Friday, August 10, 2012

Traffic lights are my friends. Traffic lights are my friends. Traffic lights are my friends.

Photo credit: 13dede / stock.xchng

Age is supposed to make you less afraid of life. For me, it is having the opposite effect. It may be because I understand more than ever what one careless error (by me or someone else) will cost. The more I am grateful for life, the harder I hang on to it.

This attitude has blossomed most spectacularly in my attitude towards traffic lights, of all things. Not too long ago, a traffic light was red, yellow, or green, and I had confidence after twenty-two years of driving that I knew what to do no matter what color was above my path.

Now I am far more eager to see red lights than green ones.

Red lights are certainty. They are as unambiguous as a STOP sign – you are supposed to STOP. Not think about whether or not you will stop.

Green lights are uncertainty. It could be green a few seconds more, just enough for you to cross the intersection…or it could jump up to yellow, warning you that STOP time is imminent.

Imagine a green light far away from you on the road. If you are lucky, it will turn yellow and then red before you are in the intersection…or when you are at least in the middle of it.

What lies between is a strip of road in which you ask:

When is this light going to turn red? Should I slow down or speed up? I can’t afford a $480 ticket (current fine for red-light running in California). Should I slow down or speed up? Oh, no, I can’t help but slow down in anticipation of the red that’s going to come. What if someone rear-ends me? Should I speed up or – yellow light! SCREEECH!

Everyday driving should not be as heart-pounding as a ride on the Thunderbolt (Cyclone, Colossus, Kingda Ka – pick your favorite roller coaster). But the more I drive, the more anxious I get about this. What, besides taking anti-anxiety drugs, should I do about this?

If only the traffic lights would let us know…

Actually, they can. Just not in America.

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