Free of traffic lights

Published on Saturday 21st March 2015 by Julie Embleton

Ah, I thought, reading this week’s Sunday Scribblings prompt, if only. If only my commute to work was free of traffic lights, how much time it would save me! My journey to work is a 145 km round trip so I reckoned that if it were a traffic light free run I’d save about 5 minutes one way, which is 10 minutes a day or 30 minutes for the 3 days I travel. Think of all I could do with an extra half an hour every week!! More sleep, more breakfast, or even more time to feed my Pinterest addiction! I decided that I needed to know for sure just how much time the demon traffic lights were robbing me of, so I set out to work all set for some precise timing.

The first 11km of my journey is a single-lane, winding road flanked by sweeping fields. It leads into a small village where I meet the first set of lights. Now, like a lot of people, I have a travel mug. I bought it last year for the whopping sum of 3 euro, so I completely understand that I got what I paid for. First off, it’s not water tight when the lid is screwed on so I have a wad of kitchen paper wrapped around its width and held in place with an elastic band to catch the drips. I’d like to point out at this stage that I grew up watching Blue Peter and I know that there’s nothing that can’t be fixed or made with an elastic band, an empty toilet roll holder or double-sided sticky tape, so this kitchen roll wedge is a perfect solution, and the extra bonus is that it didn’t even need the supervision of an adult to make. The second problem with the travel mug is that the little plastic piece that covers the drinking hole is loose, so as soon as I tip the mug for a drink it slides shut and deprives me of my hot tea. As it’s safer to drive with at least one hand on the steering wheel I’ve worked out that I just need to slide the piece back with a finger and then hold it in place with the tip of my nose as I drink. Simple. So I’m rolling up to the traffic lights, the slidey thing won’t obey my nose and the kitchen roll wedge has fallen down and is about to slip off. The lights are green. No problem, I think, I’ll sort it out at the next set, already feeling the first drip of tea hitting my trousers and soaking in.

After the village there’s another short winding stretch followed by a few kilometres of a road that wants to be a dual carriageway when it grows up. Beyond it spreads the first of 3 motorways that take me to work, but just before the freedom there’s another set of lights. By this time, a stray hair has wound its way around one of my eyelashes and is tickling my eyeball. With a hand poised to flip down the visor as I approach the lights and remove the offending hair before quickly sorting out the travel mug situation, I watch, in disgust, as the light turns green. I pass through the lights, one eye streaming and an awful thirst developing.

I need some calming music, I think, and there’s nothing on the radio to soothe the irritation that’s starting to build. There’s one set of lights left. I’ll de-hair my eyeball, fix the travel mug and then grab the cable in my glove box that hooks my iPhone up to the car stereo. All will be happy again.

Yes, you already know what’s coming. I slide on through that junction, uttering a profanity as the green light flicks to orange in my rear view mirror.

I’m now driving on a three lane motorway and I won’t be stopping until I turn into the car park at work. An hour later I pull in, blind in one eye, a nasty tea stain on my trousers, the early stages of dehydration setting in and a profound hate for chirpy morning DJs.

Okay, I thought, when I woke up this morning, yesterday didn’t go to plan. I’m not working today but I do have to buy some food. I’ll hit at least two sets of lights on my way around the town so I’ll time these lights instead and prove my point of how evil a scourge traffic lights are.

Unfortunately, I never got past counting the first ten seconds. I got distracted as I set there having a little look around. I’ll tell you what I learned: Third Person is on release on DVD this weekend (Mmm, Liam Neeson), some people are brave enough to nip to the shops decked out in saggy-bottomed pyjamas, melting Ugg boots and scary bed-head, and finally, I can buy a proper, posh-brand, guaranteed not-to-leak travel mug for a bargain 10 euro in my local hardware.

Free of traffic lights? Not for me, thanks. Red is my new favourite colour.

3 comments so far

  • I loved your account of the journey to work. What is so pertinent is our need to find fault in everyone but ourselves. So you make your habitual disorganisation less important than the necessity for lights to change during your journey. I am glad you are driving here as I am sure I would have an accident as I laughed myself silly watching your antics. It is good to see you contributing a piece here.

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