Monday, July 23, 2012

Stoplight Validation (rebooted)

Employment blogs to the contrary, I am not a negative guy.

I mean, come on. I like the New Beetle. And what kind of curmudgeon would embrace such an effervescent design, anyway? Just because I choose not to self-medicate with delusional pabulum like “It’s all good” doesn’t mean I am a sour human being.

It means I have a tangible connection with reality.

But occasionally, there is doubt. No surprise, given the avalanche of positivity forced down our throats. Is society any less overweening telling the long-term unemployed how they should feel than it is telling a thirteen-year-old girl how she should look?

I don't think so.

My take on things is decidedly less-fashionable. When life is good, I am happy. When life isn't good, I'm not so happy. Simple. It's a reflection of my emotional palate. Life is never all good or all bad. Some things suck. Some things don't.

Take stoplights. They suck. I detest them. Stoplights are driving's equivalent of having a stone in your shoe. I don’t want to know how many hours I have whiled away at red lights on shriveled cross streets which rarely—if ever—bear appreciable traffic.

Little is as absurd and as pointless as sitting still at an empty intersection. Stop lights impede, impair and inhibit the flow of traffic. Which is a full one-hundred eighty degrees removed from what conventional wisdom says they do.

But this isn’t a blog about stoplights per se. It’s about whether I’m a nabob of negativity or a clear-eyed realist.

Do I hit as many red lights as I think I do? Or is it my so-called negativity coloring my outlook?

I have attempted to answer this by tracking two stop lights I feel as if I never make. The streets at those intersections are similar in size and traffic volume.

Intersection 1 is near my home, and consists of two heavily-traveled residential streets. Going north and south seems to be a fifty-fifty proposition, meaning you have a fifty percent chance of hitting a green light.

Going east or west seems to be another story. In my possibly errant opinion, making a green light headed in either of those directions is an event worthy of cake.

Intersection 2 combines another heavily-traveled residential street with a moderately-used two-lane arterial street. And like intersection 1, the signal seems completely unrelated to traffic volume.

Despite their similar loads, heading north or south on the residential street seems to guarantee an opportunity to revisit the word linger, while going east or west on the arterial seems to at least give drivers a fighting chance.

As any budding traffic scientist worth their ceramic brake pads knows, special care must be taken to avoid polluting the sample. Which is an officious way of saying not once did I speed up to make a green light or slow down to hit a red one.


I merely traveled at the posted speed and let the lights turn as they may.

Over the course of a month, I passed through intersection 1 (going east or west) twenty-three times. Nineteen times I encountered a red light, an astonishing 82.6% of all eastbound or westbound trips. And in fifty-five trips through intersection 2 (headed north or south), I encountered a red light thirty-seven times, or 67.2% of all northbound and southbound trips.

Sure, no one exiting the strip mall from Ray’s World of Seafood should expect to gain instant access to the local six-laner. But neither of the above percentages is anywhere near the fifty-fifty split the similar traffic volume of the streets passing through those intersections would suggest.

Nor are these isolated instances. I’ve encountered signals like these everywhere I’ve lived. Conversely, I’ve never discovered a signal in a comparable location that I made 82.6% of the time. And in the face of so much smart technology, this consistent inconsistency is difficult to understand.

What I do understand is that it wasn't my outlook that sucked--it was the stoplights. I'm no festering nabob of negativism. I'm a clear-eyed realist.

To paraphrase the late, great Eddie Kendricks, this wasn’t just my negativity, running away with me.

But I’m still seeing red.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Short Blog

One of the benefits of working with the public is the opportunity to observe what the public is wearing.

Last week, a member of that public wandered into the retail establishment I work in wearing this t-shirt:

'The floggings will continue until morale improves.'

Sharp intake of breath. Jaw-drop. Oh. My. God.

I don't know the origin of this quote, but it is genius. Like the drumming of Ziggy Modeliste, the writing of John Updike and Pepper Jack Doritos.

If you've ever worked for a living, the shirt's grim truth is obvious. It is the Newton's Law of employment-inspired quotations about misguided leadership and authority abused and general back-asswardness.

And hey, isn't that what work is all about?

Have a great day.