i've spent a bit of time waving signs this week. for some very strange reason, this is an activity i enjoy. i love smiling and waving at people as they drive by (oh no, please tell me i'm not morphing into our current PM). the thing is that so many people will smile back, quite a few of them will wave & we've been getting quite a few toots.
i've been dividing my sign-waving between the labour party and the campaign for MMP. both have generally been going really well & i'll be out again tomorrow for the final push. however, i've had a couple of disturbing experiences that i wanted to share.
yesterday morning i was out with the labour team at the intersection of mill st and ulster st, best known for the big pak'n'save behind us. i was standing a couple of metres from another white male labour party member busy waving his sign, and there were people on every corner of the intersection. i'd made sure that i didn't block anyone's access, as plenty of people walk to work along the footpath i was on.
across the road comes a cyclist on the footpath (isn't that illegal). he rides past a white male waving signs across the road, rides past the white guy standing nearest to me, but decides to ride straight at me. he didn't hit me, only my sign & shocked the other people that were walking past at the time. it didn't upset me to any degree, but just showed that i'm more at risk than others when carrying out a pretty standard activity. it's a knowledge i take with me whatever i do. this is why i'm so keen that police record data about the ethnicity of victims of crime - which they consistently refuse to do. just like people of colour tend to feature highly as perpetrators of crime, i suspect they also feature pretty highly as victims of crime. but of course we don't know, and the police aren't intersted in helping us find out. i've raised this issue at various forums, but it has been raised by people who are much more important and influential than me.
it's not that other people don't get negative reactions when out sign-waving. of course they do. there are people that will give us a thumbs-down or the finger, yell out "go national" or i had a woman yell "get lost, i hate MMP". the thing is that i also get the additional layer of people who'll tell me to go back home or some such. a dude in a red car on monday evening gave me that with the swear words included, and when i gave him my usual response of blowing him a kiss and yelling "love you too!", he started screaming at me. luckily he'd gone too far past me so i couldn't hear the actual words and because of the traffic, he couldn't stop and get out so i was safe enough.
this sort of thing isn't going to stop me, of course. and i'm not sure why my response to these kinds of idiots is different when sign-waving compared to the rage-induced response i give when in the supermarket or somewhere else. i guess it's because i know the frustration people are feeling when they see us advertising something they passionately object to, they want to put us down and they feel even more frustrated when we refuse to rise to the bait and give them a cheerful response. so i'm not being particularly noble when i give a positive response, because i know that response in that context actually needles them more than a negative one.
the more disturbing incident happened yesterday afternoon when waving MMP signs at the corner of kilarney road & greenwood st. some dude was on his evening jog as he ran towards me. he stopped to have a discussion with me, which started with him telling me what i was doing was dangerous and i needed to stop.
i told him he must be joking - i've been doing this for years, and have yet to see a single accident. he then told me he works with NZTA, and that sign-waving was distracting to the traffic and i could have caused an accident. he had apparently made the greens stop at a nearby intersection the day before. i told him he was a bit over the top, people have been waving signs across the country for years and it's not dangerous. "but this is state highway 1" he says. and i'm like "so, i've been sign-waving on the cobham drive bridge many times, that's state highway 1 too. never had a single incident."
at one point, he asks me if i would like to go with him to visit "mrs johnson" when her husband had died in a car crash, and i'm like "dude, if anyone has died in a car crash because of people waving signs, then i will happily come with you". it carried on for a bit, and finally i said "well that's your opinion, i disagree". he says "no, my opinion is NZTA opinion because i work there". he had repeatedly asked who was the contact person, and i'd pointed her out. he said he'd be sending an email the next day. as he was about to cross the road, i told him that i wanted to see the evidence in his email regarding the number of crashes caused by sign-waving; data about causes of car accidents is collected so i'm sure he could provide it".
he walked across the road, said something to the guy waving signs there, then across again to the person "in charge". he then continues on his run, and our woman crosses the road as if to stop. i told her to ignore him and we carried on.
but seriously, this guy works at the NZTA and thinks he can shut down political expression just on the basis of his personal opinion? without having to consult anyone and without having to provide any evidence? he thinks because he works at NZTA, he carries the authority of the whole organisation, without having to consult with anyone else at NZTA even?
i don't know the exact law here. but i'm thinking about the banning of cellphones while driving. before they could ban that, they provided research and gave the numbers. they had to go through the whole legal process - select committee hearings, opportunities for public submissions, a public debate. not just some random dude working for the NZTA suddenly deciding he was going to stop people.
people are sign-waving right now across the whole country, from every political party. candidates from local body elections wave signs, even (shock, horror) on highway 1. protesting teachers were waving signs a couple of years ago, some of them on (you guessed it) state highway 1 - to be specific, outside the hillcrest burger king at the corner of cambridge & morrinsville roads. striking workers sign-wave. does this dude think he is single-handedly going to stop all of these people across the country and for all time from getting one of the only effective forms of free publicity available to them?
i've no doubt that there may have been the odd car accident due to sign-waving. but i doubt there have been any serious accidents. if there has been the odd prang, i don't think that's enough cause to ban an activity like this. i'm quite certain that i won't be stopping until said person turns up with the police who have a warrant for my arrest and who can show me the bit of the law that specifically bans the waving of signs. until then, he can just get lost. i won't be moving. and i'll be smiling and waving all the while.