When it happens, which is more often than it should, I take a thorough look around. I eliminate the possibility that any traffic is in the vicinity, and then I wait. My mom tells a story about a guy who got stopped at a red light who looked all around and decided he was safe and then ran it. He got pulled over and argued to the cop. “No one was there!” The cop said, “I was there.” That sounds like legend. An ethics tale my mom probably devised when my sister started driving and had honed by the time I started. If the cop was right there, wouldn’t the moral of the story be to not do a crappy job of looking around? If the cop was parked in the dark and watching to catch people running red lights, he shouldn’t really count himself as being “there.” He was no more a part of traffic than a fire hydrant. He should have simply passed out the ticket for breaking the rules. He could have said, “traffic lights don’t become four-way stops just because no one’s there,” if he felt a need to be a smart ass.
I don’t mind when there’s a chance of someone coming. What gets me are those side street trip lights that trip for no reason. Always too soon for me to run but always early enough that I can barely stop in time. There is no one on the road. I have full visibility down the side street and it’s completely clear. The green light emits a hazy hue past the cone just to mess with me while I sit there staring at the circle of bright red. I contemplate moments in my life I find regretful or embarrassing, from as far back as second grade. I stew. The hazy green blinks off and hazy yellow blinks on, to give no one a chance to clear the intersection. When my light finally turns green, I go.