Maintaining the ‘common good’

Published 7:36 pm Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Everyone has one of those mornings where you hit every single red light on the way to work. I usually have three of those mornings and two of those nights, on my way home from work, a week.

I have learned to keep small errands in my car to do during the waiting time — such as compiling my grocery list and putting on my mascara on my way to work. I have even painted my nails while waiting at traffic lights on my way to an event.

There is this one red light in particular that plagues me, and it’s unavoidable. It’s located at the intersection in front of the only entrance to my home.

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After about a week of living there and spending countless minutes at this red light, I began counting every time my car stopped at it just to see what my record was.

Of course, I was always surprised 20 seconds passed so quickly, but I did sit once for more than 80 seconds — not that I can’t count higher. I just got bored.

This light is what gives all red lights a bad name. I would probably resent sitting at any red light, but it makes me resent it even more.

The worst part is that it isn’t on a timer.

It doesn’t matter if a car is there at 10 a.m. or 2 a.m. — because I have come home from work at 2 a.m and counted — it will sit there for an eternity, even though there are no other cars in sight.

Whether someone is leaving their home to get to where they’re going or coming home after a long day and just want to get home, they have thought of running it.

I promise you.

Every time I come around the corner and see the light at green, myself and every car with me looks both ways for police and steps on their gas pedal to make the light before it changes. Foolish, yes. But I think we all assume there’s safety in numbers.

I have never blatantly run it, though.

I have sat there gripping my steering wheel with white knuckles, noting the fact that there are never any police officers in my neighborhood and there are definitely no cars coming in either direction.

It’s just a stare down and countdown with that red bulb.

Just before my foot — involuntarily, of course — hits the petal in the middle of my wait, I hear my philosophy professor in the back of my head reminding me for what laws are made.

A quote from Thomas Aquinas sums it up: “Law: an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community.”

It is that quote and the reminder that laws are made for the “common good” of everybody in a community that keeps me from chancing any tickets.

Common good doesn’t mean the good will be relevant all the time or to everybody, but rather to keep as many people as safe as possible at any given point in time.

Laws don’t always make the best of sense, and sometimes they’re just plain frustrating. But in the interest of maintaining order and honoring that which secures the common good, I’ve not (yet) run that light.