IMPROVEMENTS by Varda One

Brighten the corner where you are

     Once upon a time a little icon named Walkman lived in a traffic signal on the east side of Despair Boulevard. When it flashed WALK, his heart lit up because he could glimpse Walkwoman, the west signal 80 degrees across the street, smiling behind her shield. He had gazed at his beloved ever since their birth—shortly after little Jimmy’s death had caused traffic lights to replace the inadequate stop signs. Although the tiny pair seemed identical, enlightened souls could tell them apart.
     His partner appeared for only ten seconds, after which she was replaced by her cagemate, Red Hand/DON’T WALK. But those seconds occurring every two minutes added up to one million, five hundred and seventy seven thousand, eight hundred and eighty seconds or eighteen days a year.
     Naturally, being signs, Walkman and Walkwoman communicated in sign language. In their desperate attempt to bridge the eighty degree gap between them, they’d designated their body parts as letters and punctuation marks.  By dimming each one imperceptibly, they could communicate. I LOVE YOU! was their common greeting, subliminal, beneath the level of human perception.
     Together, these White Knight Lights of the Road shepherded thousands of pedestrians across this hazardous thoroughfare. Yet harsh changes marred their bliss: the increase in vehicles, the decline of courteous, skillful driving, and the consequent  skyrocketing of accidents. The faithful lights mourned each casualty, taking it as a personal challenge: a couple in their 80s, who crossed daily. The mother pushing twins in a stroller. The list of fatalities soared.
     Although Walkman and Walkwoman were just tiny white icons who lit up according to a predetermined signal, they resolved to prevent more tragedy. But how could they transcend their engineered destiny? How could a pair of traffic signals influence millions of drivers?
     During their decades of duty, they’d learned to think and speak in unison. Now, empowered by compassion and purpose, they discovered how to override the control boxes which programmed their appearance and thus to extend their “on” time. At first it was only a nanosecond, then a microsecond, a millisecond, and finally a second. By lengthening the crossing time for frail elders and children, the limping, deaf, or blind, and distracted and distraught pedestrians, Walkman and Walkwoman’s individualized free valet service prevented endless tragedies.
     Although these guardian angels didn’t connect physically (East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet), they united spiritually by working as a team. Though they were only two, this pair not only safeguarded their own domain, but enlisted other silent sentinels everywhere to join their mission.

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