Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Voluntary Pledge: A Story

My husband Dave works for a company that is located on a busy road.
Not a wide road, only two lanes, but a busy one.

Across from his company, there is a grocery store, which includes a cafe, sushi counter, sandwich shop, and salad bar.

To get from Work to Grocery Store, employees must cross this busy road. 
There are hundreds of employees, and so at any given time during the day, you can see handfuls of them jogging across the road to go grab a cup of coffee, or a sub, or sushi. 

When I say jogging, I should also say, sprinting.  Because although it is a direct route, the cars going down the street do not slow down.

A pedestrian cross was installed.  And still the cars did not slow down.

A yellow BE CAREFUL sign was installed.

And the cars did not slow down.

I have both crossed this road as a pedestrian (and nearly been hit), and driven this road (and nearly hit someone).

When I was nearly hit, I was infuriated that the driver was not paying attention enough to see me.  The nerve!

But, when I nearly hit someone, I saw that this particular spot in the road sort of popped up.
And that while I respond quickly to traffic lights or stop signs, it took me another 1/2 second to register the BE CAREFUL sign, mixed in with the many worker bees that covered the sidewalk on both sides of the road.  Be Careful?  What should I Be Care....oh look!  Someone's on my windshield.

I also realized that while STOP grabs my attention, BE CAREFUL feels more like a suggestion.
The yellow sign feels like, Would You Please Take A Moment And Look Around You, Kindly?

This was not a pseudo problem, not a mere annoyance.  Three employees were struck by vehicles this past year, and sustained injuries.

A traffic light was installed.  And guess what?  When the light is red, cars stop.    
No one has been struck by a car since the installation.
There is no more confusion, or sprinting across the road while trying not to slosh your latte.

I tell this story here because in reading this article in the NY Times, I read this sentence:
Since 2006, 17 major corporations — including General Mills, McDonald’s, Pepsi, Coca-Cola and Burger King — have taken a voluntary pledge to reduce marketing of their least nutritious brands to children, an effort they updated last year to include marketing on mobile devices.
I take a voluntary pledge to drive cautiously every time I get in my car.
But, sometimes I fail.

When I've been pulled over for the occasional infraction, I don't say, "But I took a pledge!  Didn't you see the agreement that I wrote up this morning that I signed myself?  I said I would try!  Awwww man!  Why you always on me!"

People who run corporations are people.  Some of them are impeccable drivers, and some of them are not.  When the rule is the same for everyone, regardless of whether they've made the Girl Scout's Promise, both the consumer and the company are protected.  In a way that is fair, and universally understood.

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