I used to drive home from my friend Mike’s basement apartment on this lonely, two-lane road. It was always late at night and I’d roll down the windows so that the cold, country-time air could help keep me awake. The air smelled like a cologne Beetlejuice might wear — a tangy combination of fresh manure, foggy dew, and squashed skunk.
Yes, I’d say it was a nice, quiet way to end an evening, a relaxing and peaceful drive home on those late nights.
But then they came.
The big-box stores gobbled up that cheap farmer land and dropped in a concrete paradise full of parking lots, neon signs, and a neverending series of traffic lights that completely clogged up the roads. The cold, farm air was replaced by a new smell — a thick, heady mix of car exhaust and Taco Bell fumes.
And, you know, I understand.
Every massive parking lot really does need its own traffic light. I mean, without them, you’d be stuck trying to make a left turn out of Home Depot for half an hour. You buy those two by fours, you want to go build that deck, am I right? No really, I get it. I’ve been there too, and I get the lights.
But let’s be honest: the resulting gauntlet is no good, either.
On that old drive home from Mike’s basement apartment they built up more than ten traffic lights in a row, each only about a couple hundred feet apart. There was traffic light after traffic light after traffic light, a sort of slow, hellish march through the jungle of progress.
And the lights never lined up either. You’d hit two greens, then two reds. You’d race through a couple of last-second yellows and then get your comeuppance with five reds in a row. Yes, it was a frustratingly, fuel-wastingly, stop-and-go-to-slow ordeal.
Now, one night I was driving home from Mike’s place a little later than usual. We started a movie when we should’ve called it a night, and I was trucking home at three in the morning on a Tuesday. I approached The Gauntlet groggily and hit the first few green lights in a row, no problem. Nothing special, I figured, probably just a tease. After all, The Gauntlet had never lost.
But then, before I knew it, I had made a couple more.
Then a couple more.
Then a couple more.
Suddenly I was two lights away from the finish line and I couldn’t believe my luck. Looking ahead I could see that both lights were green, tempting me, showing me what might be possible.
So I gunned it.
I blew through the second-last green and saw that last one turn to yellow. There was no way I was going to get that close without making it through, so I just jammed the gas and just barely squeezed by as the light turned red.
Yes, it was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. I was buzzing huge that night and smiling ear to ear. And really, just tell me the truth — if you’ve ever blown through a string of green lights in a row, how does it make you feel?
I’ve got just one guess.
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