On Sunday afternoon, Mister Soandso and I were stopped at an intersection, waiting for the light to change. I don’t remember what we were talking about but I do remember thinking about how dead the grass was along side the road and how the light bounced off the metal window frames of the business across the street. Finally, we got our green arrow and he eased into the intersection.
It’s a suburban city intersection – the kind with bicycle lanes, a turning lane and two lanes in both directions. The kind you get when the city planners have the space to widen lanes and plan for urban growth.
I’m so glad we were at that intersection and not some of the others in the area. Because all those lanes meant that we were only half-way across the intersection when a Durango barreled through, cutting us off. Another few seconds and it would have been my door he drove through instead of just a red light.
And while that part of the story is where my adrenaline started flowing fast and my heart beat like a timpani drum, that isn’t why I write about it today. It was the next part.
When we realized the vehicle was rapidly approaching us, Mister Soandso slammed on his brakes and laid on his horn. The Durango flew around us and then an arm was raised and the driver flew the internationally recognized gesture of anger.
Mister Soandso and I were incredulous and both yelled something along the line of “but our light was green”. When the other driver had to stop for his own left turn lane at the next intersection, we pulled along side. He already had his window down and was yelling at us. We yelled back (without profanity, I might add) that he’d run a red light. The driver angrily disagreed and then hurried off on his way.
At this point, my hands were shaking but my heart wasn’t pounding quite so much. Mister Soandso and I began theorizing. Perhaps the driver had seen the green light at the next intersection and mistook it for the intersection he drove through. Or perhaps he’d had the green light and then looked at his cell phone or something else that distracted him and he’d never looked back up until we honked. Or perhaps that old X-Files episode was being reenacted and both directions had a green light at the same time.
I don’t know. But what I do know is that the other driver was convinced that he had the right-of-way and that he had seen the light telling him that.
But in this case, the light was a lie. Or at least how he perceived the light was a lie.
Considering the physics of speed, velocity, the height of that lifted Durango’s bumper, and just where my head is while sitting in Mister Soandso’s car, I’m thankful everything worked out the way it did. Otherwise, there would not be a blog post today or perhaps ever. But what I am thinking about this morning isn’t just how lucky we are – instead I’m thinking about how easy it is to believe our perceptions of reality, even when they are a lie.
We love someone so we overlook their behavior. We need a paycheck so we overlook the stress a job gives us. We are frightened of the possibilities so we stay in a situation that is soul-sucking. And so on and so on.
This is the stuff philosophers have been wrangling even before sandals were political and fashion statements. How do I know the truth about my world?
And the truth is, I don’t. But a good friend just reminded me of this: what does your heart tell you is true?
It may not be 100% infallible, but it can be as good of a guide as any traffic signal.
What does your heart tell you? Do that and at least the process of making peace with the outcome is easier.
Oh, and today and every day, check the intersection a second time before entering it…you never know when the light is going to be a lie.