The Dumbest Traffic Light in the World


Do you notice something odd about the placement of this traffic light? That’s right. There’s no cross street.

The light resides in the middle of a standard, otherwise unremarkable, city block, in the Chinatown neighborhood of Oakland, California. You’ll notice the crosswalk markings in the street. The building I work in is on this street and I can tell you from experience that very few people cross the street there. There’s a garage entrance on the other side of the street, out of view, but it’s presence doesn’t warrant a traffic light.

Just so you know I haven’t gone crazy or succumbed to dementia, there’s a reason I’m writing about this. Have you ever driven a car in Oakland’s Chinatown? If not, I can share that traffic laws are not enforced there.

People double-park in Chinatown all the time. People jay-walk and even the city-provided walk signs are set up to allow people to cross the street diagonally. I have no problem with any of that. It’s well established that different cultures have different traffic practices. I live in a diverse region so I accept it.

Except that the dumbest traffic light in the world exists in the context of what is otherwise a traffic-law-free zone. My solution is to ignore the traffic light and pay attention to any stray pedestrians who happen to be in the crosswalk.

Running a red light on the way to work each day is a liberating experience.

California Dreaming


There is perhaps nothing more American than an auto show. Many of the best cars are made in other countries, but no other country identifies as strongly with the automobile. It is part of America’s cultural identity.

My favorite part of the auto show is the collection of classic cars, like the Duesenberg shown above. I didn’t take a photo of the description card, so forgive the lack of details, but the Duesenberg has a supercharged engine that generates over 300 horsepower and allows the car to achieve a top speed of 124 mph. That’s pretty impressive, and ironic, considering it was built in the 1930’s during the depths of the Great Depression.

By the way, if you ever happen to be in Indiana and you have some spare time, be sure to check out the car museum in Auburn, near Fort Wayne. The museum contains a collection of classic Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg cars, along with a collection of classic Indian motorcycles. The museum is located in Auburn because that is where the Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg factory resided back in the day.

I try to attend the auto show every year, but this year I had a specific purpose. The lease on my car is about to expire and I need to decide whether to turn it in, or pay the residual and purchase it outright. I’ll spare you the suspense: I’m going to buy the leased car. I’ve also decided that I will never again lease a car. It makes no sense for me. Oh well. Sometimes you try these things and they don’t work out. My theory at the time was that I didn’t want to be locked in by purchasing, but I really like my leased car, and I didn’t find anything at the auto show that I liked better that was around the same price point.

There were other cars that I liked better than my car, but they were way out of reach. An example is this sweet Rolls Royce.


This is the new Flying Spur. The base price is around $470,000. They had a rope line around the Rolls, so you couldn’t get near it, much less sit inside or kick the tires. There seemed to be a┬áprice point of around $80,000, above which the attendees were not allowed to sit in the cars or get close enough to touch them. An exception was the Land Rovers. But even then you weren’t allowed to sit in the big Range Rover, which has a base price of $124,000. I don’t know whether other auto shows have the same policy, but it’s very frustrating, and emphasizes the dividing line between the average person and the one percent.

Of course, I really don’t know what I’d do with the Rolls, even if I could afford it. For one thing, my house has no off street parking. For another, I think I would feel too conspicuous driving it around. I wonder if people who own cars like these even drive them, or if they just let the chauffeur do that. It would seem like an awful waste to own one and never even drive it. I think it’s better to dream about a car like the Rolls in the abstract than to actually own one.