Red Light / Green Light
I did not grow up texting and driving or phoning others and driving, either. I did not have a cell phone or car phone or mobile phone because they did not exist when I learned to drive. We listened to ourselves sing over the wind from the open windows or listened to the radio when in range of a station. We did not eat our meals in the car or try to cram one more activity into the day. We took time to breathe and enjoy our lives.
But things have certainly changed over the years. We now live and function in an upwardly mobile world. We (primarily moms) are often in our car for hours at a time. Parents are often caught shuttling back and forth between activities – making their car an extension of their home – so they do come crazy things to make the schedules work. Some use their cars as office, dressing room, and restaurant. I find that my car is most often a waiting room. I rush here and there and then wait for a smaller someone to finish an activity and then we hustle to the next one, where I wait some more.
Car waiting does not have to be bad. Over the span of eight kids I have completely hand-pieced a quilt, caught up on much needed sleep, finished all required reading for graduate school, planned one wedding, and learned how to use my camera – all from the front seat of my van sitting in a parking lot.
I still do car waiting because I still have kids, but in addition to car waiting, I rely on the red lights. Yes, I did say Red Lights – as in traffic lights. While I have NOT completed a quilt at the red lights, I have found that I am very successful at the Reds.
I use a red light when I am at a fast food place and they practically shove the food, my change and the receipt at me so that the car behind me can scoot into the money slot. I like to have a minute to put my change or receipt away in my purse. I like to have time to put the straw in the cup and wipe my shades while at the red light.
On the way to a meeting I like to check my teeth for leftover bits of broccoli or lettuce from lunch. A red light is perfect for this. Flip down the little mirror, glance up and I know immediately if I need to take action or not. I won’t be embarrassed at the next meeting and if I have time, I can apply lipstick or wait for the next red light. I have never tried mascara, but I have seen others doing it.
I have flossed my teeth, disciplined a child, opened a bottle of water, checked the map, and changed out the CD’s at red lights. I have handed out lunch, passed out napkins, and picked up all the straw papers while waiting at a red light. I have had my windshield cleaned and given money to the homeless at a red light. I won’t even go into the number of lectures that can be completed at a red light when I can finally look into the eyes of the alleged perpetrator.
I have rested my eyes and told my kids to alert me to green. I have fished Tylenol from the depths of my purse during a Red and held a kids head out the window so that the throw up was on the outside of the car. I have fixed a bra strap, finished a braid, linked a bracelet for a teen, opened cheesy-crackers, found a missing pacifier, and signed homework papers waiting for Red to change to Green. In short, we live much of our lives under the glow of a Red light. Perhaps we should make the best of it.
Many roar through Green, Green, Greenish-yellow, and fume and fidget if they get stopped at a Red, but I find that I am continually thankful for the slower moments of the Red. For it is these moments that force me to breathe, re-gather my wits, smile at my kids, and say a quick prayer.
The Reds remind me that the little moments are far more important than the ever present Green, Green, Green.