There are a few things New Yorkers just know: to steer clear of street hot dogs, that the best Italian food's probably not in Little Italy, and to disregard the "don't walk" sign. Yes, despite the dangers of jaywalking, it seems that red flashing hand is more of a suggestion than a law. And while we've seen some pretty close calls, we've never seen anyone in cuffs for playing dumb to the traffic signal. So, we were appropriately shocked when we heard the story of three New Yorkers nearly getting booked for the "crime." We're not saying you shouldn't look both ways, or that the light's not there for a reason. We're just saying that a little dose of reason is what we expect from the police, too. PR maven Blair brings us the full story, in first person, below.
"Why was Wednesday night different from all other nights? First of all, it was Yom Kippur. So, after attending a break-the-fast party (i.e. pigging out after a day of no fasting), I met up with a couple of friends for a round of beers at 124 Rabbit Club, in Greenwich Village. That’s nothing out of the ordinary though. What really made this night special was nearly getting a summons to criminal court for jaywalking. Yep, you heard me. Jaywalking.
At roughly 9:45PM, along with my friends Chris and Johanna, I crossed Washington Square North. We looked to the right and saw some cars pretty far off, but went for it. Was this really illegal? Any proper New Yorker knows that you’ve got to move fast in this town. My God, if I didn’t jaywalk as often as I do, I’d be set back at least a week in time. After crossing the street with time to spare, a police car pulled up with the lights flashing. Two police officers jumped out. Was it Arrested Development’s Tobias Fünke and the hot cops? No. Far from it.
Officer Torres took the lead, demanding our ID’s. We handed them over, confused as to what we were even in trouble for. Without any explanation, he presented us with a question. 'Alright, who’s going to take one for the team?' I quickly explained that I didn’t understand what this was in regards to. He barked his question again and I repeated my answer. Finally, he said, 'If I'd kept my car at normal speed coming down the road, I would've hit you. You’re a disruption! Now which one of you is going to take one for the team?' We huddled up and debated. Bystanders snapped photos on their iPhones. Should Johanna do it? She’s a consultant and has flexible hours. No, no, that seemed unfair. A bad feeling took over — a feeling I hadn’t felt since my friends were busted for fake ID’s in 2005. Torres grew impatient and interrupted our philosophical debate: 'That’s enough! All of you are getting summoned to criminal court and will potentially face up to six months of probation! If you don’t show up, there will be a warrant out for your arrest.' A biker whizzed by, facing the opposite direction of traffic; pot smoke wafted from the NYU dorms above us and into the night sky. I finally mustered up the courage to ask if he was aware of how much jaywalking actually took place in New York City. 'Yes,' he replied gruffly, 'but I have a quota to fill and you three are going to fill it.' 'But I pay my taxes!' I cried out. He rolled his eyes and ran back to the police car with our ID’s. The cops whispered amongst themselves for a few minutes and Torres returned. His eyes narrowed and he handed back our ID’s. 'Here’s the deal,' he said, 'I don’t want to see your faces again for the next week. If I see you messing up again, you are in for it. And if you give me any lip, I will cuff you and take you down to the station. Understood?' We nodded. And off they went.
The take away? Three points: 1) Take your sweet time in dealing with the police. It’s likely that a more pressing matter will come up and they’ll have to re-prioritize their criminal dealings. 2) The NYPD have far too much time on their hands. 3) Perhaps going out for fancy Belgian beer isn’t the best way to wrap up the Day of Atonement."
Photo: Flickr.com/Tanya Hyde