Don’t Walk

I have always been staunchly pro-pedestrian. But earlier this week when the city installed audible walk signals in the intersection outside my house, there was a problem: they were loud. At least the westward-facing one aimed our way. Seven shrill chirps every 90 seconds, like a partial cycle of a 1980s car alarm. Not quite as bad as that, but even during those 83 seconds of silence I found myself lying there, waiting for the next one.

A few frantic calls to the city put us in touch with the head traffic engineer, who assured us that the signal could be reprogrammed to activate only when the button was pressed, and that the volume could be turned down a little. Here we were unexpectedly saved by our drive-a-quarter-mile-to-buy-coffee culture. There really aren’t that many pedestrians, just the occasional mom pushing a stroller or active senior.  In the first twelve hours after the adjustment, I only heard the signal twice, down from 480. Actually, I’m overlooking the fair number of  runners, patrons of the local sports bar, and teenagers buying caffeinated drinks at CVS, but none of these ever press the button. So we’ve been saved both by cultural sloth and jaywalking.

Saturday mornings could still be noisy, what with all of the families walking to temple. But any family observant enough to walk to temple might also be observant enough not to press a button on the Sabbath. We’ll see.

It so happens that there is a way to limit the use of audible signal only to visually-impaired pedestrians, using the existing equipment. Can you think of it? I’ll leave this as a puzzle to SiW readers.

17 responses to “Don’t Walk”

  1. Bernie

    A sign above the button that says, “Please do not press this button unless you are visually impaired” ?

  2. miclusick

    I’m too smug and important to give an answer to your riddle Frank, but I will say this – on my second slower reading I laughed out loud twice. The first being the image of you counting for 83 seconds.

    I was taking a dump yesterday in concert with reading the booklet of liner notes to a cd by Harry Partch. You know of the guy, lived in New Mexico as a child, traveled with his missionary parents to the Orient, hoboed around the U.S. on railcars, and finally ended up in Petaluma, probably near to where John and Bernie got their Victorian sofa thing.

    While in Illinois working on a theater piece, he began a side collaboration with the gymnastics coach at the local university. In preparation for a piece of music, he is said to have taken a stopwatch, and recorded the time intervals of successive jumps by persons on the trampoline.
    This is conjuring thoughts that are irrelevant, unoriginal, and unpleasant.
    I guess I’ll give my puzzle answer: “Blind iza BAT who Rev-ise-AudioL-erberatE the Curb-height Curve-Midstreet-hypotenuse”

  3. Jack Silbert

    Gotta love that 99.583% decrease in signal activity. Do let us know how things went on the Lord’s day (Saturday) followed by the Dark Lord’s day (today).

    What is your address’s walk score?
    http://www.walkscore.com/
    Mine is 92.

    Oh, to have the technology to press “like” on Bernie’s comment! Is it correct? But wait, what is the set-up? Does a “Walk” sign light up regardless of whether the button is pressed, or only if the button is pressed?

  4. Jack Silbert

    And wouldn’t it be nice to have our pictures, or some image, in those little squares? I wonder where that option is.

  5. miclusick

    Jack o lantern,
    couldn’t agree more, Bernie’s answer slicked by me like i was Homer Simpson, “duh, they wouldn’t be able to see it.”
    and thank you for the little sq reminder! i’ve been waiting for some signage to use this old photo from a nightdrive through the desert to Lake Havasu.
    Attn: SiW-IT Dept, http://www.flickr.com/photos/wobblingvisions/5133200081/

  6. Bernie

    yeah, sarcastically serious? I still want to win the contest.

  7. miclusick

    I offer my sympathies, they simply cannot get enough of this quiz stuff. Months of cat got your tongue existential crisis-mind when I sometimes do 2 or 3 crossword puzzles a day, here’s one of my autistic-friendly bookmarks:
    http://crosswords.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/crosswords/util/archivepage.cgi

    My 4th or 5th answer to puzzle is that, with the existing equipment, city managers have dispatched engineers to adjust the frequency, sine-wave frequency, of the chirps, and only a few chirps are sufficient. It doesn’t cover all visually-impaired (VI) persons, although those with a seeing-eye dog will show some disturbance, putting forth a safe crosswalk for those blind as a bat. For people who CAN see, walking their dogs, it will simply confuse them as to why their the hounds are acting weirdly, until they get hip to it, either by being conscious of the actions of their VI neighbors, or reading the newspaper of the local gazette which usually covers such municipal DOT/utility stuff, or through “well-meaning gossip,” otherwise known as Object Lesson 5.

  8. miclusick

    I knew I was trying too hard.
    Really Frank, this is a better answer than Bernies? Better, as a value award, is pretty relative. Like, I like the older Micheal Cera than the one in Arrested Development. I haven’t seen many ADs, but what I’ve seen, him with all that baby fat, the precocious acting, and the resemblance to two separate lesbians I’ve known in my life, I would say he’s better as a thinner transsexual who is ‘only’ ironically full of himself. Maybe Jack the Critic can distinguish/flesh-out the button answer/winner.

  9. Jack Silbert

    Hmm, Bernie’s guess puts the non-visually-impaired at risk; Frank’s puts the visually impaired who do not know of the 2-second rule at risk. Gary’s response puts anyone at risk who thinks about it too hard. I’d say we could combine the Boscoe siblings’ responses and install a Braille sign, “Press the button until you hear the audible signal,” but I’ve read that Braille is a dying language. Ah, just install a skyway.

  10. miclusick

    It’s a personal preference Jack, but that comment of yours I’d find to be an effective post, maybe entitled “Skyway.” Your long format to me appears like the devastation fomented by Father of the Atomic Bomb Oppenheimer. I think I prefer the swift Uziel “Uzi” Gal killing machine.

    More shameful self-promotion – Don’t Click.
    http://new.music.yahoo.com/tullycraft/tracks/skyway–2044311

  11. Paul C

    I like the higher frequency idea. Assuming that Frank is like the rest of us and his hearing has been damaged by attending/participating in too many shows then you could just tune it to something in the 16kHz range. Pesky teenagers and the visually impaired folks would hear it, but Frank would not. Of course, this would preclude the non-seeing person from ever going to hear rock shows and/or working in construction.

  12. Jack Silbert

    Speaking of traffic, we could really get some here if we convinced Tullycraft and the Replacements to do a split 7″, each covering each other’s “Skyway,” and you could only order it here. The ‘Mats would totally toughen it up and the ‘Craft would do wonders with the built-in fragility.

  13. miclusick

    That’s massively cool Jack (again Ayn Rand). How about Frank and I each send you a song, and you can record vocals for both – just trying to keep a low logistical overhead. Having a name as big or bigger then Westerberg to sell it though…. do you know of anyone that has big-time entertainment industry cred?

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