It begins in a most ordinary way. I pull up to a light just turned red, apply the brakes, and coast comfortably to a stop. Behind me several other cars do likewise. And I wait, knowing the full light cycle must first complete itself before I can continue on my way. Still since no one likes to sit idly by, my eyes soon lock in on the signal, in anticipation of its imminent change over to green. But it remains red. Must be one of those long lights. Or maybe my timing’s off.
Sure seems overdue. But I’m not in the habit of ignoring stoplights. So I wait. And then I wait some more. The light has to be broken. And I’m beginning to feel foolish for waiting upon a mechanism clearly malfunctioning. But maybe it just skipped a cycle and will soon convert to green. It’s a theory worth checking out. But time for such speculations is running out. I hear a tentative honk from one of the cars behind. Moments later it becomes a rising chorus as several others back in the line join in. Clearly they’ve already arrived at a decision, determined what I must do. And as leader of the pack, their fate, for the moment at least, is in my hands. What if I defy the light, undeniably still red, and am caught? But haven’t I acted responsibly and waited a sufficient time? Besides the decision was not mine, but rather that of all those instigators clamoring behind me. So I give in and go. Looking both ways quickly and praying there’s no police car around I slink across the intersection, glancing at the same time in the mirror to see if, just at that moment, the light finally has changed. Fortunately it hasn’t. I did nothing wrong, did I?