The (evil) Traffic Light

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Corporate mergers take their tolls in untold ways. My experience has been that they are for the better, at least for those that remain after improvements in "allocations and efficiency." It is not always so, and I admit that I'm fortunate.

Among many changes that result, one has been that for the last 3.5 years, I've been driving past the "old" office to get to the "new" office... twice as far, in fact. My attitude towards this commute has not improved over this time. If one is familiar with Atlanta traffic, it can lead a man to drink. Or Frank Sinatra.

Another complication is that one of the busiest intersections I travel through has been reworked for three of those years. The attending traffic signal has been a respected foe, I must say, enough to personify with an evil intent. I know... that seems to be an overstatement. After all, his main duty is the safety and protection of motorists under his watchful gaze. I'm not denying the results, but I am taking issue with his means. He takes it personally if someone passes without first stopping to pay homage to his red light. He's apparently rather proud of it and wants the world to behold it. Seriously!

In the mornings, he puts up a fair fight, but I have to say, I beat him about 50% of the time. That's not much for bragging rights, and, in fact, he doesn't appreciate it. I just know...he's mocking me on those occasions I pass through unabated, knowing that he has my number in spades in the afternoon as his cronies up the road network against me. The last laugh each day is definitely his.

And when he's particularly cruel, he calls out to the world of delays and invites his friends to join the party, and not just the construction crews. This would be the morning Amtrak "Crescent" run. More fun is the much lengthier afternoon freight train... the perfect spoiler for leaving the office a few minutes early! The railroad track is only 50 yards or so from my buddy, the evil traffic light. On these occasions, he's been known to stare me down with an unspoken "Gotcha."

I enjoy art. This does not extend to observing the latest trends in grafitti embellishment on passing railcars, however. I'm not alone in this struggle, thus tax monies are applied to the three year construction project, rerouting one road under both the other road and the railroad track.


Well, as of last Friday, farewell, my nemesis. I was concerned that he would hold on until after I relocated from the "new" office to an even "newer" office in several months (that halves the distance, glory be!), but the old buzzard's day is over. This giant leap forward in highway improvements will remove a total of about 5 minutes of commute time per day (not including trains...), which, in writing, seems a trivial gain. But I knew this day was coming, and I can now look back on it without a grimace.

This reminds me of a useful perspective of time that has been a comfort now and again. Time is inescapable, of course, and when a dreaded event (oh, like public speaking!) is on the calendar, certain moments of dread filter into my day. Am I alone in this? I think not.

Time is more than a concept; it can be relied upon to continue ticking towards those dastardly intersections of life. Although unavoidable, there necessarily will also be a time when I can look back at the dreaded event, and it will be no more than a thing of the past.

This didn't just occur to me, but rather it is something I dwelled upon and absorbed when I first read "Dune," a science fiction book by Frank Herbert, as a teen facing... the sorts of things teens face. In it, Paul Atreides, the protagonist, is taught a mantra to recite in facing fears:

I must not fear. Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Fortunately, I do not have to face rival factions, manipulating witches, or mechanized assassins. I've faced my traffic signal, and only I remain.

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