Day 69 of 98 – Problem solved… possibly

25 Nov

Yesterday I came one step closer to solving a problem that has plagued me for many years now.

As most of you are aware, I don’t have a car. This means that I do a lot of walking, especially in the winter when it is too dangerous to bike. Often times when I’m out I see cars driving around with their headlights off. As a pedestrian I rely on these lights to determine the location and approximate speed of vehicular traffic at night. This is important when one is trying to navigate on foot in an urban environment. If I happen to be driving and an oncoming car does not have its lights on I simply flick my high-beams. This is the universal signal for “hey man, your lights are off”.

The problem is that there is no universally accepted way for a pedestrian to signal to a motorist that their lights are off. This is compounded by the fact that most of the existing gestures are all ready taken.

  • Arm extended, thumb raised – can you give me a lift up the road / I approve of your action
  • Eye contact, non-obvious head nod, no facial expression –  first rule of fight club / hello
  • Single arm raised to shoulder height, hand open, head nod – thanks
  • Single arm extended, finger pointed at other driver – you go
  • Jumping up and down, waiving hands – please stop I’m having an emergency / I want to steal your car
  • Hands in front, open, palms perpendicular to the ground – stop please

All of the different gestures I’ve tried in the past have failed. The worst part is the one I thought would be most effective did not work at all. I figured that if the vehicle-to-vehicle signal uses the high beams then logically, the human-to-vehicle one should too. Makes sense on paper but not in practice. I can say with confidence that rubbing ones chest with two fingers will succeed in getting the attention of passing motorists, but it will not result in them turning their headlights on.

So yesterday after I left the pub, I was waiting to cross the road and this car pulled out of its parking spot. It was dark and the driver had forgotten to turn his headlights on. I angled my body so he could see me, I put my hands out in front, palms up, and I simply raised them to shoulder height and voila, he turned on his lights.

It was the happiest day of my life.

If you can think of a better way to get people to click through, I would love to hear it.


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