I declare it official: The red light is the new stop sign.
Some time in the past, the stop sign lost its clout. Those big red octagons that looked so daunting when they were first erected no longer strike fear in drivers’ hearts, respect in their minds, nor even, in most cases, notice in their vision.
Everyone from my home state is familiar with the infamous “Massachusetts rolling stop”. To my great shame, I practice it myself more often than I care to admit. The MRS, as I’ve just now acronymed (a noun I just verbed) it, saves time and gas, but probably outweighs those savings in damage to property, not to mention life and limb.
There’s also the damage to societal integrity. The ethics of a civilization are not destroyed in a day with hammer blows, but over ages by the barely noticeable chisel chips.
I’m not saying we’re doomed to an inexorable slide into an abyss of moral depravity because we’re not stopping at stop signs, but once we emasculate the meaning of “stop”, what’s next? That’s what I’m here to tell you.
The once inviolable red light is going the way of the stop sign. This isn’t new, but it’s reached a new level. Certainly no one can miss the fact that the delay between when the light turns red and when people stop has lengthened over time. Today, two or three seconds is not unusual.
My brother used to say that a light goes from yellow to pink (though orange would be more appropriate) before turning red. As long as it remained pink – a time span defined by one’s own judgment – he was OK with going ahead.
That was then, this is now. The line has moved.
Twice in the past week, I’ve been waiting at red lights only to watch other cars pull up, look around (whether it was for physical danger or for law enforcement, I can’t be sure) and zip through the impotent red glow.
Maybe it’s because we’re all so darned important. If we don’t get through that light in less than the 15 seconds it delays us, it’s curtains for the free world as we know it. The terrorists win. The patient dies. The toilet seat is left up.
If you’re observant, you’ll begin seeing this for yourself. Most of the time, no harm is done. Eventually, though, harm will be done. It will be deadly. And it will be irreversible.
Something to think about while waiting at a red light.