May 3, 2005

When A Tree Is More Than A Tree

Let me share a piece of my commute with you. I work in Old Town Alexandria, my office is just about smack dab in the middle of the city. It is a relatively small city, therefore usually a quick and fairly painless drive down side streets has me sailing freely down the George Washington Memorial Parkway toward home. I am blessed with a very soft commute.

Last evening I was on my side road of choice, Columbus Street, making my way south. I was first in line at a red light. The cross street, a one-way main thoroughfare heading for the Beltway, had heavy traffic as usual.

Posted at this intersection are humongous signs. Very, very large signs. Those bold colorful signs indicate how wrong it is to make a right turn at that particular corner. Three of them say the same thing. "Verboten!" the signs state graphically in no uncertain terms. "Forbidden! Don't even THINK about turning right at this light. It is Against The Law." Those signs are so big they could well be flashing neon. They scream "Look at me! See me! Obey me!" There is absolutely no way any driver approaching the intersection could not be aware of the prohibited nature of turning right at the light. Unless they're blind, of course, in which case they really shouldn't be driving at all, should they?

I'm not blind. I look. I see. I obey. Going forward through that intersection is what will get me closer to home anyway. But often there are people who insist on turning right at that light despite those signs. Do they not see them? Do they not care? Do they think those signs apply to everyone else except them? Apparently so, because cars turn right there with alarming regularity. It's almost as if those signs don't even exist.

Yesterday as I sat in my car waiting for the light to turn green, movement by a tree across the street caught my eye. There was a man standing there. A policeman. A policeman who seemed to be hiding behind the tree. Every so often his head would tilt sideways as he peeked out toward the intersection. Not that the tree trunk really hid his body, oh no. It was a skinny tree. It was not a skinny cop. But the weather was overcast. On such a gray afternoon, it did not take a far stretch of the imagination for the chubby cop to blend into and become one with the tree trunk.

A silver Mercedes convertible pulled up next to me. On my right. The driver, a woman. Blonde, perfectly coifed. Yuppie. Long immaculate fingernails painted bright glossy red tipped the fingers curled around her steering wheel. She looked like she had bitch potential but was probably a perfectly nice person. She was about to make that illegal right turn onto the busy thoroughfare. On a day the police were waiting for folks just like her to do just what she was about to do.

"Ack!" I thought, "What should I do? Should I honk and wave at the driver? Should I roll down my window and try to get her attention? Should I save her from herself? Should I just observe as fate takes its course?"

The cop across the street spied her car and blended even further into the tree trunk. Now, instead of tipping his head out to look around, he just barely bared one eye to one side. I watched, fascinated. He was obviously in full stealth mode.

I shook my head and thought "Dude, if she doesn't see those gigantic signs indicating she shouldn't be doing what she's obviously about to do, you don't have to worry about her seeing little ole you!"

Then she did it. She made that right hand turn despite all those signs screaming at her not to do it. The policeman stepped out from behind the tree and pointed at the car. He smiled. His partner, who had been standing unseen on the opposite side of the street, waved her over to the curb. We all know what happened next, don't we?

The light turned green and I proceeded through the intersection.



Eyes for Lies said...

Somehow seeing that would have felt good. I wouldn't have had sympathy for her. I just wouldn't have!

If I had to drive the long way (unlike you said you did), I would have really felt good!

I hate when one or two or a handful of people really think they are above the law! It's just wrong.

Am I really anal?

Melodee said...

I love your writing.

Princess Wild Cow said...

The last ticket I got was for turning right against a red light which was posted, which I didn't see...airhead and all. Two weeks later they took the sign down and it suddenly became absolutely legal to do what cost me $42 two weeks earlier. A foolish consistency and all of that...

Udge said...

Good! serves her right. Good for the cops, for being there, and good for you for letting it happen.

Suzanne said...

Elizabeth, I think I would have been more indignant if she'd had kids in the car. Teach your children well, as they say.

Sara, rough break that.

Eyes, anal? Only the shadow knows. :)