desperance (desperance) wrote,
desperance
desperance

Irony, as an American artefact: discuss. Not too heatedly.

There is a fixed belief in the UK - which is of course as true as such things ever are, which means of course not at all - that Americans have no sense of irony. We sought to explain this once to an American writer, who was on tour with us; he said rather plaintively that he flattered himself in the having of a finely developed sense of irony. Ah, we said, that's why they sent you out of the country: to be the exception that proves the rule. Etc.

Jaywalking is so much of a British custom that we don't actually have a British word for it; it's not an offence of any sort, it's just the way we cross the road. My favourite English dictionary defines a jaywalker as "a careless pedestrian whom motorists are expected to avoid running over" - but in a serious and respected dictionary, that only goes to show how we do not regard the activity with any real deprecation.

So I have been a devout jaywalker for fifty years, and I'm very good at it; only now I live in America, and my timing is off and my instincts are awry and I am not natively tuned in to the rhythms of your traffic, even disregarding the obvious wrong-side-of-the-road thing; and here I do not jaywalk. I am scrupulous about crossing at junctions and pressing buttons and waiting for lights and so forth.

And today I did all of that, and the lights changed and the green/white man was in my favour, and I stepped out into the road - and a white car came within inches of killing me. The driver wasn't even coming around the corner with the poor excuse of turning right on red; he came straight down the road, which means straight through a red light when there was a highly visible pedestrian in the walkway. And if he'd killed me it would've been my own fault, because I didn't look, because all the lights were in my favour and I was doing the thing properly and just expected everyone else to do the same.

I'm going back to jaywalking. It's safer.

(In related news, my interior monologue may have been a little ranty, all the way home: and it occurs to me to wonder, does everyone in fact have an interior monologue? I have always assumed so, just because I do and it's constant - and we know this, because every now and then m'wife says "so where's your interior monologue right now?" and I always have an answer for her even if it doesn't make for inherently interesting conversation - but then I do recast my experience natively into words, and it is possible that not everyone does this. So: interior monologue, yes/no?)
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