October 28, 2010 in Washington Voices

Front Porch: Roadwork leaves time for meditation

 

I’ve been seeing red a lot, lately. No, I haven’t been angry. I’m talking about traffic lights. There are 252 traffic lights in the city, and I believe I’ve been stuck at red lights at half of them.

This has seriously aggravated my LBTS (Low Boredom Threshold Syndrome). I tried timing how many minutes I spend each day waiting for lights to change, but I also suffer from MDD (Math Deficiency Disorder).

Recently, I updated my Facebook status update while trapped at the Division Street and Wellesley Avenue intersection. According to city signal operations engineer, Valla Melvin, I really didn’t sit there for 20 minutes – it just felt that way.

She said the amount of time a signal light stays red varies from 60 seconds to a couple of minutes and the cycle length can vary throughout the day. Occasionally, the signals have to be adjusted due to road work.

And road work has left me maladjusted. This summer, the city began repaving the arterial I use to get in and out of my neighborhood. While it will be wonderful to drive a rut-free route, the process is proving painful.

I can never be sure how I’ll get home at the end of the day. Sometimes one end of my street is completely blocked and sometimes the connecting arterial is closed. Now, I have to use my GPS to find my way home.

Last week, I almost didn’t get home at all. As I approached my street, I saw the paving crews had left a small gap between barricades on my corner. They’d been layering wet gravel throughout the day, but there was still a significant gap between gravel and pavement.

I thought my car could bridge the gap, so I approached with caution. Bad idea. I should have gunned it. My wheels spun uselessly in the wet gravel and I was stuck! My 11-year-old disembarked to check out the situation. “We need a shovel,” he declared. “A big one!”

As I scoured the car for something shovel-like, Sam shouted, “Never mind. Here’s one.” He grabbed a shovel the construction crew had conveniently left at the side of the road and manfully began to dig us out. Wet gravel is heavy, but thankfully a couple of guys from the paving crew saw our dilemma and took over the excavation process.

“Why didn’t you take another street?” one of them asked.

“Because I live on this one!” I replied.

It’s not only roadwork and red lights that have hampered my progress and stretched my patience. Train crossings in Spokane Valley seem equipped with silver Ford Windstar sensors. What other explanation is there for the fact that I always end up stuck behind a train in Millwood?

Perhaps, I’m taking these delays too personally. But being targeted by the red light camera at Division and Francis Avenue has soured my view of traffic signals. Last spring I got a ticket in the mail informing me that I had run the light. I viewed this as an attack on my integrity and spotless (if you don’t count annual speeding tickets) driving record.

I went to the website listed on the ticket. The grainy video showed my car in the right lane slowly approaching the red light with my turn signal blinking. It showed me pausing to make sure the intersection was clear and then making my right turn. Apparently, I didn’t come to a complete stop. I appealed the ticket and received a fine reduction, but I feel like I was framed in more than just a blurry 2- by 3-inch photo. So, I admit to a certain antipathy for red lights.

I’ve tried to look at my extra travel time as a chance to practice deep breathing and calming meditation. This is difficult because anticipating a light change naturally leads to breath-holding. And my meditative moments were interrupted by the blare of car horns behind me. I’ve also experimented with seeing how many times I can count to 100 or sing “Happy Birthday” before the light flashes green, but my above mentioned MDD makes that difficult.

However, while pondering the situation, I stumbled across a perfect way to pass the time. In fact, I’d write more, but the light just turned green.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email