Sunday, February 22, 2009

Seeing RED

"When I heard the crash on the highway...
I knew what it was from the start.
I went to the scene of destruction...
A picture was stamped on my heart."

From the song Wreck on the Highway, Dorsey Dixon, Singer Roy Acuff

When I was in the first grade, I made a stop light from an old quart milk container. I remember fumbling with those awkward little scissors as I cut out the black construction paper which would cover the box before me. I remember it still smelled like milk and I remember using a popsicle stick to smear thick white paste on one side of the thick paper.

I also remember being scolded by the nuns for sneaking licks of my paste covered fingers. I can still remember that bitter sweet taste in my mouth and the sting of a yard stick on the back of my head.

Damn nuns. I'm sure GOD wouldn't have minded if we snuck some paste. I was sure he was more concerned about the kids who weren't eating their vegetables or worse...sitting under the monkey bars when the girls were up top in their little plaid skirts. Which I never did, by the way. That 8 cents my mother gave me was for my milk at lunch-not some cheap, pornographic peep-show performed on playground equipment by a 7 year old who was trying to earn enough coin to buy an EasyBake Oven.


After I covered my milk carton with black constuction paper, I carefully cut out three circles traced from a jelly jar lid. One circle was red, one was yellow, and one was green.

After dipping into my big jar of paste once more, and yes, dear reader, sneaking an occassional lick or two, I glued my circles onto my little back box. Red. Yellow. Green.

I was so proud of my little stop light. Red. Yellow. Green.

As the class worked furiously and dipped fingers into paste and ducked wide and outside swings of yard sticks and backhands, THE LESSON OF THE STOP LIGHT was taught.

And while we held our creations, our very own little stop lights in our paste-crusted hands, we learned that RED meant STOP and GREEN made GO.

I have no memory of an explanation of what the YELLOW light meant.

I don't even think the nuns knew the answer! Shit. Nuns didn't drive! Nuns taught school, hit you when you showed any sign of individuality, played guitar, and were married to GOD. Their closets were filled with penguin outfits and sensible black shoes. They all had little thin moustaches and they all smelled like candles.

That's what I knew of nuns. As far as I was concerned, nuns didn't drive cars. I don't remember asking what the YELLOW light meant and I don't remember them offering any information on the subject.

Let's face it. Nobody really knows what the Hell the YELLOW light means, although I think that most of us would agree that the most universal interpretation of the YELLOW light on a traffic light would be "Go a little faster, Idiot! Get your ass through the intersection before the light changes" RED.

And so, just like you, I carry those memories of childhood with me and remember those lessons imparted by parents and teachers and society as a whole.

Don't stick a fork in an electrical outlet. Don't roll around in the dirt to cover up the fact that you have wet your pants. (For the record, it really just makes the situation worse) Don't zip your pants up too fast without checking if anything is still hanging out or you'll spend the rest of your days playing hopscotch as a little girl named Courtney.

RED means STOP. GREEN means GO. YELLOW...whatever...

What happened?

And I'm not saying that I'm bemoaning my lost childhood. I'm asking the question.

What happened?

Seriously. What the fuck happened to RED means STOP? Was there some law passed that I am not aware of? Was a list of acceptable excuses for driving through a red light published somewhere that I am unaware of?

Then why do so many people do it?
If you ask me, there's only a few acceptable reasons for driving through a red light.

The Top 5 Accepted Excuses for Driving Through a Red Light

#5. "I'm sorry. There was a badger clawing my face and I didn't see that the light had changed..."

#4. "I'm sorry. My scrotum was on fire and I couldn't see the traffic light for all the smoke..."

#3. "Oops. I guess between putting on my eyeshadow, talking on my cell phone, drinking a cup of coffee and knitting a scarf, I just didn't realize I had done that..."

#2. "Well, there is this sale at MACY'S..."

And The Number 1 Accepted Excuse for Driving Through A Red Light is...


Unless you are a police official on official police business (and that does not mean rushing to meet your buddies for lunch at Capital Ale House and "last one there picks up the check!" so you'd better hurry and maybe turn the siren on to get you there a little faster) there is no excuse to go through a red light at an intersection.

None. Nada. Ambulances with their lights on can go through a red light. Funeral processions with a police escort can go through. The President of the United States can go through a red light. James Bond cannot go through a red light, but seriously, the guy can launch guided missiles with a touch of a button on his dashboard-YOU gonna tell him he can't go through the red light?

