The heat melted my face as I left the icy sanctuary of the office for lunch. A quick stop at Joe’s sandwich bar and I briskly headed back to work, white paper bag in one hand, orange juice in the other. The condensation dripped off the chilled bottle and ran down my fingers.
I approached the intersection. The traffic was hectic. I pushed the button. The delightful metal button that would deliver me a precious passage through the hustle and bustle of metal and exhaust fumes. The little green man would light up soon enough. I waited. I watched the people as they drove past.
A stranger approached the opposite side of the intersection. My presence was obvious. My purpose for standing there was obvious. He looked at me. He looked at the traffic. He looked up at the red lights. He looked back at the traffic. Then he did it.
He pushed the button.
Did he think the traffic light boxes housed a factory of little green men individually working away for whoever called them. Did he think his little green man will work quicker than the little green man I summoned to help me cross the road. Did he think at all?
Did he not realise that the buttons on opposite sides of the road are connected? Did he look me up and down and make the judgement that I couldn’t, and that I hadn’t, already pushed the button? Do I look like someone who can’t perform that simple function?
“I ALREADY PUSHED IT!”
I yelled out across six lanes and over the top of the cars zooming past. The stranger looked at me, confused. He couldn’t understand what I was yelling out, or why. I pointed at the button, and mouthed the words, ‘I already pushed it.’
He was still confused. Then he pushed it again.
The traffic kept whizzing by, spraying my business pants with specks of dust and small stones. I tried to ignore it and instead imagined more and more little green men furiously racing around the control room, trying to co-ordinate who would run point on this.
The little red men watched from above in amusement. This wasn’t the first time they’d seen this and it wouldn’t be the last.
He pushed the worn button again. And again. The green man engine room was about to go into meltdown.
All of a sudden the little green men appeared. One facing me. One no doubt facing the stranger opposite. The red men were finally afforded a rest, albeit a brief one.
I stepped out and strode along the safe white lined passage ahead, grateful to the little green men who look after me as a pedestrian. The redundant-button-pusher took off as well, rapidly approaching me.
As we passed, I couldn’t help but smirk and mumble under my breath.
“I’d already pushed it.”
He possibly heard me. He glanced up but it was too late for him to reply and we passed. I chuckled to myself as I carried on to the last intersection before the office, clutching my orange juice that I was desperate to pour down my rapidly drying throat. I reached the set of lights and jabbed at the button.
A small boy standing beside the pole turned around and looked up at me.
“I already pushed it.”