The Long Arm of the Red Light
The interview just can't wait.
Each light cycle was 55 seconds long. Howard Bates knew that because he timed all five cycles he was forced to sit through before he could make the left turn safely and legally.
It wasn’t the waiting that annoyed him but the texting and phoning the other drivers were engaged in while waiting and then the delay when it was their turn to go. He figured he could’ve already turned twice by now if it weren’t for the distracted drivers.
Howard looked up to see if there were any cameras high on the outstretched traffic light pole. Each lane had its own camera and one facing the direction they were headed to photograph those who had sped through the light at the last minute. Plus, the traffic managers put up one camera to capture the license plates of left turners, in addition to the signal emergency vehicles could trigger.
He himself had knowingly gone through a red light once. Late at night with no traffic to speak of, Howard gunned it and thought he got away scot free. Three weeks later he received a citation in the mail showing his car and an enlarged photo of his license plate. Fighting it was pointless and would mean time away from work and a trip before a judge to prove his innocence.
But this time, however, his job interview was seven minutes away and he was running behind schedule. He wouldn’t run the red but he certainly would be paying attention to the light change. Howard was interviewing for what he considered his dream job, so he couldn’t afford to be late.
Traffic was crossing in front of him and a left lane turner edged out into the intersection and floored it. Unfortunately, someone traveling from the opposite direction wanted to occupy that space as well. He swerved to miss but he was going too fast to make any noticeable difference and t-boned the left turning car.
Howard could feel the sweat forming on his brow as he witnessed the three-second accident in slow motion migrate towards his car.
Both cars came to a halt less than a foot away from Howard’s car. With their airbags deployed, the drivers sat in their totaled vehicles stunned with what just happened. Howard couldn’t believe it either. They were mere inches from him being involved in the crash. He looked over at the clock on his dashboard as the two drivers inched their crushed cars out of the intersection. Both drivers seemed to be coherent so Howard navigated around the debris and made his left turn before the light changed again.
With only five minutes before his interview, Howard had to clear his head from the accident he just witnessed. Incidents like this just don’t go away in an instant. It takes time to process and absorb, but Howard was out of time.
Howard parked the car and took a deep breath, actually four of them. His head was as clear as it was going to get after what he had witnessed.
He checked in at the front desk.
“Sorry, Mr. Bates,” the receptionist said, “but Mr. Denning will be a little late this morning. Seems he was in a fender bender a few minutes ago. He apologizes for his tardiness. Please have a seat and help yourself to some water or coffee. If you need anything else let me know.”
“Thanks,” Bates said, realizing his job interview could get interesting especially if Mr. Denning recognized Bates as the one who left the scene quickly.