Stoplights are a daily nuisance.
You’re running late for wherever you had to be three minutes ago, only to see the light you’re rapidly approaching turn to yellow. Pressing down on the gas pedal, the light suddenly turns to red, and you screech your tires to a stop right before entering the intersection.
At this point, some people grumble and wait impatiently for the light to turn green once again, glaring at the light box like it’s suddenly going to become scared and change colors just for you. However, many people see stoplights—no matter how inconvenient—as an opportunity to relax or accomplish things that they did not have time to do previously. Oftentimes, people begin to bank on getting stopped at a stoplight in order to accomplish morning activities, and they become frustrated on days where every light remains green on their journey.
I put on my socks at stoplights. Every morning, I grab a clean pair of socks and stuff them into my pocket before heading out the door. At the first stoplight I come to, I slip my foot out of my shoe, pull on one sock, and wiggle my foot back into my shoe. At the next stoplight, I put on the other sock. It is very frustrating when I arrive at either school or work with only one sock on, although doing so generally means that I am finally on time for something. Luckily, I am not the only one who has learned to take advantage of these mandatory pauses in my daily commute.
Many people like to daydream at stoplights, especially writers and musicians. What better a time to work on a new plot twist or new lyrics for your hit single than while stuck at a stoplight? You’re all alone with nothing else to do. That time might as well be spent for creative purposes.
Other people enjoy making their fellow drivers feel uncomfortable. “I like to stare at the people in the cars next to me!” reports Andy Brill. People-watching is a favorite pastime of many, especially since drivers seem to think they are invisible while in the confines of their car. How many people have you seen doing socially inappropriate behaviors—like picking their nose—while seated in their car? Most statisticians would bet that a high number of people have been caught in the act.
Still, there are some people who aren’t bothered by other drivers staring at them while engaged in any action other than staring straight ahead at the road. “I like to blast songs like ‘I Will Survive’ and sing along to them dramatically with all of the windows down!” admits Bryan Trujillo. “True story. There is a video of it on Facebook!”
Some are more concerned about mechanical issues while waiting for the light to change. “I try not to stall or burn out when the light turns green,” says Stefan Spaeth. “I drive a stick shift.” Similarly, Nathan Stholer’s manual vehicle plays a crucial role in waiting at stoplights, only he uses his as a boredom-killer rather than as a worry.
“I use the clutch to rock myself back and forth because I am impatient,” Stholer confesses.
The vast majority of people polled enjoy fiddling with their phones at stoplights. Sending text messages, creeping on Facebook and Twitter, checking e-mails, and playing Words With Friends are all fair game to help pass the time. “Why not send texts at stoplights?” laughs Miles Hockman. “The vehicle is stopped, so it’s not illegal. You’re just sitting there anyway.” Most people share Hockman’s sentiment, and I admit that I enjoy Tweeting at stoplights once my socks are firmly on my feet.
Interestingly enough, no one reported simply waiting for the light to change when asked on their individual stoplight behavior, perhaps lending credibility to the belief that adolescents and young adults have the inability to remain bored. Applying make-up, eating, meditating, and taking medication are all common ways to occupy one’s time when waiting at stoplight after stoplight.
The average American spends approximately one year waiting at stoplights over the course of their lifetime. It might as well be spent productively. So long as you are not harming anyone in the vehicles surrounding you—such as by exposing private areas of one’s body, drinking alcoholic beverages, or participating in any other criminal behavior that would get you arrested any other time—make stoplight time your time!