Column: Maybe I should just hire a chauffeur

So there I was in my car in front of a local restaurant, having just picked up a to-go order for the Mrs. She works late on Fridays and you think I’m cooking on a Friday? For-get-it.

With my little sedan pulled in tight behind a huge pickup, had to back up a mite. Was just beginning to move when something suddenly flashed across the rearview mirror. ’Twas a young woman, now standing on the sidewalk, bent toward my back window with her arms up in the universal “What the heck?” gesture. OK, it’s not really “heck,” but you get the point.

For a split second, I felt apologetic, but then realized I’m in the car, I can’t see her but she can see me. Why should I apologize when someone steps behind a moving vehicle without looking?

Which is my point entirely. I must have missed the e-mail or Facebook posting or Tweet or whatever delivering the news that the old standard “look both ways” warning has been superseded by, “Oh, hell, walk wherever you damn well feel like and pay absolutely no attention to moving vehicles.”

The prospect of a wind-driven empty shopping cart slamming into my car at ramming speed is no longer the main cause of supermarket parking lot angst. I white-knuckle it down the row, fearing a close encounter of the first kind with another shopper. It’s like driving past the woods at night when the deer are in rut.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people cross at an angle right in front of me, their backs to me, seemingly oblivious to the prospect of my running them down. Can’t repeat here what I say then.

I’m not crazy, right? I mean, it’s not just me, is it?

It’s not like I race through town, tires squealing with squirrels and rabbits running for their furry little lives. Quite the opposite, if there’s anything to my reputation. When my son needs a ride to the train in Ronkonkoma, the pre-departure conversation goes like this:

Me: Ready to go?
He: Sure. Gimme the keys.
Me: What? Why?
He: Because if you drive, we won’t get there ’til spring.
Me: Son, safe driving is no accident.
He: Just gimme the keys, will ya?
Me: Fine, but I’m in charge of the radio.
He: No, you’re not.

Maybe it’s an American thing. When coming to a yellow light while driving through Frankfurt some years back, I reacted as would any red-blooded American — gunned it to get through. Funny people, those Germans, they actually expect you to slow down. That’s the message I took from an older gent walking by who pointed to the light and shook his head in an unspoken rebuke. I stewed over that later on the Autobahn as huge Beemers in a line passed me like a Japanese bullet train.

During a later trip to Ireland, me and Mrs. stopped in Waterford, and after touring the crystal factory took a walking tour of the city. Standing outside a ruined church, our guide warned, “Get up on the sidewalk unless you want an ass full of radiator.”
Ah, they don’t call it the land of saints and poets for nothing.

An indelicate admonishment, to be sure, and yet there’s wisdom in it. At any moment a car’s likely to come careening around the corner of what appears to a quiet little lane, and on the lefthand side to boot. Later in the trip, as we walked up to a busy intersection in Dublin, we noticed curious writing on the sidewalk. Not “Seamus loves Siobhán.” In rather tall white letters was

the simple message “Look right.”

And then when I was in Paris … OK, I’ve got no anecdote here. Just like the sound of “when I was in Paris.”

OK, back to the reality of the snow-covered North Fork, where I’m the bad guy because a lady walked behind my car just as I was backing up an inch or two.

Now if I was late with food gone cold because I had to explain to a hungry Mrs. how I had to explain to a patrolman how I tapped someone with my bumper, THAT would be bad.

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