Sometimes, I try to set people on fire with my brain. It doesn’t work, but if I learned anything from Christmas tv specials as a kid: it’s the thought that counts. And I think about burning people with my non-existent brain powers.
I am not as patient with other people as I could be. I get frustrated when people I work with don’t live up to the same standard as me. I get annoyed when people fail to realize they are acting within a world in which they are not the absolute center, like when they take up too much room on the sidewalk because they just cannot fathom that someone might be in a hurry behind them. I am outraged consistently by people who try to chat in the checkout line at the grocery store. When it comes to dealing with people, I err on the side of anger, and that’s just one of my big character flaws. Sometimes I try to be better. I put effort into being a little kinder, a little more patient, to give people the benefit of the doubt.
With one exception. I do not know what exactly possesses people to repeatedly press the button at crosswalks so it beeps over and over, but if I had a flamethrower and no witnesses, I would immolate these loud, unnecessary people with all the sadistic glee of a child who has just discovered their body spray is flammable enough to roast anthills.
Yesterday as I was going home, I was stuck at a crosswalk with a woman who looked like the personification of the smug feeling people get when they do yoga. I got to the light first. I pressed the button. She was right behind me so she definitely heard it beep. It’s a loud beep. I heard her walk up behind me. Then, I heard something else, something that–for me–would completely justify chaining her to the side of an active volcano. A beep. And then another. A whole parade of beeps, one after the other, a panic of beeping as this woman pressed the button again and again.
Why? Why do this? What can possibly be gained from pressing it so much? Did she think she could persuade the light to change faster? Did she think there was a little person in a control tower just for that intersection who, upon seeing her frantic beeping, would stop traffic because clearly, she has got places to be? I let her cross the street ahead of me because I liked the thought of throwing a rock at the back of her head.
At a later light, in the same day, on the same trip home, I was stuck at another crosswalk. This time, the culprit was across the street. He was a larger man with tattoos coating his arms and chest. He was wearing a black tank top and black jeans. I wonder if he would color code the same if he was wearing lime green. He had his arm around a woman dressed similarly but with fewer tattoos. I hope they called ahead so they would dress to match. They walked with his arm wrapped around her shoulder until they reached the stop light. The man, ever the gentleman, pressed the button. Then he did it again. He started really leaning into it while looking at his companion with a face twisted by what could have been rage or maybe his face was just naturally wrinkled like a furious raisin.
Again, I had many questions. What did he hope to accomplish by attacking the button in this way? Did he think he could intimidate it? Did he think that he could press it hard enough that the lights would all turn and traffic would screech to a halt for him and his muscles? I wanted to shout across the street “It’s not afraid of you! Try reasoning with it!” but, based on how angrily he was pressing a button to cross the street, I also assumed reason wasn’t his go-to solution for things. The light turned. He stopped pressing the button, put his arm back around his companion as if to say “I told you I’d get it, baby,” and they crossed the street together. I’m glad those two have each other: one who needs to fight buttons and one who can look thankful that buttons have been fought on their behalf, a timeless love story.
Everyone has pet peeves, but this is not a pet for me; this is a roommate, and it may one day lead me to a psych ward. I may crack completely, unravel and let my mind drift into itself. I’d live out my days whimpering “you only need to press it once.” I would baffle new doctors, and the old ones, the ones who will have been my caretakers for years, will say “this is patient NES5046, and the only way to make the crying stop is put on some sitcoms and leave the light off.” Then, they’d close the door to my cell and leave me to be broken in peace.