So I’m driving to work yesterday morning. I stop at a red light. There are two cars in front of me, one in each of the lanes going my direction. There’s sleet on the streets and clouds overhead. Bob Dylan croons away on the radio. There’s a kind of rushed feeling in the air; everyone’s just staring straight ahead, locked into their vehicles, just wanting to get to where they’re going as soon as possible. In all respects, it’s as mundane a weekday morning as they come.
The light turns yellow, then green. Anticipating movement I release the brake and let the car glide forward a few inches, foot hovering over the gas pedal. The guy in front of me doesn’t move. Neither does the guy in the other lane. As the seconds pass, I grow slightly annoyed. Why is neither of them moving? I consider honking my horn, but for some reason I decide not to, partly because I just don’t feel like it and partly because I am certain that before long someone else will. More seconds pass. No one honks their horn. I begin to get a strange, vaguely Lynchian feeling about the whole affair. I look around at the driver next to me and the drivers in the cars behind us. Everyone’s just sitting there. No one honks. No one frowns or fumes or makes faces. They just sit there. I turn my head back around, and lo! Both of the drivers seem to have caught on at the same time, independently of each other, and they begin accelerating with an eerie synchronicity, as if choreographed. Everyone else just follows behind them like nothing out of the ordinary had happened. The whole incident has taken maybe 10-15 seconds.
As I pulled into the parking lot at work, I suddenly realized that I (and the rest of the people at that traffic light) had just had a Moment™, one of those strange occurrences that kinda propel you into a zone where everyday rules, reflexes and assumptions don’t apply somehow, where suddenly – just for a few seconds – unreality peeks into the doorway, does a little jig for your amusement, then runs back and lets reality resume its hold.
Slight hijack… I am actually in the process of trying to write a book, but I find that it doesn’t flow for me as easily when I’m writing something I hope to one day have published somewhere. Plus, the scope of the story kinda leads me to believe I’m biting off a bit more than I can chew at the moment. I seem to be better at (and more comfortable with) short, everyday stories. But anyway.
Q.E.D., I live in Iceland. The traffic lights here are the same way as in the UK.
Washte, if someone had run the red and everyone had miraculously escaped due to being zoned out, I would have just handed Paul Thomas Anderson the script rights to my life (or at the very least that morning) and given him free rein. That would just have been too weird.
I still would love to hear some other people’s Moments, though. Anyone?
Well, it might not be exactly what you’re looking for, but this is the only “moment” that springs to mind right now…
One hot day in Tanzania I was playing football (mistakenly referred to as soccer by some people) with most of the senior school. These football games happened every day. The idea was, most of the 8th and 9th (and sometimes 10th) grade boys (and a few girls) would show up and be one team, while a bunch of 11th and 12th graders would be the other team. This meant that the 11/12ers were always outnumbered, but since at least one of the players has since gone professional, it worked out pretty fair. The games were always pretty much chaos - lots of people were having lunch while playing, or standing around chatting, and so most people would only do anything when the ball came near them while a handful of people were actually trying to play properly, in the way that schoolkids do, which means “get the ball and dribble as far as you can towards the other goal, and if by some miracle you get more than 10 metres because you don’t pass or otherwise use teamwork, try to score”.
Incidentally, this football field was in a corner of the school, with relatively busy roads just outside the fences on both sides.
Anyway, one day, this was happening as usual - I was in my usual position, leaning against our goal chatting to the goalie while watching the chaos at the other end. Then one guy, a notoriously bad shot, tries to score. He kicks way too hard and high, so the ball goes over the fence… and before it has time to bounce, the ball hits the windshield of a car that passes at that exact moment. Since the car is going quite fast, it obviously shoots the ball off in front of it - STRAIGHT into an open shipping container that just happens to be on the other side of the road! This image looked a lot funnier in reality than in text, but you get the idea. It looked exactly like that car had been scoring a goal with a header in some kind of massive city-wide overgrown game of football.
So, naturally, everyone on the football pitch just stares in silence for a few seconds… before everyone collapses in fits of laughter.