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Traffic lights don’t stay red nearly long enough

September 18, 2008

Most of the time when I’m driving around I curse the slow traffic lights, stuck on red for what feels like aeons, and the half asleep drivers who take ages to get going when the lights eventually turn green. Which makes me no different to most drivers.

It’s a different story though if I have forgotten to connect my iPod to the car stereo.

I enjoy listening to podcasts, audiobooks and music when I drive. But what if I have just dropped someone off somewhere and had not got round to getting my iPod out of my jacket pocket to connect it up? My jacket is on the back seat so I need the car to be stopped, just for a few seconds, so I can stretch over and bring the jacket into the front. My battle-hardened enemy, the red traffic light, can be counted on to come to my aid.

Sure enough, it’s only a matter of time and yes, I’m stopped at a red light. Hand-brake on, turn to grab jacket, where’s it gone, damn it’s fallen into the footwell … and suddenly every car behind me is honking. I look up to find the cars in front of me have vanished and the lights are green. What? When did the lights change?

Dammit, I grit my teeth, grab my jacket and drive on. I now need another stop to get my iPod out of the jacket pocket and plug it into the cable in the glove compartment. Ideally the lights will turn red just as I am coming up to them so I get the whole red part of the cycle to do my connecting up without having to hurry.

But it never works out that way. There I am pootling gently up towards each set of green lights, hoping they’ll change just as I get close. They of course remain resolutely viridian as I amble through with a lengthening queue of frustrated cars behind me convinced I must be a 90 year old woman.

Next time the lights do turn red in front of me they are far too far away, and the cars ahead coast up to a gentle stop, taking forever to form a queue and wasting valuable seconds of red cycle. Why can’t they each drive at full tilt up to the car in front and slam on their brakes at the last minute so the queue forms quickly? To hell with their tyres and brake linings! But just as I screech to a halt the lights are turning green. Blast! And now the drivers aren’t half asleep any more. From dopey morons they’re suddenly imagining themselves to be Lewis Hamiltons, Felipe Massas and Kimi Raikonnens at Monza. I’ve only been stopped 5 seconds, was hurriedly fumbling for the iPod cable in the glovebox and the queue is moving again. A resigned expression comes over my face, I slam the glovebox shut and follow them.

I’m now running out of traffic lights before I join the motorway and find myself condemned to an hour of FM radio drivel …

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