I have just finished reading the obituary of Robert V. Levine (New York Times, July 6), an academic who became interested in and studied (among other things) what contributes to the breadth and depth of kindness in different cities and towns. He wasn’t looking for heroism or philanthropy, but for the likelihood that a stranger would help a stranger on a mundane, daily basis.
His conclusion, in short, was that this kindness (some might call it civility) was primarily due to “differences in factors including population density and the pace of life.”
This reinforces my own experience of living in Walla Walla: The people living here have the time and space to be kind to one other. Also in my experience, this cuts across social and economic factors. For instance, I can be trying to make a difficult turn onto the street, and a person in his (hypothetical) supersized pickup will stop and wave me in my (hypothetical) Prius to go ahead. I salute my thanks, as does he when the situation is reversed.
I love living in Walla Walla where the general rule of kindness and civility reigns, which makes another part of the living here doubly frustrating.
I am a walker and have learned to be a defensive walker above all. I was really happy when the city installed four-way stop at several intersections. That’s clear, I thought. Everyone will stop and it will be safer to cross the street.
Instead, it has become the norm for vehicles to slow down and then roll through the stop sign like they are riding bicycles. As they do so, they take a moment to glance up or down the street, checking only for other vehicles before proceeding.
What they aren’t looking for is a person (like me) trying to cross the street or a child the age of my granddaughter dashing thoughtlessly after her little white puppy who has escaped his leash.
It’s possible that drivers just feel too rushed. I would just point out if you think you’re saving time by not coming to a complete stop, consider how much later you’re going to be if you hit a pedestrian you didn’t think you had the time to look for.