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Pedestrians? Manteca don’t need no stinkin’ pedestrians

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POSTED February 4, 2009 4:48 a.m.
Gene Roddenberry must have visited Manteca.

How else can you explain how Roddenberry came up with the cloaking device?

Trekkie fans know that the cloaking device makes Klingon Warships invisible to Star Fleet ships. The idea of a cloaking device isn’t a figment of Roddenberry’s imagination. If he came to Manteca, he would have witnessed the phenomena first hand. Instead of Klingons become invisible to the human eye, Roddenberry would have seen how pedestrians in Manteca become completely transparent to motorists.

Not all motorists, mind you. It’s just those motorists who apparently have a cloaking device that somehow projects itself on pedestrians in crosswalks.

It’s no state secret that there are motorists out there who view pedestrians as collateral damage. I’ve had more than a few close calls on Manteca streets in the past 18 years. The hairiest have involved almost being clipped three different times while I was two-thirds of the way across an intersection by motorists driving toward me turning left on to the street I was crossing.

Last Tuesday, though, I came to the conclusion that it must be the pedestrians on Manteca streets who are to blame. My cloaking devices this particular day were two energetic dogs – two Dalmatians that adopted me who are aptly named Cruella and De Vil.

One would think 100 pounds of unbridled energetic Dalmatians pulling 167 pounds down the street would be visible to the naked eye. Silly me.

The first near hit came as I was crossing Washington Street at Yosemite Avenue. I saw a car coming and like an idiot assumed that he was slowing down. He stopped behind the limit line so I stepped off the curb. Wrong move. He started inching toward me, slammed on his brakes, and gave me “the look.”

You know “the look.” It’s the one a driver gives you when you have the audacity to assert your right to cross a street in a legal fashion.

My next move as the invisible pedestrian was crossing Grant Avenue near Kelley Brothers. A car was blocking the sidewalk. There was a second one behind it. After looking to the right and over my shoulder to make sure no one was turning, I started walking between the two cars. In retrospect, this was probably a dumb move. Pedestrians should always wait until cars stacked up clear stop signs before crossing as they are fourth class citizens on Manteca streets. Cats scrambling across streets get more respect.

I was forced to literally pull the two dogs out of the way from my left side to the right side. To give credit to the driver, he stopped and shouted out he didn’t see the dogs but he saw me. Obviously, it is kosher to inch 2,300 pounds of steel closer to a pedestrian crossing the street.

The third and final experience of what it must have been like to be the guy playing the lead in the sci-fi flick “The Invisible Man” came at Main Street. It was a biggie. We reached the traffic light, I told the dogs to “stay”, pushed the walk button, and then waited.

Two cars came up on the red light, stopped, checked traffic, and then turned right. Then there came a third car. The left turn pockets on Main Street were emptying. The guy waited even though there were no longer cars turning in front of him. Ten seconds passed. The light turned green and the little white man flashed up for me giving me the go ahead as the pedestrian. I looked to my left one last time and saw there was no movement. I then stepped onto the crosswalk. Big mistake. The driver started turning on the red light as I was directly in front of his grill.

The thing about the near-misses is that they were all slow motion. The other three times it involved drivers either accelerating through stop signs or cutting corners at a high rate of speed. At least if there was contact it would have been minimal.

On the flip side, that doesn’t earn you another notch on your driver’s license in Manteca unless, of course, you try to inch out a little old lady using a walker in the crosswalk. Only then can you be in the running for the Manteca King of the Road honors.
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