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O Yi of Little Faith

How Beige Was

Posted: January 15, 2009 11:35 p.m.
Updated: January 16, 2009 4:55 a.m.
"Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for - in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it."
- Ellen DeGeneres

It's Yi. I know it's Yi. That darn, lousy, snickering practical joker, Andrew Yi, High Holy Grand Poobah & Czar Of All Things Traffic in the Santa Enchirito Valley.

Andy's the guy who sits behind the Orwellian control panel at City Hall and monitors every square inch of highway within our borders.

Andy's got it in for me.

Where I live is somewhat rural. Every few days or so, I must motor into town for necessities. You know.

Gum. That Preparation H type cold cream you dab under your eyes to lessen the puffiness. Purina Monkey Chow in the 250-pound bags.

I feed the monkey chow to the coyotes.

Instead of howling: "Yip-yip-yip-yip-yow," they wail so mournfully: "Oooh-ooooh-ooooh-ooh-ooooooooooooooooooooo (long pause) tookey-tookey."

What can I say. Living here a half-century, things get too predictable.

My commute from Sand Canyon to Yuppieville isn't what you call nightmarish. I merrily coast downhill along Soledad (which my daughter still calls "Salad, Dad."). I'm a pretty decent citizen.

Experience has taught me a zen-like patience and balance.

Some days, you make the lights.

Some days, you don't.

Some days, you break even.

But not at the junction formerly known as Solemint.

A few years ago, I began to notice a trend that at first I found amusing. I mentioned it one day to my dad, Walt:

"Have you ever noticed, Pops, that whenever we're driving west down Soledad Canyon Road, we NEVER, EVER make the light at Sierra Highway?"

The old cowboy Walt just nods a silent "Yup." Sometimes he'll top my story with one from the Depression about being stuck at a stop sign for three years.

That darn light.

When you're headed toward where the sun sets, it's ALWAYS red.

It's green when I'm a mile away.

It's green when I'm a half-mile away.

Then, mysteriously, it's as if someone (Andrew Yi, 259-CITY) is watching.

The same scenario plays out.

I get about a quarter-mile away and the light is red.

It stays red for - and maybe I'm exaggerating here a bit - an hour.

I sit at that intersection, watching convoys of vehicles on Sierra Highway speed by, their drivers heading off to see loved ones, or maybe it's the start of their vacation.

Me? I could be in a van with a sign on the side that reads: "HUMAN ORGAN DELIVERY TRUCK - PLEASE GET OUT OF THE WAY, REFRIGERATION UNIT ON THE FRITZ" and I'm just stuck there.

I hate to digress, but wouldn't it be totally cool to own a van with a sign on the side that reads: "HUMAN ORGAN AND PIZZA DELIVERY TRUCK?"

I hate to digress a second time, but Jerry over at ChiChi's Pizza has a new menu. You really ought to check it out.


I have time to ponder my isolation. Who have I offended in a previous or present life that stranded me at the city's Twilight Zone Intersection?

I can't recall ever meeting Andrew Yi. As I absent-mindedly tap the steering wheel, I picture him a Bond-ian semi-henchman - not quite the Grand Criminal Mastermind Type, but someone forever mired in useless middle management.

Yi is in a lime-green demi-villain jumpsuit and weighs more than 600 pounds. He's eating a submarine sandwich the size of an anaconda while sitting at a console housing 3,000 monitors.

He sees my forest-green pickup with the Mr. SCV license plates innocently cruising toward the intersection and snickers rather effeminately. Still chewing, with effort, he leans forward and adjusts the traffic light timing knob to: "AUGUST."

His eyes narrow and he mutters: "I am sucking years from your life, John Boston - one intersection at a time."

I'd be tempted to imagine that he throws back his head and laughs "Mwa ha ha ha ha," but that sort of behavior is limited for James Bond's chief arch rivals, like Dr. No or City Manager Ken Pulskamp.

Hmmm. There's a thought. Has anyone ever seen Pulskamp and Yi together? Could they be one and the same? This may sound conspiratorial, but wouldn't it allow Pulskamp to draw a second salary?

The other day, I got out my cell phone and called city Public Information Babe - and boy howdy is she - Gail Ortiz on her cell phone.

I calmly explained my situation, noting that this was beyond pattern. This was conspiracy.

In typical Gail Ortiz fashion, she cut me off in mid-sentence with the pat answer blurted toward all queries tossed her way:

"Why don't you just take it like a man?"

Good bumper sticker.

Better tattoo.

I managed to get out the first two letters of "But..." before Gail hung up on me. A moment later, I watched as she sped by, southbound on Sierra Highway.

Inserting the digit west of her ring finger into her ear, she offered some sort of arthritic Indy 500 salute.

She must have been doing a hundred.

I never make the light crossing Sierra Highway at Soledad. If I were an advanced soul, I would use the time more wisely.

I could knit.

Or count blessings.

While mired in the comic ballet of One Vison, One Valley, perhaps I could learn to play the guitar. And there's always that novel to finish writing.

Better, perhaps I could just climb out from the driver's side and join the other several hundred stranded motorists in the hour's quiet Tai Chi.

The light turns green.

Everyone starts screaming and running back to their cars. In an injured dinosaur concerto of burning rubber and screeching tires, the first two - and only two - vehicles madly careen across the road to freedom.

The rest of us?

We watch longingly for a moment then climb back out of our cars, gently swaying in our slow-motion dance, bathed in the forever red light on the westerly lanes of Solemint Junction.

John Boston's columns run Friday and Sunday in this paper.


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