By DOROTHEA BENTON FRANK
For Montclair Local
“Dot’s Desk” looks at life from the point-of-view of a bestselling author. Dorothea Benton Frank has written 18 books that have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list. Her first novel, “Sullivan’s Island,” published in 2000, debuted on the New York Times list at number nine and went back to press over 25 times.
Frank was born and raised on Sullivans Island, SC. She divides her time between the Lowcountry of South Carolina and Montclair. Past board service includes The Montclair Art Museum, Whole Theater Company, The Drumthwacket Foundation, The NJ State Council on the Arts and The NJ Cultural Trust.
My sweet husband and I have lived in Montclair for 32 years. Like many others, we moved here from the city. At first, we thought we were in the country because there were deer in our yard. I loved them. They were charming. We called them Bambi. Then they ate all my tulips and I hated their guts. So much for that.
Still, we marveled over the parking meters. They actually took pennies and nickels and we were charmed. So quaint! We said. Can you imagine? Pennies! They have a use for them here in the countryside of Montclair! Now they take credit cards and there’s a parking enforcement officer lurking everywhere. Things have changed. And while we’re on the topic? Um, hello Town Fathers? The holidays are coming. There’s not enough parking in this town. It’s hard to find a spot to park and support our local merchants. And don’t we pay enough taxes to do away with parking meters? You do know that Amazon is eating the world alive and it’s free to park at the malls? Forgive me, I digress.
Then we were in awe of Montclair’s aging population. There were scores of seniors out walking, driving and just living their lives, a sea of white hair that didn’t move to Boca. They seemed to run the town. The women’s committee at the museum, the Garden Club of Montclair, The Iris Gardens — so many retired people doing a variety of worthy things to improve the lives of all our citizens. I got involved. Hey I didn’t mind that I was only in my 30s. They opened their arms and taught me how to make my own mulch and how to organize events. I loved it here then and I still do now. Montclair is a bit like a beehive. There’s something to do at every stage in our lives. And it’s a growing, thriving and very cool metropolis.
But people, we’ve got to talk about crosswalks and common sense. Forty-two pedestrians were hit and injured in Montclair during 2017. Who knows what 2018 is going to look like? I bring this up because two weeks ago, I almost creamed a guy with his child on Valley Road when he stepped out from behind a van. I slammed on my brakes and he gave me some hairy eyeball. He was so unapologetic I wanted to call his parents. He didn’t even look up until he heard the screech of my brakes. Yes, I know, pedestrians have the right of way but they’d still be ill-advised to do a grand jeté out into the middle of Valley Road from behind a parked vehicle.
It’s October and getting darker earlier. Pedestrians and drivers are too cavalier about this crosswalk business and, it seems, very distracted.
The solution, of course, to not getting squashed like a bug underfoot is to employ a little common sense. Like, don’t stop your car on the railroad tracks? Didn’t your momma ever tell you how to safely cross the street? As a pedestrian, take your earbuds out and look both ways, carefully, before you put your toe in the crosswalk. If you can possibly wait for a moment for that single approaching car to pass before putting your life and my nervous system in jeopardy, please do so. Pedestrians be warned that there are a lot of old boomers like me who still drive.
If you are driving, look out for the people with the earbuds and smart phones who are self-assured that their right of way should be exercised with impunity. Put your phones away too. There’s a setting in your phone to tell people you’ll return their call when you reach your destination. Pedestrians are depending on you to notice them. If you don’t, they will be dead right.