Wednesday, November 28, 2012

traffic lights and human nature

I found myself musing quite a bit on traffic lights as I drove to and from work, although I'm not quite sure why.  I like to follow traffic rules, especially when they are going my way.  I like green lights all the way through town.  Sometimes I can even make it all the way to work with only one red light.  Fabulous!  Not so fabulous the red light after red light I experienced on the way home this evening.

After stopping multiple times already, there I was sitting in a right hand lane waiting and waiting to turn.  This is Tasmania, mind, so I probably waited one minute, but it seemed like an age.  First there were the ambling pedestrians, then a string of cars turning left from the other direction, and then the lights turned amber.  The 4WD in front of me quickly turned right and I hot footed it around after them, right on their tail, sneaking around in a rather daring and flagrant dash through what quickly became a red light.  It was a little disconcerting when the 4WD then turned into the gated police station car park and I realised I'd made my out of character running of the lights right behind a police officer.  Ho hum.  I seem to have gotten away with it.  (Perhaps they had bigger fish to fry.  I was rather tame by comparison.) Not five minutes later I caught myself grumbling about a car doing... um... exactly what I had just done.  Funny how it's OK when I do it, but not OK when someone else does.

My traffic light musing was around the angst lights create in me.  (Should I discuss this with the psychologist also?)  I get grumpy when the lights turn red on me.  I feel cheerful when they go my way.

How stupid!  Traffic lights are traffic lights.  They keep traffic flowing freely and easily (most of the time), and I'm grateful for that.  It could be as simple as, 'Oh, the lights are red and now the others get a chance to get to where they are going', rather than a crazy, 'OH, those darn lights are RED again, and now I can't get where I want to as quickly.'

I think I'm over analysing, but why do we always want to get through the lights before they turn red?  Or is it just me?  (I'm thinking not, since people run red lights all the time)

It's like driving on highways.  I sit on the speed limit and a car might sit behind me for twenty kilometres, also doing the speed limit.  I don't slow down, but all of a sudden they speed up and over take me... and sit in front of me, both of us on the speed limit again.  I catch myself doing the same thing, as if I can only sit and let someone else be dominant on the road for so long.

Then there are the people doing well below the speed limit on single lane highway.  There is no way to overtake them until the overtaking lane comes along - at which point they speed up to the speed limit meaning I have to break the speed limit to overtake them.

I'm a bit too obsessed with speed limits and traffic rules, I know.  (In many ways I am non conformist, but when it comes to road rules I am totally a rule follower)  It strikes me that something interesting is going on on our roads.  I suppose if some one was to explore things in evolutionary terms, they might trace it back to a distant past where the need to be dominant was crucial for survival.  We're all surviving pretty well these days, but the drive to dominate remains, and we act it out on the roads with our need to be first, and fastest, and most blessed with green lights.  Could be that's a long stretch, but hey... these are the things I muse on as I drive around the place.  Better that than admit I'm a selfish git who just wants everything to go my way!


At 8:47 pm, November 29, 2012, Anonymous 2paw said...

I never go home along Cimitiere Street, I go a more tricky way, but there are fewer lights. I hate not being in the all green light traffic flow and stopping at every red light too. However, I am very cautious and I never trust people indication they are turning left when I am waiting to go into the road. I always wait. I agree, I think waiting one set of lights is torture!!!


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