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The Red Stop Light: Why Did the Blindman Cross the Street?

Updated on June 20, 2014

Red Light on the Crosswalk

The Crosswalk Red Light, What could be easier? Walk up, push button, wait for light, Traffic stop, Walk. OK?
The Crosswalk Red Light, What could be easier? Walk up, push button, wait for light, Traffic stop, Walk. OK?

The Red Light Cometh

Our town is only a small town. You might pass through on your way to the coast. You may pass through and not even notice. The town was once described as a two stoplight town in a magazine. That raised the hackles you know, even then we had two stoplights AND two traffic lights!

We are typical of many small towns in this part of California, quiet, sometimes sleepy in the heat of mid afternoon. But Hell on Earth to walk across the main street anytime between 7.55 am and 8.00am, as the mad crazed dash of the school run becomes a panic. Dashing parents their pick ups and SUV's packed with kids with bags that make them lookmore like a fully kitted paratrooper going into battle.

About a year ago the frame appeared, it grew out above the roadway. Black boxes swung from the high limb. A New traffic light. When will they set it working? Will it make us late for work? It hung there for a year. Shielded in black plastic, hung in the sun, hung in the rain, hung through the fall, the winter and the spring.

It seemed that everyone forgot that the Red Light cometh!

The Light is ON!

The end of May, there was a whisper around town, the light was on.

But this light is different it also has a pedestrian control on it. You know where the pedestrian can press a button, wait a few seconds, then miraculously, and to the anger of motorists and truck drivers the light turns RED!

I vowed I'd like to try it one morning.

Electrity Pole Hugger

My chance came last Monday. My wife had gone camping with her parents to celebrate Father's Day and the start of her Summer Vacation. She is a teacher and schools got out just the Friday before. Good news too for me. I could try the light with the sure knowledge that there would be no panicked parent driving their kids to school.

I got to the light nice and early, about 7.40am. The street was quiet, as it always is when there is no school run.

I tapped my way to the electricity pole beside the crossing. My instructor had told me that pedestrian controls are most often placed on those. I felt around the pole first on the side of the light, nothing, then the sidewalk side, nothing, then opposite the crossing, nothing. I wrapped my arms around the pole no control box.

All I found was a pole full of staples. It felt more like a bristling porcupine than a smooth wooden pole. I felt a couple of scratches and snagged my shirt before I backed off.

I know the corner quite well so knew there were two metal posts nearby, maybe the control was on one of those. No not there either. At this point someone passed by on foot, I tried to ask where the control was but they were gone in a moment. I was left circling around, going back and gorth, hugging the elctricity pole again and again.

Asking myself where would I put the control? But never seeming to come up with an answer that worked.

Pass Over to the Other Side

By now I was growing irritated, with the situation, with myself, with the person who had passed me by, with the light.

This is not how it's meant to be. You walk up, push the button, the light gors red, and you walk. Simple. Yes it is simple, when you are able to find that B****y control box.

Pausing for breath. I stepped back. Calm down. Maybe, just maybe, the control is across the street? No that would be stupid, the crosswalk is this side, Isn't it?

I look down, yes there on the road are the old faded yellow lines, there's the crosswalk.

I decide to go with my hunch and cross the quiet side street. On the other side my cane chings as I tap a new metal pole.

Feeling up the pole, cool and comforting in the early morning air, there is a box, that box has a button. I look down at the road. There are two Bright, glowing yellow lines. The new, freshly painted yellow lines of a new crosswalk.


Not only had they fitted the new light they had created a new crosswalk.

It was only seconds before the sound of the tires on the road stopped and the sound of idling engines murmered. I tapped my way bashfully across the road.

How many people had seen the crazed, muttering, electricity pole hugging blind man on the street? Were they leaving our town thinking we are all crazy here?

The answer is probably not many people noticed anything. Rushing about in their own world, needing to be where they had to be. Hoping that the person by the light would not press the button to make them late.

The world is a strange place at times.

But we all need to stop when the red light cometh.


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