In some places in this country pedestrians can walk safely across the street on a crosswalk. Those places are not New York. Here, you take your life in your teeth, and you'd better have brushed and flossed.

The other day I was walking downtown for my weekly head shrinking session (my head has grown unwieldy and heavy over the years from too much crankiness) when I stopped at 37th Street and Park Avenue, waiting to cross. When the light changed there was a car stopped in the crosswalk. But this is not an uncommon occurrence here. Cabs edge through the crosswalks, hoping that all the traffic ahead of them will miraculously clear and they'll be able to get through without blocking traffic. Only, it never happens that way and as a result traffic is always gridlocked.

Why gridlock? Three reasons. 1) People are stupid. 2) People don't trust each other. 3) People are stupid. Or as my Grandpa Schlomo liked to say, "Oy, what a bunch of fuckheads." It's very simple. When you approach the crosswalk in your gas-guzzling Hummer, stop, wait until you can safely make it across the intersection without blocking traffic and only then proceed. It's logical and if everyone obeyed this rule there would be no gridlock (people in Carmel, California obey this law, although the folks there are all brainwashed zombies so perhaps that doesn't count). But stupid people don't get this simple rule: they edge out, kicking off a chain of heart wrecking events: the next guy thinks he should edge out too, his blood pressure increases, he pumps the horn, his IQ goes down 3 points to 64, the light changes, the pedestrians squeeze between the cars, they give the finger to the driver in the crosswalk, he gets out ready to fight, traffic is blocked, the driver's mother half way away across the country has a vision of the Hindenberg exploding and she collapses in a heap, blood.

The rest of us just don't trust each other to obey the rules: if one person breaks the rule and you don't, then you could get stuck waiting to drive through an intersection for several decades. So it doesn't pay to trust each other (even though it really does).

I think several law changes could alleviate this problem. First, make it legal to walk over cars blocking crosswalks. When the car is in the crosswalk and pedestrians have the right of way, then the car simply becomes part of the crosswalk. Second, issue $10,000 tickets to anyone blocking a crosswalk or traffic. That for first offenders. For second offenders, the death penalty. That'll probably stop gridlock, as it will thin out the population of stupid people rather quickly. (For more on the death penalty, go to my 2/1/06 post on escalators).


10 questions

In honor of Passover, here are ten questions (why settle for just four, as grandpa Shlomo liked to say) :

Why do they have to put Health Inspector posters on the front doors of restaurants that closed down for health violations? Is it to rub it in? As in, ha ha, not only has your favorite dining hole been closed down, but it's likely there are bacteria living in your body now forming Calypso bands and dancing nightly with your spleen.

Why do people who hope never to see you again promise to give you call "real soon?" Are they so afraid of truth? To those people I have a few restaurants to recommend.

Why do people fail to reply to emails when the reply is "no." Bill, you want to go to a party on Saturday? No reply = no. Since when? Bill is a pussy.

Why do people enter a nearly empty subway car and block the doorway? I know it's more comfortable to lean against the doors and after all, who wants to get any closer to the teeming masses than you have to, but how do these people expect others to get on the train? Oh wait, they don't think. They don't care. They're New Yorkers.

I had a screaming cold this week, and by "screaming," I mean that every time I tried to sneeze my head nearly exploded and I let out a piercing shriek that astounded my friends and once caused my neighbor to call the police. My question is this: would A-Rod be more popular if he weren't such a phony?

Why do the two women in the office around the corner from my desk think they're princesses? Must have been bad parenting.

Why do technical support folks keep you on hold for so damned long? Are they back there playing video games or writing worthless blogs? And when they finally complete the call they have to gaul to say, "thank you for choosing Sprint" or whichever, when we all know none of us really chooses anything in this topsy-turvy world, we're all just helpless specks hurtling through the universe.

Speaking of phones. Why do marketers call you at home to sell you stuff? Next time that happens I'm libel to track 'em down and force 'em to sing I Write the Songs over and over until they go even more insane then they must already be for calling me at home, don't they know I'm watching my soaps? Damn!

Why is chocolate so tasty? Mmm, chocolate. But not as tasty as caramel.

