A traffic light just like the ones ignored by drivers

“The worst use of time in a person’s life is when he waits for the traffic lights changing from red into green!” ― Vikrant Parsai, English teacher and author

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The most recent addition to the sign and “automotive stuff” collection surrounding “Miss Vicky” (a ’55 Ford Crown Victoria) out in the garage is a traffic light replica.

It looks just like a real traffic light, but its smaller scale fits nicely with the assortment already adorning the walls. Its smaller price tag also fits my budget nicely. Real ones sell for more than Miss Vicky did back when she was just a used car. And, it even changes from green to yellow, and to red, just like the real ones commonly ignored and abused by drivers today.

The first electric traffic signal light in the nation was installed at the corner of 105th and Euclid in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1914 according to an online article from Hemmings Motor News. “As near as can be determined,” The article reports, “… the noteworthy anniversary of traffic signal lights used at intersections was duly celebrated with the majority of American motorists continuing their recent tradition regarding traffic lights—ignoring them.”

The traffic light was just one of many topics teased by “Tonight” show host Jay Leno’s street interviews. Always good for a laugh, responses were also as mom used to say, “more painfully truthful than humorous,” typically revealing intelligence levels far below minimum requirements for life skills beyond more than just driving.

“What does the yellow light on a traffic signal mean,” evoked dumbfounded stares, “I don’t know,” and suggestions of “hurry up” or “speed up to beat the red light.” About the only answer not heard was the one any officer of the law will provide along with a ticket: traffic laws, common sense, and respect for others dictate a yellow light is a warning that the light is about to turn red, and drivers are to stop if they can safely do so.

That last part calls to mind a personal experience about what can happen if the yellow light changes to red as you pass under it while debating whether “safely to do so” was the best decision.

Christmas was nigh several years ago and Yuletide tensions were high at home. To ease those tensions, I decided one Sunday afternoon would be perfect to get away to the neighboring big city alone to find those last-minute gifts not yet secured.

Passing through one of the small communities south of Shreveport where each has its own traffic light, I saw the yellow and with a millisecond’s debate and decided, “too late to stop, I can make it.”

My second wrong assumption in less than 60 seconds was when I prematurely celebrated too quickly for seeing no flashing lights behind me. After checking my license and insurance card, the officer asked if I was headed back to Center and inquired as to my purpose for visiting Shreveport. I explained how the high level of Christmas anxiety at home prompted my thoughts that it was a good day for me to do some shopping.

“So,” the officer said, “You left your wife at home to go Christmas shopping alone?”

Not sure where he was going with that question, I stammered for an answer. Before I could formulate one, he returned my license and insurance card saying, “The next time you run away from home for some peace and quiet, stop by here and get me to go with you. Merry Christmas and drive safely.”

The worst use of time in a person’s life might be waiting for the traffic lights to change, however, moving on when the light changes regardless of what color it changes to can be much worse…unless you are stopped by an officer with Christmas spirit and a sense of humor.

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—Leon Aldridge

Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune,  the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, and the Alpine Avalanche.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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