Red Light Green Light

What is it with people? I’m serious, folks – can someone explain the phenomenon of accelerating towards a red light? I just don’t get it.

I’m toodling along in my car. I see that the light ahead of me is red. I do not accelerate. I don’t assume that a light that’s just turned red is going to be green in 50 feet. And even if it had been red for awhile, I wouldn’t accelerate because there are too many stupid people out there who run red lights. [I’m entitled to say this as I was a stupid person once and did $6000 worth of damage to a car I’d yet to make the first payment on. I just didn’t see the damn light.]

As soon as I see a red light, I do not brake, but I do ease up on the accelerator. Besides just basic common sense (which as Twain said was neither), this method provides better fuel economy and brakes last far longer. I get more mileage out of brakes than anyone I know – and it’s not because I don’t ever use ‘em. It’s because I don’t do the foot switcheroo of racing to the stoplight only to slam on the brakes. At the appropriate time, I begin braking – a gentle process which does not send stuff flying off the seat of the car.

People, particularly those near the university, get annoyed with me. They pass me, race to the stoplight, slam on their brakes and at the next light, I who have had a serene stoplight experience, am still neck and neck with the Accelerator Asshole.

And it’s not just red lights. Something about the red, I think. The Matador and the Bull Syndrome, I call it. Red brake lights will provoke Accelerator Assholes too.

My Ex used to drive me crazy. We made a fair number of road trips, the most horrific of which was the annual pilgrimage to Milwaukee. There is no efficient way to get to Milwaukee from here without going through Chicago. As a matter of fact, going straight through Chicago is much less fraught with fear and anxiety attacks than is the by-pass around Chicago. Except for, roughly, the hours between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m., the entire population of Chicago is in separate cars on the interstate. By the time you factor in truckers, tourists, and poor lost souls, 25% of the US population is trying to get out of Chicago. Hell is rush hour in the Windy City – it’s 80 mph bumper to bumper.

There would be a sea of red brake lights. Hundreds of cars with their brake lights quite visibly engaged. The man I was married to for 20 years would speed up every time. I’d kick a hole in the passenger side floorboards trying to hit that imaginary brake some folks think exist on that side of the car and which I think a real one needs to be installed on any car I ride in.

I’d glare at him. He’d look at me and say, “What?” I’d tell him what. Every trip we did this. Every trip we had this conversation. Every trip I needed a valium by the time we were hauling suitcases out of the car.

I was once a brake light that someone slammed into. In the guy’s defense, I guess, his story was that he was distracted by a dog and didn’t notice the light had changed. Nonetheless, I’d been sitting at the stoplight by the post office long enough to pull out the envelopes I needed to mail. [And believe it or not, the guy admitted fault to me, the cops, and his co-workers – he was in a company truck – and nearly 3 years later we are no closer to settling this damn thing than we were in April of 2007. Do not ever get into a car accident with a Major Utility.]

Because I am not and never have been an Accelerator Asshole, I am alive.

In 1979, I slid on a patch of ice at a railroad crossing and slid into a moving train. As was my wont, when I saw the train warning lights, I had eased up on the gas and was beginning the gentle braking process. Had I been either accelerating or going fast enough to need to slam on the brakes, I would be dead. Serious.

The cop at the scene said to me, “I expected to have to scrape you out of this car with a spoon.” As it was, the train dragged me a bit, but the ice would slide me around so it was bump, drag, bounce, bump, drag, bounce until the train finally stopped. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life – yes, a moderately-fast-moving train takes that long to stop. I didn’t have a scratch on me although I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. The car was totaled.

For years, I couldn’t drive over train tracks without a supreme case of the heebie jeebies.

Today, I am preparing to stop at the red light by the train tracks near the university. Accelerator asshole behind me whips his car around mine and runs the light. It was not yellow, it was blazing red. Some testosterone ridden frat boy (is that redundant?) was not to be outdone, so he ran the light too and the two of them raced to the next light. Dueling Accelerator Assholes – just exactly what I want on my morning commute. Yeah, boy.

There is no justice. Had I pulled a stunt like that, my butt would be in jail or, at the very least, in traffic court.

Believe it or not, I do not have even the slightest tendency towards road rage. It’s pointless and does nothing but ruin my mood. When these things happen, I marvel at the stupidity and continue toodling along in my normal fashion. I do take great delight in sitting at a stoplight and smiling at the driver, who three stoplights back, got his panties all tangled up because I was driving “too slow” – I always want to say, “Well, darlin’, would you look at this – here we both are and yet. . .” But I don’t. Other people seem to have bad cases of road rage and, with my luck, Accelerator Asshole would shoot me or something.

So,w hat stupid thing do drivers do that gets you to wondering about the collective intelligence of humans?

6 Comments

Filed under February 2010

6 responses to “Red Light Green Light

  1. Roger

    I used to drive a lot in my job. I frequently drove one route that took 4 hours to make at a tire squealing pace. I was a beautiful drive but I rarely noticed the scenery.

    One day I had a brain spasm, or some such thing, and decided to slow down and enjoy the scenery.

    That trip took me 4 hours and 12 minutes. Since that time, I take the “scenery drive” and arrive relaxed and feeling oh so superior.

    The stupid thing I see most often is a driver passing on a blind curve while on the cell phone or putting on lipstick. Many of these drivers are male. The lipstick then really bothers me.

    • Exactly. When gas hit $4 a gallon, I slowed down – way down. It added a whopping 8 minutes to commute, improved my gas mileage and provided a much more pleasurable drive. I noticed I’m inching closer to our 70 mph speed limit again – not sure way. Slow down, breathe. . .

  2. Dee

    I’m right there with you on the braking. I have 146,000 miles on my CR-V and STILL have the original rear brakes. The fronts have been replaced once.

    We have a saying in my car — FIDO — Forget It, Drive On. Living adjacent to the 4th largest university in the U.S., I get to think it often.

    RED — oh RED! We have a red Mustang. It is a challenge to every FRAT boy in town. They must challenge me at EVERY light, EVERY time. It gets tiring. Why on EARTH do they feel the need to challenge a little old lady that is just on her way to the grocery store for eggs. :::rolling my eyes:::

    Ahhhhhhhh…I guess it’s just the way of boys — no matter WHAT age they be.

    • I drive a Monte Carlo SS. I get the same thing even though it’s black.

      I like that FIDO thing.

      Um, so what exactly is an egg-eating old lady doing driving a red Mustang? Hmmm?

      [Connie hums Little Old Lady from Pasadena]

  3. I’m with you on this. In fact I could have almost written this. I don’t accelerate into intersections at all, unless I’ve been drinking. (Kidding)!

    I preach to my husband all the time about this, you’d think he’d get sick of it. We generally have nothing to be in a hurry about, not that it’s a good excuse anyway. I always say if your in a hurry you can’t afford to have an accident or get pulled over.

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