Don’t Talk the Walk
Manhattan. W79th. Waiting for the light to change to cross Amsterdam Av. The DONT WALK sign announces its recorded warning, “Wait.” The man next to me grouses back at it, “E-you wait!” as he steps off the curb. Seconds later the sign changes to WALK, and I follow right behind him.
It’s a quintessential New York moment, and I smile with recognition. And it’s also a Mussar lesson—don’t be that guy.
New Yorkers are famous for J-walking. Scanning the traffic pattern, they decide when it’s safe to cross, even without a talking WALK sign. This city is in a hurry, and impatience is commonplace. But a sneering retort to a traffic signal can accustom us to speak insensitively—even to real people with real feelings.
I smile again. To reinforce the lesson, I imagine Stan Laurel obediently stopping mid-crosswalk and speaking kindly to the DONT WALK sign, “All right. Thank you. I’ll wait here.”