The Punishment Light

If you drive a car, you have no doubt encountered one of these roadway adversaries. It's the mechanical bully that abuses its power. It wants to make you suffer. Worst of all, it does it without intention or desire, but you know deep down there is a method. That's because its hostility is systematic. It's the product of shatty programming and ass-hat engineering. The middle finger directed at your comfort cruise.

I'm talking about the punishment light. You know what I mean. That one traffic signal on your daily commute that defies all reason. You know its there to make your life hell. The red light of rage.


Earlier this year, I got into the first season of Weeds on DVD. It's a hilarious little show with clever stories and writing, interesting characters, and of course, is full of wordsmithing, like when they refer to the fake bakery as a fakery. How can I not like such a show?

Anyway, in one episode, the main character gets caught at this traffic light that stays red for several minutes for no good reason. There are no cars in any direction. But the light simply doesn't change, and she's left to wait it out. She calls it the punishment light.

The Duel:

I have my own punishment light. On my commute, there is a signal that intersects the main thoroughfare that I take with another side road that leads to residential areas. This side road is very lightly travelled. As you may know, many traffic lights change when a sensor plate in the road is tripped. Which generally make sense. Unless a dumbass flunky calibrated the sensor. Or an evil genius.

See, my punishment light will IMMEDIATELY change over once a car hits the trigger. No delay whatsoever. So if one stupid car pulls up to the light on this side street, they get an immediate green light. I get a foot full of brake pedal. And I hate to have my motoring interrupted. Especially in this godforsaken town of lousy traffic clusterfuckage.

And invariably, some sonofabetch will trip the damned thing every time I motor toward the light. It never fails. And the winner of the blood boiling contest goes to the city bus as it makes a wide turn to clear the curb and trips the damned thing. So I get to wait while the light goes green for NOBODY!

Jackass engineers! While I want to throttle all the people who don't deserve the privilege of using our roadways because of their thriving ineptitude, the punishment light and me... ooh, it's become personal. Man v. machine.

Deus Ex Machina:

This week I had a small victory. A bizarre power outage at midnight left my neighborhood without electricity for about five hours. It wasn't a big problem, but bothersome nonetheless. Anyway, on my way to work later that morning, I cleared the rise in the road to descend upon the punishment light as a cavalryman charges his enemy. And there, rendered useless and adorning a fold-down stop sign, was my powerless foe. It was divine intervention. My deus ex machina - god from the machine. The solution to my problem was found.

Sure, the punishment light was shortly reinstated to its former bullying status. But coasting through the intersection that morning was my betch-slap across its three-eyed face. It was my way of showing that light I knew it wasn't invincible. That I knew it answered to a higher power (no, not God, the power company). And from now on, I will see my punishment light as a tragic figure, tethered to is faulty mechanics, stuck in its ways, and never able to truly move on.


Army Mom said...

I think EVERY town has at LEAST one of those lights from hell, and one of ours is just around the corner from our home. While the cross-street can bear anything from rush hour traffic to a passing car every once in a while, there is a sensor plate there, and I believe it and the traffic light are either not communicating, or there is a conspiracy, and they're laughing at us while we wait. I even saw one kinda 'blink' before it actually changed, and the other one kind of 'swayed' from side-to-side a little. The sonsabechas were taunting me!

We, too, had a power outage this past week, and now I wish I would have gone motoring in my PJ's, just to feel a little redemption for myself!

Allie D. said...

I fucking HATE those lights. I think there are certain lights in this town that I've NEVER been able to just coast right through. I always chalked it up to horrific timing. And then I go through this existential debate in my mind like "What if I had only been going 5 mph faster and had left the house 1 minute sooner? What then?!"

Just be luck you don't have the ever-fucking-blasted roundabout there yet. They are contraptions that have, at times, made me wish for more traffic lights.

Allie D. said...

By the way, I like your new picture. It reminds me of how I feel when I've eaten all of my cheesecake and I realize there is none left, and I get really really sad.

Pawlie Kokonuts said...

I am not kidding: in Pennsylvania this past weekend, near Wilkes-Barre, I saw a traffic light (signal) within a fecking parking lot, which controlled one's entrance to the driveway to the fecking road. Puh-leeeez.

Pawlie Kokonuts said...

Clusterfuckage. Great coinage. Yours? Take credit for it anyway.

Army said...

Army Mom - yes, I do think those guys were winking at each other just to show you who's boss. Don't let them see that you care!!

Allie - those roundabouts are pure idiocy! Thankfully, they haven't made their way into our hoods... not yet at least! Glad you like the new photo : )

Pawlie - a traffic light IN a parking lot?! I would have blown my lid, for sure! And I don't believe I've heard/seen anyone use clusterfuckage yet, so in that regard, I guess I did a little coinage there : )

Bubz The Troll said...

You spelled Deus wrong. D-E-U-S means God in Latin. D-U-E'S means OWE from Middle English. However the machine did owe you one.

Army said...

Good catch, Bubz. You know, I think I looked up the word to make sure I didn't misspell it, and there you have it. All better now.

But then as you said, maybe my misspelling was fated. That damned thing does owe me big time. Every time I get caught at that light now, I clench my fist, grit my teeth, and whisper, "Punishment light!"