Wednesday, May 26, 2010

traffic tim

i remember my mom occasionally commenting that she liked new york so much because there was a place for everyone - no matter who you were, you fit in.  in one short walk through my neighborhood, it would not be uncommon to encounter quite a diverse array of lifestyles - the nyu students and faculty, the local homeless, philip seymour hoffman with his scruffy beard and grungy attire (and his lobster pajama pants-wearing friend), "punks" with purple mohawks, and hipsters with jaded expressions who have wandered into the village after growing bored of playing frogger in soho (the hipsters are the cars, and you are the frog - the game is more fun if you aren't in a rush to get somewhere), etc.

there is a place for even the most eccentric new yorker.  in fact, there is a place for one eccentric new yorker on washington square east.  i think i will call him traffic tim.  i have not really figured him out.  like many working people, traffic tim appears to get up every morning, get dressed, and head off to his job.  the peculiarity is that i don't think this man is actually employed by anyone - he appears to be a uniformless self-appointed crossing guard.  every weekday, he can be found directing traffic, and directing it quite passionately, near nyu.  he yells directions not only at crossing pedestrians (who most certainly hear him, but rarely react), but also at passing cars (whose drivers may or may not hear him, but do not appear to comply with any of his commands).  the first time i passed traffic tim, i thought perhaps he was suffering from violent schizophrenic hallucinations.  i instinctively averted my eyes and walked past him quickly.  now that i realize he is just a crossing guard (however unauthorized he might be .. and now that i think of it, however delusional that might be), i am torn between strong competing urges.  on one hand, shouting and aggressive movements and hand gestures are still pretty good cues that a situation is one that may be best avoided.  on the other hand, even if traffic tim's behavior errs on the side of delusional, he seems relatively harmless.  i have to fight the urge to stop and watch.  i want to watch traffic tim to see whether he notices if no one complies with his directions - or whether he just goes about his business, disregarding input from the world.  if he does notice, i kind of want to play along and wait until traffic tim tells me to cross the street - no one likes to feel ineffective.  

i am curious, though.  does traffic tim have a wife?  does he wake up every morning, have breakfast with her, and then kiss her good bye as he informs her he is off to work?  when he comes home at night, does he tell her about his day and all the ungrateful college kids who nearly got hit by cars or about the irresponsible drivers who disregarded his directions?  does she play along?  

1 comment:

  1. Jimjimminy ButterknickersMay 26, 2010 at 11:54 PM

    I have noticed that traffic tim often directs invisible cars.