A couple of decades ago, my dad was visiting a foreign country and observed over the course of a week that the driving conventions were…different…from what we mostly encounter in the U.S.
He described a ballet of chaos: near misses, honking, brake-screeching, and a marked disinclination of the folks on the road to follow any discernible traffic rules. (At least discernible to a visitor…)
In the taxi on the way to the airport to catch his flight home, Dad, being that kind of dad (the kind who asks the toll operator “How’s business?” during rush hour), decided to strike up a conversation with his cabbie after the man plowed through *another* red light with barely a pause and a decidedly heavy hand on the horn.
“I wonder if I can get your insight into something that’s got me curious.”
“Well, I’ve noticed the drivers here don’t seem to differentiate between green and red lights.”
“This is so, yes.”
“Why is that?”
The driver was silent for a couple of beats then came back with, “Well, sir, green means go. And red? Red is a color.”
The first time I heard this story, I laughed, reacting to my father’s skills as a recounteur without giving it much further reflection. It was just another funny anecdote from Dad’s vast collection of travel monologues.
Over the years, I’ve cajoled Dad into repeating it a dozen or more times. Slowly, what started as a standard fish out of water story turned into something deeper, a philosophy of life I aspire to follow.
Think about it. Green means go. Full speed ahead, pedal to the metal, get to getting and zoom off in pursuit of your wildest horizons. Nothing holds you back when you have a green light.
That’s the easy part, for me.
When it comes to red, though, sometimes it feels like I’m painting the town with a big scarlet brush, and I don’t mean in a happy, living-large and closing down the bars kind of way. I mean in a make-my-world-a-little-smaller, play it safe, stay compliant, settle for less, look for the stop sign and obey kind of way.
So is it any wonder that I like the cabbie’s philosophical approach? What freedom there is in meeting problems without the constrictions of “must do the expected.”
[clears throat] One last thing: While I’m zooming off to my various horizons, you will, in fact still see me stopping at *actual* red traffic lights. I use my turn signals, too. I mean, let’s go crazy, friends, but, you know, within reason.