Kill the Birds!

Pedestrian says no thanks to crosswalk aids.


(Image: ? Warner Bros.)

The place: Intersection of Roosevelt and 45th.

The time: Late Saturday, around midnight.

The protagonist: Blind guy walking swiftly westward.

His complaint: So I'm waiting for the light to change after a late movie, walking back to my car. There's not much traffic around midnight, but jaywalking across Roosevelt is always a bad idea, given vehicle speeds. But charging toward me on N.E. 45th Street comes a blind guy, rather agitated and swinging his cane violently back and forth. He's talking to himself, too, but that doesn't make him crazy or drunk, right? Still I'm worried: How will he know if the light is red or green? He's got no seeing-eye dog or buddy to help him pause at the corner. But apparently he also has highly developed hearing--he expertly gauges tire and traffic noise and barely breaks stride as he steps confidently off the curb and continues through the crosswalk (with me watching apprehensively on the other side). "Hate the birds, hammer the birds, kill the birds!" he's yelling, referring to those chirping avian noises that have been added to some Seattle traffic signals, this one included. He hates them, obviously, which causes me to wonder what their purpose is.

Are they intended to help advise the blind when the walk light is flashing? In some cities, the higher chirp sound indicates when the east-west direction is clear; the lower cuckoo sound indicates the north-south axis is safe. (I'm not sure I can tell the two apart.) Apparently that's the idea here in Seattle. But for a person with acute hearing (developed by necessity), maybe they're just another form of noise pollution, like that terrible music some stores are allowed to broadcast onto the sidewalk. I might have asked this furious pedestrian what he thought, but I didn't want to be rude. Besides, I couldn't have kept up with his pace.

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