugs, and check the inner city out. Girls walk the loop to be picked up, or drug dealers stand on corners to sell drugs, that kind of thing. And those not into that kind of stuff, mosey about it crisscrossing the streets to get to other parts of the city, to and fro.
In St. Paul there was such a thing, location, in downtown, it circled around a number of bars, and Seventh Street, and a bus station, a few show houses, a parking lot, the loop had just about everything a night shopper or night adventurist would be seeking.
Hence, when you stopped at the red light at 'Wabasha and Seventh,' you were facing a stop-and-go-light, in this case I had stopped on the red light. Sometimes when I'd stop, the light would turn nearly instantly Green to Go! And of course you'd catch now and then a pedestrian off-guard. And they'd run to cross to get to the other side, lest they get jammed in by the oncoming, slough of cars. This of course being the logical thing to do. While others seemed to have foresight, and be waiting at the corner for the light to turn Green for them to go, and not rushing anything, so as not to be caught in-between.
Sometimes you'd even see people eating this and that as they were moseying across the street on a yellow, and then turn green kind of jumping the gun as they say, then rushing to escape the rush of cars.
So you see, crossing or crisscrossing the streets at a loop, has many variables. And usually when I'd blow the horn, they'd wake up, if half asleep, run to the other side to escape the approaching cars, if indeed this was the case at hand. It's kind of like knowing your rights, and not wanting the other person to violate them, that is to say, if you had, or have the right-of-way.
People around this loop, back in the day-or twenty-two years ago, when this mishap took place, the people were like flocks of quails, and when they'd reach the other side sometimes you'd see a face or two among the other faces, in triumph, especially if they were trying to beat the odds, rushing on a yellow light to join the flock, before the red appeared. And god-forbid it be rush-hour and you find someone playing the suicide game: starting out on a yellow, 'to beat the red!'
This old drunk, the man who stepped off the corner of the sidewalk, who had walked down from a local bar, from up the block, stepped out on a yellow light, unknowingly I believe; looking ahead in his hazy drunken stumper, seeing other folks across the two way, four-lane crossing, and seeing them folks stepping up from a green light, that now was yellow, but perhaps was green when he first saw it-half drunk I should say-it was late Friday afternoon, close to rush-hour, when everyone wants to get home for the weekend, take off early from work. No exception, me too.
He fiddled about in his pocket, I believe he had a pint of whiskey he was feeling for, and to make sure it was still there, what else could it be?
And as in inferred, he looked pretty looped himself, now in the middle of the loop. I told myself as the streetlight as it turned red for him, 'woops, now what?' It was green for the cars, red for the walkway.
There must have been three dozen cars on both sides of the streets, ready to go West from East, it was a four-lane street, two west, two east, I was west, and there were cars to my left, and in front of me, and the drunk was nearly in the middle of the two lanes, some thirty-five feet in front of me, going south from north, and a dozen cars on my side hit their accelerator, steering right towards the drunk, perhaps sixty-years old. What was on his mind? What was the matter with him? He stopped as the cars approached him, was it physical tiredness? I was inclined to stop, he was to my right, and cars now passing me, and now him, cars in front of me and in back of me, he was unsure of his next move, and the cars were unsure of his next move as I was also unsure of his next move and so I stopped right in the middle of the intersection, as now cars circle around me: and the car in back of me stopped also, and the car in back of him, maneuvered around both of us, not knowing why we had stopped, he didn't see the old man, the old man smiled at me, put out his thumb as if in triumph, and as he took a step forward, that car cut his thumb into shreds, with his side mirror, and now the old man froze in place, looking at what was left of his thumb, gushing red, spurting up blood like a flood, or gusher, or what was left of it; had a dog been nearby, he'd had had himself a little jump for an afternoon snack. It was being held by a thread, no more.
Now I drove by him, I knew he'd not move, he was in some kind of monothematic moment: what just happened?
As I drove down to the next stop-and-go-light, I heard a policeman's whistle from behind me... , the rest I assumed, an ambulance would soon be forth coming.