I remember my dad grumbling about odd traffic lights adjustment in East Berlin. The green-sequence for cars in front of us was incredible short whereas pedestrians and other cars could pass the crossroads for minutes. Instead of enhancing the flow of traffic, these traffic lights made the conditions worse and caused big jams.
I can not adjudicate upon spirit and purpose of the way Australians program their traffic lights but I know for sure that it helps to be a highly advanced monk to exercise the patience you need. On my first day I was aware of the left-traffic which confused me as much as I had foreseen it…in particular when located in an area with one-way roads and roundabouts. I decided to start slowly, check twice before crossing a street and of course to wait for traffic lights to turn from red to green especially when lots of school kids from the Indooroopilly State School were close by. I had no pressing duties in Australia and no other reason to hurry up than to avoid a sun burn and the defrosting of my frozen shopping products. I took the time to inspect the traffic light closer: it appeared like a regular European traffic light. A box with a big metal button was installed in a height of approximately one meter. You have to push the button as indication that you want to cross the street. Nothing I hadn`t seen before in Germany. Only the sound these boxes make when the traffic light turns to green was extraordinary and reminds me of a star trek phaser, followed by a cheap space ship machine gun.
On youtube I found a 10 second video about it:
Back to topic: I patiently waited at Moggill Road crossroads for about 45 seconds. That is the largest time I expect a traffic light to turn green in Germany. But nothing happened. The school kids didn`t bother, continued their chat and played around. After 1,5 min I was disquieted. I pushed the button of the traffic light box again. After 2 minutes I was sure something was wrong but what could I do… I tried to control my urge to ignore my good breeding and start to run. I succeeded and waited another 30 seconds. I lost my ability to measure time. It might have taken 2,5 minutes, 3 minutes or longer. Finally the kids were crossing the street and I followed. On half way the red traffic light started to blink which means: You can go on if you have already entered the street but stop if you haven`t. It is an equivalent to the yellow light for cars.
Okay. I had reached the other side of the crossroads but I had to repeat the same procedure to attain to the diagonal side of where my journey had begun. Oh, no! (All guys who remember the old computer game Lemmings know how I felt. In my imagination I put both hands on my head, shook my body and exploded in a fountain of confetti like one of these pixel creatures from the early 90’s) If you have to cross about 10 streets or crossroads with traffic lights for a simple shopping tour, you better take some gloves, a scarf and warm boots with you if you start in summer because it might be that seasons have changed a couple of times before you will be home. – To avoid the trouble of carrying more weight of additional clothes with you than weight of products you like to buy, temperature in Australia keeps always high enough to walk around in a t-shirt.
I really hoped that these traffic lights at Moggill Road were an exception but on my way to the suburb New Farm some days later I was disabused. If you aren’t a monk in perfect mental balance you have to be Australian to deal with those traffic lights. Over hundred meters of clear street, no danger far and wide but seniors as well as teenagers with skateboards stop well-behaved, waiting for the lights turning green – an inapprehensible phenomenon!
How can somebody be so layed back to stand such a nonsense and waste up to 3 min at every crossroads? I refused to assimilate, bethought of my old Berlin-Neukölln habits and down-graded traffic lights to a casual recommendation when to cross a street. To not offend honest Australians watching my disobeying behavior I first walk about 10-15 meters aside before I cross the street. Like this, I haven’t infringed upon existing Australian traffic rules but still save minutes. I have two healthy eyes and a good working brain (because it did not melt down to nut size yet during hours of waiting in brutal heat of the Australian sun) so I will rather stick to my resolution to decide by myself when to cross streets than relying on stupidly programmed machines stealing my precious life time!
Your ill-mannered risk taker Christian