Service of Just Because the Light is Green…

December 14th, 2015

Categories: Deception, Disappointment, Green Light, Traffic, Transportation

Green light

We see green lights but that doesn’t mean it’s safe to pass or to take the next step or to expect the usual to happen.

I thought of the title and this post as I crossed 45th Street and Second Avenue with the light and was almost run over by a police car that couldn’t go very far after its turn. The street was clearly jammed and traffic was at a standstill. The policeman driving didn’t honk and no lights indicated who he was or that he was rushed.

Nevins Street SubwayI encountered a second example commuting back and forth to Brooklyn from Manhattan on the subway a few times over a weekend recently. Waiting at the Nevins Street station where both East and Westside trains pass by, in the 16-some minutes before my train arrived, three went to the Westside. Did someone at the MTA check the schedule?

Given the delay, my train to Manhattan was jammed on a Saturday night at 6:30 pm. When it reached the city, at every stop, the recorded announcement blared, “This is an express train to Woodlawn,” and yet it stopped at every single local station. Imagine your confusion if you were from out of town?

jammed subway carWhen it reached 42nd Street, I stayed on figuring it would stop at the next local station, 51st street, but it didn’t. It became the express it was supposed to be all along, without notice. There are motormen and women on each train: Were they, like those who maintained the schedule, asleep or busy cashing their paychecks?

Not everyone has a smartphone that works underground nor is everyone linked to apps with the latest subway information. Does MTA management assume we all are?

It’s not just transportation—by foot or by subway—that gives off mixed signals. I might count on something or someone and whatever’s promised falls through or becomes a shadow of its original self, turning a green light into a watery orange or red one. Do you have an inner gauge that accurately reports to you when “Go!” means that and/or other examples of when you’ve proceeded based on a literal or symbolic green light and shouldn’t have or couldn’t?



6 Responses to “Service of Just Because the Light is Green…”

  1. hb Said:

    I’m with you. I have also noticed an accelerating deterioration in the quality and orderliness of our transportation services across the board in New York.

    I think it is all part of a general mal-ease not just in transportation but in all aspects of our lives and not just in New York but in the world. Otherwise, would a man like Donald Trump appeal to a large segment of the population?

    I haven’t a clue as to how to fix it, but I know installing a Fascist as our next President is not the right answer.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I walk as much as I can in NYC but there are times walking is impractical. My second choice is the subway for speed and efficiency [except in the instance noted], especially at holiday time because of gridlock alert days where traffic is impossible. I adore bus rides, to see what’s going on in store windows etc.–always have, but they are impractical for this reason and for another one: Busses don’t seem to come often.

    But transportation is only a part of it. When, in business, people hint at potential projects that don’t come through–and this usually happens when they realize you charge for your time–that’s frustrating and a time-waster.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    It is said that an orange light to a New York driver is a signal to go fast, and even faster after it turns to red. In a small way, this behavior is life in a capsule. The trick is to be alert when the light blushes, both in traffic as well as elsewhere.

    To quote an astute relative who commented on the strategy of giving way at certain times: “You might be just as dead as if you were wrong!” The art of survival often depends on knowing when to jump vs. standing ones ground.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Your relative made an excellent point. I’ve often had to step back and look at a bigger picture so as not to ruin a business relationship over a minor blip which would be similar to being run over when crossing with a green light. Stepping back can be lifesaving, not just for pedestrians!

  5. Martha Takayama Said:

    This is such a savvy, realistic summary of the unexpected in life. I know that it has happened to me. I also think that I do try to rely on what you refer to as an inner gauge. At the moment it is too uncomfortable to write about specific moments or situations.

    I can cite a splendid example of failure to perceive whether or not to move when the light turned green. The humorous and wistful short story in the middle of a collection called: Rio de Janeiro: Historias de Vida e Morte (Stories of Life and Death) by Luiz Eduardo Saores, is a carefully crafted essay about the failure to understand when the green light means to go or is a rite. A young Scandinavian man chats with a charming married couple from a comfortable background on a fashionable beach one afternoon. When they all are leaving for the day, the Brazilian couple utters the usual carioca phrase to end an unplanned encounter, “Drop by sometime….”.The young man, informed of the couple’s address commits the awful faux pas of arriving at the couple’s house that evening as they are dressing for an engagement. The result is a sort of comedy of errors, with the visitor spared the awkwardness of understanding the reality. The author muses on the value of charm, graciousness and camaraderie in the day to day life of Rio, the enchanted city which uses that phrase as a farewell.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    What a perfect and charming example! It is so much more poignant than my business example of researching a project and then being disappointed by being asked to do a tiny, unprofitable part of it or worse yet, completing a project in record time to save someone’s bacon and not being paid. The latter has happened only twice in the time I’ve owned the agency so I’m lucky but the former happens more and more often.

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