Musings from Home

Looking Over My Shoulder

I had a very interesting experience last week that taught me an important lesson about myself.

I ran a red light.

Yes, I know, how dangerous! How could I? I should be ashamed. Well, I am . . . and more.

This wasn’t a “I’m in a hurry and don’t have time for this light” kind of running a red light. And it wasn’t a just-turned yellow to red running of a red light. It was red when I pulled up to it (or at least I’m assuming it was). Not to make excuses, but to explain how I, usually a rule-follower for fear of not following the rules (and for another reason explained below), happened to blatantly run a red light, here’s the story.

It was a new-to-me traffic pattern with two consecutive red lights, the first of which didn’t appear to have any cross-traffic or turn lanes anywhere. The second light had a turn lane into a shopping center. My first thought as I came up to the line at the first light was that this was the overflow line in case there was a whole line of cars waiting to turn at the next light (which is hindsight doesn’t make any sense, since I didn’t see a cross-street). So since there were only a couple of cars at the second light, I coasted on to that light. Just as I was going under the first light, I realized it was actually a light, NOT a second line for the first light. I know. I know. How could I have missed that? No idea.

The point of this post is my reaction afterward. I noted that the car behind me did stop at the first red light. And I imagined the driver’s reaction to seeing me coast on through. Anger. Disgust. Frustration. All justified. It seemed like a really stupid thing to do. It didn’t get me anywhere. I was still stopped at a light, so why run it?

I also wondered if this person was going to call the police and report seeing someone deliberately run the light. I also briefly wondered if that light had a camera on it and if I was going to receive a ticket in the mail. It was OK with me if I did. I ran the light. I’d pay the ticket without grumbling.

But what I didn’t expect was how I felt when I pulled into the shopping center next to the second light and had to wait 20 minutes for the store to open. I was paranoid and a little scared. I kept looking in the rearview mirror, expecting to see a police car drive in. I know (and I knew then) how silly my thinking was over a red light, but I couldn’t help it. I felt so guilty. I had broken a law. I had been seen breaking a law. I just knew they were coming for me (OK, now I’m exaggerating, but you know what I’m getting at).

Then I started thinking — with a bit of a chuckle — how I would make the worst criminal in the world. I doubt I have the mind to plan a really fool-proof crime (if there even is such a thing). And I know that I could never do a violent crime because I could never willfully hurt anyone else. But I have discovered that I don’t have the mental toughness or the stomach to commit any illegal act. I would live every moment of the rest of my life feeling guilty, feeling shame not just for myself but for everyone who loves me, and I would spend every moment looking over my shoulder. Why do people ever think that the outcome of a crime will make them happier? That certainly wouldn’t be the case for me, even if I was never caught.

No thanks. I’ll take my comfortable, familiar, simple, but great life with my wonderful family. Not that there is never any guilt, but I don’t spend much time looking over my shoulder. That in itself is a fabulous thing!

So while you’re counting me out of Little House, count me out of all criminal endeavors as well. That way I can keep my sanity (such as it is). 🙂

Is your conscience and sense of guilt as silly and paralyzing as mine (and I’m not talking about crimes here)? Have you ever run a red light and were you able to shrug it off?

Have you entered my giveaway yet? Three more days (counting today).


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