But then, of course, you probably have not seen either the pretty white stripes or interesting visual displays because you never have used a crosswalk in your life, at least the part of your life being a pedestrian in downtown Danville.
The reason you may not be all that familiar with the official crosswalks downtown is because you use imaginary crosswalks. Your make-believe crosswalks are anywhere you want them to be.
Say you’re on the sidewalk on the block on Main Street across from the Boyle County Courthouse. There happens to be a crosswalk and visual display at the intersection of Main and Fourth streets just a few paces to your left and a crosswalk and visual at the intersection of Main and Third streets just a few paces to your right.
But you cannot spare the 60 or so seconds or so it would take to walk to either crosswalk and cross the street. So you pretend there is a crosswalk that runs directly from where you’re standing on the curb on the middle of the block across from the courthouse across Main to the curb in front of the courthouse.
You not only demonstrate great imaginative skills by creating your own, personal crosswalk, you display the bravery of a bullfighter as you dodge the tons of metal bulls as they stampede up and down Main. The scene looks like a small version of the running with the bulls tradition in Spain. If you survive your heroic jaunt through the dangerous traffic, you probably saved 30 seconds. To put a new twist to an old question: “Where did the pedestrian in downtown Danville cross the road? Wherever in the hell he wanted to.”
What I have described in these last few sentences is a practice commonly referred to as jaywalking. Although it really is not legal and also not encouraged by the city, someone who visits Danville for the first time or is a newcomer might think it is required.
I must confess that I am a practicing jaywalker. For any law enforcement officer who might be reading this, let me stress that I do not jaywalk all the time, and I actually do use, at least occasionally, those pretty crosswalks and obey those interesting visual displays. But I also do the jaywalking thing more than I should admit. And it struck me during a vacation a few weeks ago just how much of a jaywalker I have been.
My wife and I were visiting relatives in a town about the size of Danville in the Madison, Wis., area. When I walked to the downtown one morning, I had behaved myself for several blocks and didn’t jaywalk once. But then when I got to one of the main intersections and needed to cross the street, I couldn’t help myself. Nor could a motorist who noticed I was jaywalking.
As I walked across the street in my imaginary crosswalk lane, an elderly man slowed down to a crawl, rolled down his window and yelled, “Use the damn crosswalk! Jaywalking is against the law here!”
The yelling bull stopped me in my tracks. I slowly walked backwards to the place where I had started my illegal walking. And during the rest of my walks downtown, I used crosswalks every time I crossed the street. I even became so obsessed I would cross streets even when I didn’t have to to demonstrate I was a law-abiding visitor to their fair city.
But when I returned to Danville, I returned to my jaywalking mode. However, I am going to try to break the habit, and my motivation is the sight and sound of that angry Wisconsin motorist so indelibly recorded in my mind.
So here’s a plea to you, newcomer. Don’t get in the habit many of us longtime Danville residents are addicted to. Maybe you and your fellow newcomers can eliminate Danville’s unofficial motto.
The official motto is “City of Firsts.” The unofficial one is “Jaywalking Capital of Central Kentucky.”