Thursday, August 09, 2007

Red Light, Green Light

The other day we were sitting at a red light. A car rounded the corner. The driver recognized the driver of the car in front of us, stopped, and struck up a conversation. (He simultaneously maintained another conversation on his cellphone.) The light changed, and the exchange now blocked three directions of traffic. No one honked. We all waited. After a short bit, they finished their chat, and we all went on our way.

Every city complains about its bad drivers, but the specific complaints vary (Boston, fast; L.A., armed...).* I was trying to put together a list of our particular regional foibles:
  • People stop in the middle of the street for conversations. All other vehicles must wait the appropriate grace period before honking.** (The exact duration is hard to pin down, but it's roughly enough time to wrap up the immediate topic at hand and exchange parting pleasantries.) Premature honking will result in scornful glares from all parties.
  • The first five seconds of a red-light are an implicit yellow. Keep on truckin'. Conversely, the first five seconds of a green-light are an implicit red. Wait for the keep-on-truckin'-ers to go by.
(Others?) The unifying theme is clear: Don't be in a hurry.


  1. Others (or maybe just related, in the category of keeping oneself alive and sane):
    - Stop, or at least slow down, at intersections of non-major streets, in case a stop sign is missing. If you're lucky, this pausing will allow you to spot a friend with whom you can converse.
    - Ignore the stop signs at neutral grounds. They're really yield signs. (I'm not delusional in thinking that this abundance of stop signs appeared after the storm, am I?)

  2. in detroit (the city proper, not the 'burbs) red lights are treated like stop signs: if there's no traffic, you're free to go. Looking both ways is optional but strongly encouraged.

  3. Anonymous3:00 PM

    NYC being a city of pedestrians- I would say woe to the driver who thinks the peds will obey a DON'T WALK sign! We go anyway. You hit us and we'll still blame you for not stopping.

  4. I used to live in Pueblo, Colorado, where the same rules about talking to friends in other cars prevailed. I thought it was just a Pueblo thing! Now I live in Madison, Wi, and people are all about business here. They're driving to get somewhere, not to socialize. One thing about Madison, though, is that bicycles own the roads. (Which I find rather charming, and impractical. Of all places, you know, it gets really cold here! Everyone drives in California, rides bicycles in Wisconsin. It makes no sense at all.)