It was about a week ago when I was strutting down the sidewalk all jolly and joyful, waving my arms around like a newly-appointed beekeeper who accidentally poked a wasp nest, when I must have lost my reflector. It probably got caught behind my flailing arms or was not secured well enough, and just popped off of the string that it was tied to.
Personally, I thought there were two places where it might have happened. Either when I was about to arrive and pulled my keys out of the same pocket that the reflector called its home, or when I crossed the road in the beam of a car’s headlights and was intentionally swinging it around like, “Hey! Look at me! I am a law-abiding dutiful citizen who makes herself visible in our dark autumn nights. Can you see me? Can you?!”. But when I went back, I could not see my reflector in neither of those places. Not that I spent a lot of time and effort trying to find it.
According to the Estonian traffic law, it is mandatory to wear a reflector when it is dark or when the visibility is subpar. You can even get fined if you do not have a reflector. Although, admittedly, our police is awfully nice and will usually let you go with a warning and a free reflector.
I remember the first and only time (so far) when the police stopped me for not having a reflector. I was underage and out at odd hours because of a get-together (some kind of an end of summer celebration?) at the local watering hole. We had gone a bit further from the party with a couple of friends, and were hanging out by the roadside. Although it was summer, it was pitch black outside. There were no stars, no moon, no street lights. I could not even see the guy standing three meters away from me, let alone the two policemen who had taken interest in the loitering underage delinquents. They walked up to us, shone flashlights unto us, asked for proof of identity, made us breathe in the alcometer, and gave us a firm talking-to about the dangers of dawdling on a road without reflectors. Having had little to no contact with any member of the force before, I was pretty sure my name had been put on some kind of a registry until I turned 18, so till then, I wore reflectors almost religiously.
In any case, reflectors make pedestrians (who, for some unknown reason, always wear black clothes when it is dark outside – like seriously, what happened to bright coats?) easier to see in the gloomy and low-lit Estonian roads. As a driver, I can confirm that it is extremely difficult to see non-reflective dark-clothed people, especially when I am being blinded by the headlights of the cars approaching me. The more reflectors you have on you, the lower the probability of getting hit by a car that did not see you walking down the road. The added bonus being that you look like you have just stepped out of Lady Gaga’s music video.
Recently, I stumbled upon a pair of reflector gloves at a local store. After a short debate with myself about whether I really need another pair of gloves, I decided to get them because they appeared to be practical. This has been one of the best buys I have made and I have been meaning to go back to get another pair or two. These gloves are warm-ish, they have rubber lining in the palms, they reflect light in the dark, and they do not dangle off my side – all of which make them perfect for walking the dog. I really need to get another pair of these.
Another splendid visibility purchase I have made were these rechargeable LED sneakers. Tacky for some, but I like them. They have optic fibers throughout the sneaker so almost the whole foot lights up. And they have different colour combinations, some of which look truly amazing. However, I got white ones and I can only wear them as long as I stick to dry pavement – they are not easy to clean. The batteries can last for a while, though. I have not measured the exact time, but I am pretty sure they could last for a moderate night out. They were also effective as bike lights in the Netherlands (I only have this video on Instagram, sorry). I bring about smiles whenever I walk in the street with my RGB LED sneakers, so I try to do it often.
Just as you thought that having to charge your shoes sounds like an unnecessarily silly first-world problem, let me surprise you with a hat that was gifted to me by my beloved partner. Seemingly a regular hat, it rocks an integrated LED headlight with three glorious light modes: blind-me-blimey, shine-my-heinie, and flashy-ashes. The light can be taken out for when you wash the hat, and it can be charged using a regular USB-port. I used mine for some extra hands-fee spotlight while painting my bedroom walls, so I vouch for its practicality. I am not sure where my partner got mine, but if you are interested, these ones on Aliexpress look similar.
Coming back to the reflector I misplaced about a week ago… As I was walking the same route today – the route I walk every day, including the day I lost my reflector, – I noticed something shining on the ground near a crosswalk. I stooped down and behold! – it was my reflector. I think. It looked like the one I had attached to my clothes, it had my company’s name written on it, and it was on my walking route. If reflectors could speak, I would have asked it about its adventures, but since they cannot, I simply picked it up and put it back to where it belonged. This time securing it with five knots on top of each other. Not that they will hold, but it is better than nothing.
If you, too, have recently lost your reflector or, god forbid, you do not even own one yet, you should check out these Estonian designs: Helk, Krentu, KUMA, ExtraWize, Velkur, Reflective Zoo. Stay visible so I do not hit you with my car!