Impatient New Yorker Berates Stoplights
Tiny backseat driver allegedly bribes slowpoke red lights with offer of teddy bears
Kina does not like being stopped in traffic, which makes New York simultaneously the worst place for her to live and the absolute perfect place for her to live.
Worst: We leased a car just as the pandemic traffic reduction here made a sharp turnaround, rendering Delancey Street—barren in April—once again impassible. Even Laurea refuses to drive in New York City, and she’s relatively tolerant of red lights, but Kina didn’t sign up for this car thinking that it would from time to time sit idle. She finds this infuriating. Surely the suburbs must be better than this.
Best: She is growing up to be the most stereotypical New Yorker possible, calling out from the back seat for me to get a move on, demanding that the light be turned green for her, telling me to do something or get going. She does not suffer in silence, this kid, and stillness for her is suffering. In that, she is very naturally of this place.
I do not subscribe to the notion that New Yorkers are generally selfish or rude; I have found the citizens of this city to be far more helpful and generous in a pinch than most places I’ve visited. But not in traffic; on the roads, all notions of fairness and collective well-being go out the window. New York is the home of the last-minute merge, the run red light, the insistent nose-in at a dead stop. As careful readers will remember, I have a honking problem, and in this city I am far from alone.
When Kina asks me to do something about a red light, I humor her by moaning miserably, begging the light to change, or to at least acknowledge the unfairness of the situation. We only had twelve seconds to cross, I scream at the light, and who can go anywhere in twelve seconds in traffic like this? Turning solemn, I plead with the stoplight: Look in the back seat of my car, this kid is getting impatient. At that, Kina scowls and begins to mock whine. She’s impatient! Let’s go!
After a few rides like this, Kina seemed to figure out that what I was actually doing was convincing her to stop being red, and turned on me. I have since changed my tactic, and enlisted her in a solution that leans more on the carrot than the stick. Together, we bribe the stoplight to turn, offering various gifts and incentives until it finally lets us pass. Frequently, the winning bribe is a teddy bear (though we usually need to try several colors before we get the green). Now that we have a winning approach, of course, she has come to realize that most traffic lights are green, and she finds this incredibly annoying. Like a true New Yorker, she is never happy. She’s perfect here.
Today’s Parade is a Mommy special with Kina stickers, the product of a long non-Googled stretch of relearning how exactly to make paper snowflakes. This is memorialized on the front page with the headline “This Doesn’t Look Like a Real Snowflake!” which was absolutely a fair accusation.