Paris Goodnight: Flashing yellow — a cautionary tale

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 29, 2023

Flashing yellow lights should be a cautionary sign, as in don’t stop but proceed as slowly as necessary. I saw another color of lights behind me after I spent a little too much time waiting at flashing yellow stop lights in front of me on Main Street recently.

I should have kept moving along but I didn’t, and I couldn’t really say exactly why. What I tried to explain to the officer was that I just wasn’t thinking straight after a long night of work and a little different route from my normal way home.

It just goes to show you that sometimes the brain cells aren’t firing on all cylinders, especially late at night. But I’m not sure there is a tuneup that can correct that, particularly as the years add up.

We’re dealing with some older relatives at various stages of mental activity not being what it should, but that’s really just a reminder that we will all lose a little mental agility at some point just like we must surely give up the grasp on other abilities, no matter how we fight against it. I’ve probably thought more about those ravages of time at a younger age than I should have, but I can’t seem to kick that habit either. I just know we’re not guaranteed even tomorrow, so we’re not supposed to worry about such things and carry on as best we can today without fretting. We’ve got to keep on keeping on as they say, and I’m sure that’s what most everybody is trying to do.

Leaving the Post at the late hours we do, there’s always a chance of seeing blue lights out for traffic stops or if something we do draws the attention of an officer on patrol. That’s certainly what they’re supposed to do, keep watch for those who are on the roads and shouldn’t be at that hour.

One of the older guys who used to work in our pressroom always took two copies of the paper home with him at night, just in case he got pulled over — he said he’d offer the extra one to whoever was checking his license in hopes that would be enough evidence that he was telling the truth with an early version of the morning paper hot off the press in the middle of the night. I tried that strategy myself for a while but then the copies started stacking up since I didn’t get stopped on the way home on any regular basis.

I always liked that idea but couldn’t do it now since we don’t roll the presses here and it would be a little longer wait until the supply rolls back in from a printing operation a little farther away than just down the hall.

When the officer asked why I had remained stopped at those flashing yellow lights, I didn’t have a good reason and had no good evidence that I’d been hard at work for the evening either. So I did my best to explain I just wasn’t thinking clearly after stopping a block earlier to let a couple cross Main Street before I moved on. After checking my license and registration, he allowed me to go on my way.

As my wits returned, I realized I had taken a little different route than I normally do, though it’s not like I don’t go down Main Street often on the way home. Just changing the routine by a block threw off the familiarity of the light pattern enough apparently.

I’m starting to think that will become more of a hazard with a few additional years behind me if the daily routine gets changed in other ways and forces me to use the brain cells a little more than just being on autopilot.

In the end, I’m just relieved the incident didn’t end with a ticket, or maybe being handcuffed on the sidewalk with multiple blue lights flashing. But that’s a tale from much longer ago, and if you haven’t heard it, maybe when the library completes its digital archiving of all the Post material, you can look it up.

I wasn’t making that tale up when I got back to the office either, but I have learned to check my license plate a little more regularly over the years just to make sure mine hasn’t been switched with one from a stolen vehicle while I wasn’t watching.

Paris Goodnight is editor of the Salisbury Post.