Doing things differently since 1984
Some people have tendencies to come up with their best thoughts when they’re in the shower, or lying in bed. For me, it’s when I’m commuting. When I’m at home, I’m busy; when I’m at work, I’m busy (kind of); but when I’m in the car, I’m a captive audience to my own thoughts.
It was while I was sitting at a traffic light one recent afternoon that I looked at all the cars around me, and noticed the range of people around. Expensive BMW SUV… an old Pontiac with its taillight taped on… a blue Corvette… a pick-up truck with a naked silhouette window sticker… It didn’t matter who we were or how much we earned – we all had to stop at that light.
I pondered the thought for a while, and felt amazingly satisfied by it. If Bill Gates was driving down the road to Best Buy or wherever he goes, he would still have to stop at the same traffic light just like anyone else. Sure, he could floor it through a yellow light – just like anyone else – but when it’s really red, he’s going to stop. It’s a gloriously simple ‘must’.
It is in our nature as humans to want to get ahead – and we have built a society to encourage that urge. It is indisputable fact that those who are “ahead” generally get rewarded with better health care, more lenient court sentences (better lawyers), better education, better interest rates, better service, and even better traffic lanes. I’m not going to debate this point, whether it’s deserved or undeserved – it’s just fact.
It is, however, with great amusement and satisfaction that I often see the light turn green, all the cars take off, and then one car push and prod his way to get just a few spaces ahead…… only to get stopped again by the next traffic light with the rest of the cars. Ahhhhh, it’s magnificent.
Throughout the 20th century we struggled and fought and protested to gain equality…. When all along, The Great Equalizer was being installed at intersections and crosswalks throughout the modern world. People of all races, all classes, all nationalities, all religions, all ages, all ranks, and all political parties will sit side-by-side at a red light, before going their separate ways. It takes cooperation, compliance, and civility, but in the end everyone gets to stay alive and everyone gets to their destination.
Perhaps I am making too much of a small thing, but in a world where people are coming up with new ways every day to separate “us” from “them”, and to vilify the latter, it brings me a drop of consolation to see one small place where Republicans are next to illegal immigrants, atheists next to preachers, environmentalists next to oil drillers, ‘Occupy’ers next to a member of the 1%, all on precisely equal footing. No one’s better. Here’s a toast to traffic lights: The Great Equalizer.