Sitting, Waiting, Wishing at Bryn Mawr and Lancaster Avenues

One can get a lot done while waiting for that red light, as long as it doesn’t involve going anywhere.

I avoid it like the plague. I plan elaborately to escape its torture. Frankly, I’d rather sit through a root canal.

OK, so it’s not quite that bad. But I do hate the intersection of Bryn Mawr and Lancaster avenues. The traffic light there lasts longer than the time needed to thread a needle with your eyes closed, longer than the last two minutes of a football game, longer than it takes a snail to cross the street—on crutches.

Sometimes, I forget. I head toward that fateful crossroads and get caught. Usually, it hits me when I see the light turning yellow. I punch the gas, demanding speed in an instant.

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Alas, there’s usually someone slow-poking in front of me. Glaring at the back of my fellow motorist’s head, I try to will the person to drive faster—to no avail. The braking started a half-block back while the light was still green.

Big sigh.

I bring the car to a stop under protest. I sip my Starbucks black iced tea and hope 20 ounces can last the length of the light. I listen to the day’s top stories and traffic on KYW. I envy the people flying along on I-95 and sympathize with those stuck on the Schuylkill.

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I consider catching up on some reading. Then I might pay some bills, listen to the entire first half of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, and check for the white hairs I missed that morning.

Instead, I devise a backstory for each of the 15 pedestrians I see crossing the intersection. I peruse the faces of the other drivers trapped behind the white lines and wonder what they’re thinking. Then I have them starring in an imaginary version of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.”

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That makes me think of food, so I plan my meals for the rest of the week. I decide to go to the grocery store when—or if—the light ever turns green.

Which, of course, it finally does—only it’s for the drivers going the other way. I contemplate a nap. I think about parking and leaving my car there. (I could walk to the grocery store faster.)

Finally, I’m free to go. How do I work this fancy machine? Like riding a bike, it all comes back to me. The car lurches forward as if it nodded off, too. Suddenly, I hit the brake. Several rebellious peds have decided to ignore the “Don’t Walk” sign and invade the crosswalk.

The light goes from green to yellow to red. I make a mental note not to come this way again, if I can help it—which, naturally, I’ll forget until the very moment I’m sitting here again. Waiting.

Freelance writer Tara Lynn Johnson still has to catch up on her sweater knitting, leaf counting, deep-breathing exercises …

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