Everybody else? SORRY. If the light is red, you should have to stop.

Wait. Strike that. There is no question about it. You have to stop. It's the law.

If you race through a RED light, you're going to kill someone. And if you don't kill yourself, you're going to kill someone who didn't deserve to die in a horrible car accident because your copy of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was going to be late at Blockbuster.

I can't begin to tell you how many times a day I see people racing through red lights. It's at least 5 times a day now. And I'm not talking about the accidental "the-light-was-yellow-but-it-just-turned-red-oh-shit!-i'm-sorry" thing. I'm talking about the blatant act of driving through a light that had turned red two or three seconds before you decided to barrel through the intersection...before you decided that your life was more important than mine...when you decided that getting to KROGER and then back home before People's Court came on was more important than those two toddlers in their car seats in that mini-van you barely missed.

It's not just the 90-year old grandmother doing it, although I still maintain that if you are old enough to remember when there were no cars, you probably shouldn't be driving. It's young people, too. It's men, woman, White, Black, Chinese, the handi-capable, straight, gay, Hobbits, Gemini's, and whoever-the-Hell-is left.

We all do it. At some time or another, we all do it.

But you know who pisses me off more than those people who have their hands full and their heads in their's the assholes who know they're going through a red light and don't give a shit. They're the ones who keep going even though the light is red. They're the ones who take the corner on two wheels or barely miss the traffic who has the GREEN light.

They're the ones who should be fed to wild boars. These are the people I want to follow to their destination and ask as they get out of their car, "Did you see what you just did you inconsiderate piece of crap? Do you know that you went through a red light just then?"

And they're the ones who will stare blankly at me and say, "Oh. I didn't realize. Sorry." (even though they have that "Go Fuck Yourself!" look in their eyes) and then go about their day like nothing had happened.

That's when I set fire to their car and dance a little jig in the parking lot as security tries to wrestle me to the ground.

I often wonder if they have GPS and if the voice of the GPS is screaming, "Bob! It's a red light, Bob! Bob! Don't be a dick, Bob! You'll kill someone, Bob!"

The voice is correct Bob. You are going to kill someone...and you're being a dick.

When did RED stop meaning STOP?

When did it okay to break the blatantly...with so little regard for others (fuck you and your disregard! by the way) ...for other people on the frequently?

I see it every day and I know it's not just a regional thing. I know it happens all over the country and maybe even all over the world. And I am left wondering "Why?"

How could we forget such a basic rule? Red means STOP.

Is it the world we are living in? Have we just gotten so busy and distracted by our all-important lives that we have forgotten those things we learned in the first grade?

I don't think it's going to get any better. Sadly. And it's going to take some horrible accident in which school children or old people are killed because some jack-off was trying to eat a BigMac and talk on his cellphone and didn't see that the light had changed to red two seconds earlier.

We have to try though.

We have to pay attention. We have to be considerate.
We have to remember those things...those very basic things...we learned so many years ago.

We're all in this together, folks. And until the robots or monkeys take over, we have to try and look out for one another.

I don't care if you agree with anything I've said here. I really don't.
I do ask this, however.
If you remember anything from this, please remember...

Red means STOP.

and that's Jody with a "y"


  1. Perhaps something as simple as "red means stop" means nothing to so many people because so many people either feel that there are no rules any more, or the rules don't apply to them. They believe the lies that say "truth is relative" and "if it feels good, do it." As in, It's okay if I spend my money on illegal drugs-- it's my choice-- never mind the fact that my children are homeless and hungry. It's none of your business if I choose to do x or y or z-- especially z-- it's my life. Of course if you have to pick up the slack for me or suffer the consequences of my decisions in any way, too bad for you.

    Run a red light? Drive drunk or distracted? Hit little paste-eating boys over the head with a ruler when I should be teaching them about God's love?

    Yeah. As they say, It's all good.

    Oh, yeah. That's a lie too.

  2. I am not a violent person but if you EVER hear that I have been arrested for murder, it will be because i DID follow one of these inconsiderate (of human life) B@$tards home and thumped them to death with a blunt object. and yes, EXACTLY what you get when you call them on it is a big "F*CK U!" (not that they arent already saying that to you when they nearly T-bone you in the intersection) Is it obvious im a bit passionate about this subject too?