Yesterday I was transporting to my venerable hall of learning and ran across some interesting anecdote fodder. I was preparing to turn left onto the perpendicular road at a 3-way intersection. The turn light was red, but green for straight ahead traffic in both directions. However, the preceding intersection behind me turned red before mine did, meaning oncoming cars quickly backed up and stopped moving through my intersection, even though they had the green. They inched forward, but a large truck in the left lane pretty much blocked my ability to turn left, despite suddenly having a helpful green arrow directing me to do so. Across the way, a pickup truck in the right lane had been sitting at this red light for a few seconds and realized there was no way I could get through, and I was the only possible cross traffic. So he ran the red light. Maybe an unconventional move, but perfectly understandable. However, the small 2-door behind him was so astonished by his disrespect for St. Louis County traffic ordnances that he actually honked! And then get this: the honker proceeds to legally turn right on the red! So not only did the pickup driver shave time off his own commute, he saved time for this ungrateful yuppie moron as well. As I eventually continued my journey I was launched into thoughtful reflection on the phenomenon just illustrated. Is there anything more stupid than sitting alone at a red light? What is it about a red light that will make people completely obey it nearly 100% of the time, even in instances when there is clearly no practical safety or coercive police reason to do so? People ignore speed limits constantly, but red lights are sacred. Bizarre.
I resolve from now on to ignore the conformist pressure of being observed and run red lights anytime it is both convenient and safe. Imagine this, you pull up to a hypothetical red light in Death Valley, visibility is perfect for miles, absolutely no one is coming the other direction, no cops are in sight, your radar detector is silent. The only thing you have to worry about is the presence of say, a dozen cars behind you, and their anonymous disapproval of you casually motoring through this psychological obstacle to efficient use of your precious time and fossil fuels. Yet Iím certain if one were to scientifically monitor this intersection, said researcher would find that virtually no one would run it, even if no tickets were ever issued.
Iím not talking about zipping through stale yellows or laying on the horn from half a block away and slugging down a flask of Smirnoff as you barrel in front of screeching school busses. Treat the red as a Stop/Yield combination, in which you do not take the benefit of the doubt if visibility is limited. In other words: act rationally.
Next time youíre passively drumming your fingers on your steering wheel, listening to Rand books on tape or however you account for time wasted in the driverís seat, ask yourself ďWhy am I parked here obeying an arbitrary rule? If my running this red light does not endanger or inconvenience anyone else, and there are no enforcement personnel in the vicinity, then what is the bloody point?Ē
The point, you will conclude, is submitting to authority and routine. And thus you will further conclude:
Go anarchist, go!
October 18, 2001