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Mike's Take: Two certainties in life ... death and texting

Thursday - 1/12/2012, 5:22pm  ET

Mike Causey, special to wtop.com

WASHINGTON - After decades of driving in 22 states and three foreign countries, I have learned a couple of things (often the hard way):

  • When you're low on gas (petrol, whatever), don't wait ... take care of it. It's like when you have to go to the bathroom. Same thing ... don't wait. The situation isn't going to get better, which brings to mind an incident at the Lincoln Memorial -- but I'll save that for another time. Anyway, the point, do it now!

  • When you come to a stop light and the light is red, stop. The stopping almost guarantees the light will turn green. When it does, then you go. I thought pretty much everybody knew that. Red, stop. Green, go. But apparently not. At least not in the D.C. area in the last year or so.
It seems like a couple of times a week these days, I'm behind somebody who sits at a red light -- and when it turns green, as it always does, the driver continues to sit there. Eventually, someone waiting behind this person has had enough and honks. The dead head driver hears the honking, looks up and finally realizes it is green and that green means go.

Do these people not know that if a light is red it will eventually turn green? Even on Wisconsin Avenue? Once green, it is your duty to move on. So what am I missing about what they are missing?

Then I got it. I think.

At first I thought, 'maybe driving rules had changed?' Maybe we are now supposed to wait 20 seconds before moving on? I tested this theory out on a younger guy (my son) who is wise to the ways of the world. He said the "dead head" drivers probably don't know when a light changes from red to green until somebody honks because they are busy texting.

The honk is a signal that the situation has changed -- like from red to green -- and they should move on. They aren't offended, he said, because texting is their new life. People who honk are doing them a favor. We are also enabling them.

So what to do? How to we deal with these text fiends?

I saw a Swedish anti-tank gun suitable for mounting on a passenger car on Ebay, but somebody mentioned D.C. probably has a law against owning one -- even if I fired blanks to get the texters' attention. I also rejected the idea, proposed by a friend, to get the American Pickers guys to get me a cow-catcher (circa 1850s) from a railroad engine that would fit my Chevy Cobalt. If I pushed him around Ward Circle a couple of times, he might start practicing safe text.

There may be hope, assuming texting isn't replaced in a few months by some other technological breakthrough, down the road.

Wouldn't it be great if our license plate numbers could also double as an auxiliary telephone number? That way, if the clown ahead of you is texting when the light changes you could text him, quickly, with the news that the red light, believe it or not, has changed.

Until then, maybe a front-facing surplus air raid alarm mounted on the passenger seat will do the trick. I hope everybody in the car pool is a good sport. Maybe I should text them.


Mike has spent the majority of his life inside the Beltway and has an interesting and humorous perspective that he will share every Wednesday. Mike has spent his career covering the federal government for the Washington Post and now for Federal News Radio.

Mike also writes a daily column for Federal News Radio
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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved)