Rothman: Rebellion by jaywalk

When people ask me where I’m from, I say New York. If they inquire further, I say I’m from just outside New York City. It takes great persistence to pull out the fact that I actually reside across the Hudson River from Manhattan, in Bergen County, New Jersey. But really, I reassure those who ask, I’m from New York. I was born in a New York City hospital, my father works downtown, and, most importantly, I jaywalk like a New Yorker.

I jaywalk without a second thought — across busy streets, empty roads, dirt paths — and I brought this skill with me to New Haven. With all the construction that is going on, the skill has proved useful. I can dodge crowds at corners and skip around scaffolding. I remember from geometry that the quickest path between two points is a straight line, and I derive intellectual pleasure in applying this knowledge to my everyday life, jaywalking to expedite my journey.

I’m never alone when I jaywalk, particularly across Elm Street going from Old Campus to Cross Campus. However, I was singled out en route to math class the morning of Sept. 10. After completing a particularly nice maneuver — around a construction truck that was unloading — an officer waved me over. The next thing I knew, I was holding a pink warning slip. Issued by the state of Connecticut, the slip indicated that I had committed a crime under light traffic and sunny weather at half-past ten in the morning. “Motor vehicle violation” was printed at the top, but under offense, the officer hastily had scribbled “crosswalk.”

I’ve never received so much as a parking ticket. I like safety and rules; I’m a cautious driver and value the importance of the law in giving order to society. But now that I’ve tread outside the law, having taken my first step in a new life of crime, who’s to say what I’ll do next? First, there’s jaywalking, but next thing you know, I’ll be vandalizing cars and stealing televisions. Crime is a slippery slope, and I’ll have to work hard to make sure that my four years at Yale aren’t followed by four years in prison. What sorts of shenanigans will I get mixed up in next?

Seriously, I appreciate what the police department is trying to do. I know they want to keep students safe. Issuing a few warnings is a sensible way to convey a message about that safety. But staring down at my pink ticket, I didn’t feel a sense of delinquency or guilt, but only one of amusement and incredulity, as in, “They ticketed me? For jaywalking?”

I haven’t told my parents about my ticket yet, but when I do, I suspect they will laugh rather than chastise me for my crosswalk violation. I imagine that my younger brother will snort at my wrongdoing; my dad will try to keep a snicker back; and my mom will wonder if I now have a criminal record. (I really, really hope I don’t have a criminal record. Is my name in the system now? Will I be called in for lineups? Will a judge give me a harsher sentence in court?)

Until I’m called to the police station, I have the slip posted on the bulletin board above my desk. When I look at it, a giggle catches in my throat, though I’m sure I won’t be laughing when would-be employers run background checks on my criminal history and find this blemish.

The ticket did have an impact: I didn’t step outside a crosswalk for the remainder of the day. The next day, though, I was back to jaywalking — dodging cars, avoiding construction and doing what a true New Yorker does best. Criminal record, be damned.


  • 2010

    This is the worst thing the YDN has published since I've been at Yale. You're not from New York AT ALL. NYers don't jaywalk - they'd DIE. AND THEY'RE NOT FROM JERSEY.

    I can see Russia from my house. Therefore I know foreign policy. Same crap logic.

  • T-Bone

    You're not from New York City.
    Not Son of Sam, not Al Sharpton, not Serpico, not even the Latin Kings jaywalk in NYC.

  • diana

    Um, excuse me, Mr. By 2012 Unregistered User commenter, but I believe this is a humorous piece and that you are a complete tosspot. Are you, in fact, from NY? Can you actually confirm that no one in NYC jaywalks? Because they do. And oh, one more thing, they don't die. Stop criticizing her article and write one yourself you lazy loser.

  • Yalie from Kansas

    As a person from a small Kansas town who is so used to "jaywalking" (if the term even applies, ha!)…