Cars and vampires – they’re both out to get me when darkness comes.
Truly, as a pedestrian in a powerchair — rolling virtually everywhere, in all weather, to and from work, morning and evening — I am more paranoid of cars than a seasoned buck leery of hunters. It’s survival of the fittest on the road, especially at night, big machine versus little machine, and I’m the later, the lowest of the freeway food chain, a joystick-driven soccer ball among Saabs and Subarus.
But, I’m too sly to catch, knowing the tricks of the trade, carrying my garlic, cross, and silver bullets. OK, so my garlic is an orange safety flag, my cross is a reflective jacket, and my silver bullets are signaled streetlight crossings – but, they do seem to work. After all, I haven’t been hit by a car or attacked by a vampire in several years.
Still, the whole high-visibility, nighttime tactic is a tad disconcerting to me, especially the concept of reflectors. For instance, consider how reflectors work: They illuminate when light shines on them. In my case, my jacket illuminates when car headlights shine on me. Headlights only shine on me during one condition – when a car heads right for me. Essentially, then, I’m declaring myself a cerebral-palsied deer in the headlights – and, how is that a good idea?
Getting back to the predatory world of automobiles, cars also have a higher-up on the highway hierarchy, known as the police. Flashing lights always win, so maybe there’s a lesson there for me, too. After all, they say that if you don’t want a bear to eat you, you should spread your arms, and make yourself look like a bigger bear. Maybe, if my powerchair flashed lights like a police cruiser, I’d prove precedent over cars? Now, that’s real garlic.
So, a while back, after watching a Starsky and Hutch marathon, I surfed the internet looking for an emergency vehicle strobe light that I could slap on my powerchair when in hot pursuit, or at least when trying to ward of cars and vampires on my way home from work on winter evenings. Sure, headlights and tail lights on my powerchair are a given, but slapping on a red emergency strobe ratchets it all up a notch – or tenfold.
As it turns out, for $20, you can buy a battery-powered, magnetic, flashing red emergency light that’s ideal to slap on the roof of your Starsky and Hutch edition 1976 Gran Torinos – or, my powerchair, as the case may be. And, I had to order one.
Certainly, there’s a legal question to it all, where I saw on the news that a guy was arrested for pulling over attractive women with such a flashing light just to get their phone numbers. However, there can’t be a law against a guy in a powerchair using one to fend off cars and vampires, right?
Finally, my light arrived, brilliant in form, with two flashing color modes, clear and red, turning our living room into a party fitting of the Village People at the flick of the switch. The clear flashing mode is like the strobe light used on school buses, which is great except for the fact that when I turn it on in the morning, kids from down the block come running, thinking they’re late for the school bus. The red light, though, is the gem, flashing like a fire engine or squad car blazing down the sidewalk.
Switching the light from clear to red, however, takes more bravado than one might suppose. After all, the flashing clear strobe is a known sign warning drivers to steer clear of me as with a school bus, but the flashing red strobe means there’s something to see – gawkers come one and all.
The key, then, is to know when to use the flashing red strobe. And, I learned exactly when to use it, down to the second. I was on my way home one evenings, waiting at the crosswalk light, decked out with my orange flag and reflective jacket, with my Starsky strobe light sitting unlit on my lap. As the intersecting stoplight turned to yellow, a car approaching the intersection didn’t slow, and as the stoplight turned red the car sped toward the intersection, racing to run the light. As the car blew through the intersection, I turned on my red strobe, holding it at arm’s length from where I sat on the corner. The car’s brake lights immediately illuminated, and for an instant, I was tempted the shoot out into the street, chasing after him, wondering if he’d pull over with the block or stomp on the accelerator. But, I wonder, what kind of brazen criminal would try to outrun the powerchair police?
However, realizing that it’s likely illegal for a guy in a powerchair to impersonate a police cruiser, I quickly turned off the light, and crossed the street into the darkness, hoping the cars and vampires wouldn’t get me.