001: Wait

A man stood on the corner of 39th and Jefferson. His palm pressed a button with an arrow on it. The button clicked each time he pressed it. A rhythm emerged from his furious button pressing. And then a voice demanded, “Wait.”

The button presser stopped. He slipped his hand into his coat pocket. The automated voice repeated itself, “Wait.”

Now he was the waiter. He stood alone on the corner, pressing his toes closer to the curb. There was a fierce wind that cut through the city and he shivered.


How silly, he thought, to be told to do something by a pole. He leaned his torso over the edge. He squinted his eyes to a small florescent sign across the street. It was a hand. The hand was red. It was made up of tiny red bulbs. The bulbs had palms. Its palms were outstretched, signaling no. He thought that was silly, too.


He looked to the left, to the right, and to the left again. It was late in the evening. There were no cars on the road. His toes crossed the edge of the curb; he stretched himself out even more to see around the row of parked cars. He saw a headlight in the distance. And then he considered defying the demand.


Now the machine is pressing my buttons, he thought. He was a human being. He did not enjoy being told what to do. He thought back to a time where pedestrians used common sense. The automated voice had been added to all the crosswalks in the city last year. He squinted at the blaring hand. The waiter found himself at crosswalks in his life often. To get around in the city it was necessary to cross streets. And every time the pole told him to wait he felt the urge to cross the sea of cement. He stepped off the edge. He stood on a white painted bridge. He thought of how simple it would be to walk.


He had done it a million times before— stood where he was. Sometimes he crossed without permission. Sometimes he waited for the hand to flash green. The bulbs would form a figure in stride. He would follow. Before the automated voice he would usually wait. But the voice, he thought, the voice is what gets me! He wished that people read. If they could only read symbols, he thought, then I wouldn’t have a pole telling me what to do. It would tell him, “Crosswalk is on across Jefferson Street.” And he would feel the urge to turn his head and sneer, “No shit, Sherlock.” He wouldn’t listen to that urge. He’d bottled it up for his next confrontation with the machine a block ahead.


He looked to the left, to the right, and to the left again. He noticed that he was alone. The headlight had turned and there was not a body in sight. This realization seemed to have sparked the waiter.

“No shit, Sherlock.” He smiled. He pressed the button again. It clicked.


He took a step forward. He squinted off at the red hand and continued to take steps across the slanted white lines. He walked away from the voice that told him to wait. So that when it gave him permission to cross he could no longer hear it. Instead he saw an image of a man.


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