On my way to work one recent morning the driver of a car idling in a traffic jam gunned his engine menacingly as I walked in front of him.
I was in a clearly marked crosswalk where under the law the pedestrian has the right of way. As I gave the driver a dirty look, he rolled down his window and yelled: "You jerk!"
The traffic cleared at that point. He drove off, and I walked away, incensed but not surprised.
I am not a jaywalker. I obey the lights, use the crosswalks and do not dodge through traffic in the middle of a block. Nevertheless, I am constantly subject to near misses, looks much dirtier than those I give, and abusive language.
So it occurred to me after my street encounter the other morning that it is time for pedestrians to unite and assert their minority rights.
As it happened, on that same day the Census Bureau released its first comprehensive report on the results of the 1980 census, a report which showed, among many other things, that 6 million or so Americans walk to work every day, almost as many as take public transportation.
By contrast, 62 million drive to and from work. Clearly, pedestrians are a certifiable minority eligible for special consideration and even (under a Democratic administration, of course) for federal grants.
I haven't thought seriously yet of a name for this new organization, but Walkers of the World, United, or Pedestrians for Peace Inc. might at least be good for openers.
Our program would, of course, be educational as well as legislative and political. We probably would even organize our own political action committee, aimed at encouraging congressmen who did not respect pedestrian rights to take a walk.
We would concentrate our efforts in the East and the Midwest where, despite all of the laws giving pedestrians the right of way, motorists have never learned to do so. In the West, particularly in California, pedestrian rights are generally respected, for reasons that have never been clear to me in that automobile-dominated part of the world.
I would start our program by getting police departments to crack down on the legions of motorists who routinely run red lights. In downtown Washington during rush hour you can count on at least three cars going through a red light after it has changed from green before a crosswalk is safe for pedestrians.
Again, if a pedestrian gives a red-light-runner even just a slight dirty look, the walker opens himself to abusive language, or worse.
I don't suppose my modest proposal for the protection of pedestrian rights will go far in today's belt-tightening world, but some time soon the walker's day is sure to come bounding down the street.