I’ve been hitting all the yellow lights lately and I think the universe is trying to tell me something.
There are times when I get a sort of creeping feeling like it’s important to slow down and pay attention. It’s more of a slightly nagging, foreboding feeling rather than a slow-down-to-appreciate-the-little-things feeling. More of a vague Watch Out! Somebody is going to trip on a stick and wind up in the ER feeling, less of a ”Hello-lamppost-what ’cha-knowing?” feeling.
September is a good time for me to tune in to these warning feelings. I’m not saying it’s about receiving psychic signals, just that I’m noticing people in a big hurry and not giving a crap… about you or me. It’s because school started, and for me, work, too. Then, for most people, that starts the sports, after-school activities, daycare, drop-offs, pick-ups, kamikaze grocery store runs, repeat. It’s all one big stress salad.
I live in this little family-oriented town that is a hipster’s Mayberry. When you’re done being a young adult, drinking at bars every weekend, and making soy lattes for a living or passing out flyers, you get a real job, marry, and move here to raise your family. September means at 7:45am, prompt, we are all heading to one of the 15 or so packed schools that reside in our town’s 8 square miles. It is a total shit-show. I mean, the kids are cute and the parents usually dress cool, but the traffic is ugly. It’s the old SUVs-meet-bikers-meet-pedestrians-meet-kick scooters stand-off. But everybody is moving, not standing.
Imagine playing a game of frogger, except you’re the car and there are 5 thousand parent frogs toting 10,000 primary-school frogs and they all scatter at once in front of you. Not to mention the absent-minded pubescent secondary-school frogs who are parent-frogless but are actually less of a problem, because it’s those parent frogs who are the worst! (I wish I had a better video game analogy, too). By the way, it’s great to remodel your house in September so that we can add excavators and cement mixers into the mix along the school-neighborhood commute. And, Oh look, there’s the principal staring at you at the school drop off hug-and-go.
I sound like I’m complaining. It’s not that you shouldn’t remodel your house. By all means, renovate. Take your kids to school, commute to work, go to the gym. Of course! It’s just that we’re all doing it at once, all at the same times of day, and lately I’m getting the sense that the manic flow of traffic is going to come to some epic ending. Maybe it won’t be so bad. No car crash, or bike accident. Instead, I hope we’ll all just throw up our hands in a unified expression of mass sanity to say, “OMG! This is madness. It’s hilarious that we’re just noticing, but this is so crazy! Let’s stop,” we’ll say and turn around to head back to our homes. Whatever all this was for, I can’t remember anymore.
Afterall, it’s fall and (well…I’m inside at the library but I could just as easily be outside enjoying the sunshine, if I were more that type of a person and not an I’m-in-a-comfy-chair-at-the-library person) it’s beautiful out! I can tell from my window looking at all the people in T-shirts and spandex, parking their bikes, sitting outside at the cafe across the street. I can tell by the yellowing leaves in the trees, and that sort of burnt gold filter that colors the atmosphere and makes things appear softer, the fading greens, even the people look softer.
So it’s ironic (I think that’s correct), that while the universe is telling us to slow down– “Pay attention. Appreciate it. This won’t last much longer. Winter is coming and you won’t believe how much shittier I can make all this get!”– we all chose this moment to get in a big ol’ hurry.
I’m just as much swept up into it as the next person, but I always want to stop and ask someone: Is this right? Is this what I’m supposed to be doing? Everybody else seems to move along unquestioningly. I wish I shared their doggedness.
Someone once told me that there are two types of people in the world: those who slow down when the traffic light turns yellow, and those who speed up.
I’d say nothing so simple. Because there are exactly three types of people in the world. Those who slow to a stop when the light turns yellow, those who speed up, and those who see the light turn yellow, go through a series of indecisions involving accelerating and braking and eventually stopping hard about two feet into the intersection, then cautiously reversing back behind the crosswalk. The last one is usually my m.o., but not always. I guess if I am holding to my thesis of “types” or “tribes,” that marks me as less than decisive. You could call my tribe the indecisive tribe. But I think a better term for my tribe is, “the rest of us.” The rest of us who are actually weighing the situation at hand (i.e., how long is this light usually? Are there cars behind me? Is there a person in the crosswalk? Are there any cops around? Do I have a text to finish reading? What’s my mental state right now? What’s my emotional state? What’s that guy doing? What kind of day is it…lucky? Because have you noticed you never get lucky on a bad day? Luck and emotions are all tied together.) There’s lots to consider.
No, my tribe is not just going binarily through life according to your yes/no rules. There is gray. There is yellow! Maybe that’s something I needn’t explain, but somehow I feel I do! To binary people. Nobody thinks they are a binary person, but as a non-binary person, I can tell you they are out there. In droves it seems to me. They really do keep “the rest of us” on our toes.
As traffic moves, the yellow light decelerators shake their shaming fists at the yellow light accelerators passing them by. The decelerators hope to be present the moment the accelerators meet their inevitable comeuppance. And the yellow light accelerators shake their pitying heads at the daft decelerators who, they know, will never get ahead in the world because decelerators just don’t know how to maximize the system. Well, I share that character trait with the decelerator tribe.
The yellow lights. They’re trying to tell us something. Until I know what, I’m going to slow down as everybody else whizzes by. I don’t feel lucky. I’m watching out for the tripping sticks that could send me to the ER. I’m watching out for the traffic cops who, by the way, are watching the stress salad too. I’m watching the leaves fade and fall. I’m watching the baby frogs and the parent frogs and the hormonal parentless frogs. I’m waiting for the yellow to turn to red, and back to green. I’ve got time.