Speaking of sweet. Why is life so short, but so damned sweet? Mmm, life.


Turning 40

On Sunday I will turn 40, and while that number doesn't particularly scare me, the fact that I'm the same age my father was when I was 17 kind of does. What the hell have I been doing with my time? I should have kicked a two-pack a day cigarette habit by now (and I haven't even started smoking!), I should have a whiny kid preparing for college and another making her way through high school and still asking me to help with her math homework (daughters are cool) , I should be bitter and divorced, reluctantly paying alimony, I should be a Republican, but all I have is ME and my own whinyness and existential angst. What am I waiting for? People who believe in Intelligent Design (ironically some of the stupidest people on the planet) must be right about something, because if they really believe that tripe they're peddling, then they never had a neck ache that lasted three years, or a bum knee or a wrinkle or any other physical ailment. I guess prayer and belief is keeping them young. For the rest of us there's only one recourse: bitching on our blogs.

One thing I really hate about turning 40 is realizing that I'm not going to live forever. You might be thinking that I should have figured that out by now, but that's because you're cruel and removed from reality and it's giving you pleasure to mock my sad naivete. Cut me some slack, I'm a dreamer. So anyway, it's hit me: death is coming, and pretty soon. 40 years have slipped by and any day now it could happen -- hit by a bus, struck by lightning, battered to death by Condi Rice. And if I may wax philosophical for just one moment: that sucks.

Actually, what sucks more than my impending demise is aging. After all, once I'm dead, I'm dead, and then who am I to complain? I don't even exist. But I do exist now (or so my horoscope implies), and it sucks that I have TMJ (Temporomandibular joint disease, most likely caused by too much crankiness), an aching hip, GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, also caused by too much crankiness), deteriorating hearing and a growing desire to move to Florida to cash in on early bird specials. I remember like it was yesterday the halcyon days when I could digest a McDonald's hamburger and ambulate without a walker, when TV network experts desperately wondered what kind of shows would entertain me and when I was the youngest member of my softball team. I remember when I didn't really know what it felt like to be tired: it would just get kinda late and so I would go to bed (you can only plot to destroy Microsoft for so long). Now I can't remember what it feels like to feel rested. I remember when looking in the mirror meant falling in love all over again with my pristine image (sorry, Lacan): oh, you're so beautiful, and isn't it great you're going to live forever, so just take your time figuring out your life, don't bother making any decisions... Alas, I've broken all the mirrors in my home and even though I did it deliberately to keep my friend Alec, who's a vampire, from freaking out, it's still nice I don't have to look upon the ravages of time with despair, nostalgia and the feeling that any moment I should dash to the store for a 10 pack of Depends.

Where's my grace, you ask? Where's the wisdom accumulated from years of introspection, trial and error? Where's the regret turned into intelligence and inner calm? It's no where to be found. What do I look like, the Dali Lama? Or Regis Philbon? Okay, so maybe I'm a bit wiser, a bit calmer, but it'd still be nice to be able to eat a gigantic, sickening hot fudge sundae and then fall down for a four hour nap. Ahh, youth.

It also sucks that young women now call me sir. What's worse, most of them, the young ones, seem like alien species to me. People in their twenties, in general, with their desperate manicness, their obession with pop culture, are like people from a B-Movie, something that might be called "American Graffiti" or "Citizen Kane" or "Look at Me, I'm young and scared and stupid, what's life really mean?" Jesus, chill out kids. What could be causing all this angst? Is it the decay of values? Sure, it is. And I don't mean those simplistic values like religion and family, because those are just for kids anyway. I mean, America is just so AMERICA -- obsessed with glory and money, all at the expense of thought. What ever happened to thinking? To reading, to conversation, to communication? You can't talk to any of these damned kids anymore without filtering out a thousand "likes" and "and then she saids." It's all surface and gloss, all TV and desperation.

Makes me cranky.

Maybe I'm cranky because I'm 40 or 40 because I'm cranky. I'm not sure, but I do know this: you know that episode of Green Acres where the rooster refuses to crow? Like, it just cracks me up.