Monday, November 24, 2008
How To Become A Hood Ornament
I was taking Wolf in his buggy to the day-care centre last week. As usual, this means we have to cross the Big Road that runs to our sleepy Antwerp suburb. The Big Road is a triumph of 1960’s optimism and belief in technological development. It is an ode to concrete, when planners still believed that people could lead very happy lives living in concrete towers surrounded by concrete plazas and linked together by huge concrete boulevards.
The Big Road is one of the two highways that link Antwerp to Brussels. And in this case, you can take the term ‘highway’ literally. It has 10 (!) lanes, four of them on level ground and six of them five meters up on a causeway that stretches from the city border to well into the next town.
To cross it, you generally have to wait for the first traffic light to turn green, then walk underneath the bridge and then wait for the next traffic light to turn green. If you walk at normal speed, there’s no way you can cross both double lanes next to the bridge in one go. However, if you run (at leisurely pace), you can make it in one go. Another advantage is that making a mad dash for it has great entertainment value for the toddler. And it gives me a false sense of doing at least some sports.
So last Thursday, I made a run for it. I was just crossing the last two lanes, when I something big hurling at us at uncomfortably high speeds. I quickly jumped back on the pavement under the bridge, not forgetting to drag Wolf in his buggy with me. A big lorry came to a screeching stand-still, after his driver was alerted by my presence to the fact that – oh look – the traffic lights were as red as the windows of a whore-house run by the Red Army.
The truck stood still in the middle of that decorative zebra pattern that many drivers just ignore. But this driver was suddenly very aware of where he had finally managed to stop his vehicle. And to the fact that he almost run over an 18-month-old and his father.
His face turned red.
Mine was still white.
I crossed while the little green man was still green.