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Cross Traffic Does Not Stop

It’s my second full day of being home after three weeks of vacation. It’s a muggy, August morning. The sun hovers enough inside the clouds that the dog still wants to walk his normal hour. He chooses his route. It’s the highway. We head west, walk through the stop sign intersection and up to the diverging diamond lights before we turn for home.

I allow my mind to go mostly blank in terms of writing during the three weeks I was away. The corn tassels reach, and my mind does too. We arrive at the bottom of the hill and pause at the same stop sign intersection. My eyes focus on the thin rectangular sign below STOP. Black letters on yellow background read, “Cross Traffic Does Not Stop”.

Of course, it doesn’t. I know that. I know it by repeated driving and anyone who rolls across this pavement should know it by reading the words.

“Where’d you go?” Dad asks when he hears the screen door.


“Still don’t know why you let him go that way.”

I shrug.

“There were three more crashes while you were gone,” he adds with the same surprise as always. Neither of us can understand peoples’ lack of pause.

So, perhaps we do not know that ‘cross traffic does not stop’.

On my way to work, I stop at the intersection. I look right. A gray car approaches. I look left and see no cars. I look right and believe there’s time to cross, not much time, but some. Yet, I don’t. I can wait. I’m in no hurry. I turn my head back right and appearing from nothing is a red SUV much closer than the gray car. Too close.

I contemplate later, sitting in my office, the phrase. Cross traffic does not stop, but it has breaks that lull, gaps that frustrate and reasons to justify waiting or moving. Cross traffic did not stop where I left nor to where I returned. Cross traffic does not stop, and the decision to move is always based on my own assessment of what I can accomplish in the time allowed. We can assume the universe wills ‘accidents’ in my path that I never see coming though I act as if power is the other way around. I take for granted the easy decisions, the large gaps, and speed through when I should have looked each way just one more time.

Somehow, the blur of four legged black with no knowledge of power and rules, made it to the other side of the highway safely in my rearview mirror, and I almost didn’t.

Before my morning coffee had been made, Dad had added one last statement. “They’ll have lights down there you know. Soon. People can’t pay attention. Using their apps.”

Stoplights on all corners to pretend we control the cross traffic and thus the power to control peoples’ decisions. And yes, we can pause the traffic, create longer gaps to solidify the illusion of our own control, but cross traffic does not stop.


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