Why did the bird cross the road in Salt Lake City?

I was in Salt Lake City for my job thingy. I expected craziness. I expected Mormons proselytizing me at every corner. I expected to have to buy a club membership to get a drink. But it hasn’t happened that way; so far, you get a drink just like anywhere else. And the locals I met have been pleasant and polite.

I wasn’t expecting new modes and methods of crossing the street. Who knew?

First off, Salt Lake City’s Walk/Don’t Walk electronic signs at crosswalks (you know, the white walking man and the red hand) are supplemented with bird chirps and whistles, piped into little crosswalk speaker boxes.

I kid you not.

“Cross now” is translated into bird tweet (which bird species’ dialect, I don’t know), and it sounds like a high pitched “chee.” The “don’t walk” cheep is a lower-register “wee-ert.”

This immediately caused my conference colleagues to make smart-ass remarks. I may have made one or two myself. Good for the blind, right? But what if you hear a bird that sounds like the “cross now” bird, and end up stepping into the path of a semi? What if, God forbid, a mockingbird takes up nearby residence?

And, as my friend Margery said, “Why would you listen to a bird anyway?” Birds, with their teeny-weeny brains, are not particularly renowned for their street-crossing advice.

Well, don’t worry. Because you can wave an orange flag around furiously instead.

In lieu of crosswalks, here and there, there are semi crosswalks. Pseudo crosswalks. They aren’t at lights. They’re in-between lights. No walking man, no red hand. Just the crosswalk hash painted on the street with the word “look,” and little orange flags to carry with you.

Again, with the me, the you, and the not kidding.

The sign says to wave the orange flag as you walk across, “to help increase your visibility.” I tried it out, and let me tell you, I waved the heck out of that flag. I waved that flag as I have never waved anything before.

So if you hear the bird say “go!” in Utah, grab your flag, close your eyes, and run like hell.

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