'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
YELLOW LIGHT MEANS ‘GUN IT!’
It’s been quite a few years since I got my drivers license. I took the driving exam in my dad’s 1971 Chevy van, which was practically brand new at the time, so that gives you an idea of just how long it’s been. (Have you ever tried to parallel park a huge van without power steering, and more importantly, without a clue of how to parallel park? I think the guy administering the test mistakenly passed me because he was laughing so hard he couldn’t see his clipboard clearly.)
Like everyone else, as soon as I received my drivers license, I gave no more thought to memorizing the details of the rules and regulations of proper driving. I’m sure some things have changed since the early 1970s, but I’m pretty sure that one thing has NOT changed: the meaning of yellow traffic signal lights.
The Department of Motor Vehicles’ official drivers manual is very clear on this point. If I remember correctly, it states: “A yellow light indicates the traffic signal light is about to turn red, so unless you want to get your brains splattered all over the road when your vehicle (Vehicle A in Illustration 12) gets T-boned by a vehicle with the right-of-way (Vehicle B in Illustration 12), causing the emergency medical personnel from the ambulance (Vehicle C in Illustration 13) to scoop up the aforementioned brains with a sponge and a Tupperware container, you must stop your car…NOW!”
If I also remember correctly, back in the 1970s most people, not wishing to suffer the severe social embarrassment of having to carry their brains around in a Tupperware container for the rest of their lives, obeyed this traffic rule. When the signal light turned yellow, they immediately brought their cars to a stop and patiently waited—all of 45 seconds—for the light to turn green again.
Nowadays, despite the very clear words in the DMV’s manual, most drivers completely ignore this traffic rule. They treat a yellow light as if it were a signal to stomp on the gas pedal and accelerate through the intersection with their tires barely touching the ground.
And of course, the first 5 seconds of a red light now mean the same thing as a yellow light.
I hate to admit it, but sometimes I find myself behaving this way, too. I don’t blow through yellow lights, including the first 5 seconds of the red light, because I’m in such a hurry that waiting 45 seconds for the next green light will ruin my life. I do it because whenever I see the light turn yellow, I glance in my rearview mirror and notice that the driver behind me has stomped on his gas pedal and is about to accelerate through the intersection with his tires barely touching the ground—and he expects me to do the same.
If I stop for yellow lights, the odds are pretty good that I will wind up with the front end of a Dodge Durango lodged firmly in the backseat of my car. Which at that point will be a minor problem compared to having to deal with the irate driver of the Durango, who will be screaming obscenities at me while reaching for his 9mm Glock in the glove compartment.
But on the other hand, if I continue to race through yellow lights like everyone else to avoid the Durango/Glock scenario, then the odds are pretty good that I will wind up with the lifelong social embarrassment of the Tupperware/brains scenario.
The only good thing about this whole situation is the fact that it has been many decades since I received my drivers license. This means in a fairly short time I will officially join the ranks of senior citizen drivers. And this means I will be blissfully oblivious to all those frustrating roadway problems, including: Vehicle B in Illustration 12, the Dodge Durango on my tail, and of course, the traffic signal light itself.
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