Tim Belford: Short Takes On Life
Tim Belford
Tim Belford
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Tim Belford is host of Quebec A.M. -- CBC Radio's popular English- language morning show (91.7 FM, 6-9, Mon.-Fri). He also is said to know a thing or three about wine.

Posted 04.28.03
Quebec City


Right turn on red. Yes? No? Sometimes?

It suddenly dawned on me the other day what I really needed was my very own Sancho Panza.

That's right. A devoted personal manservant who would look after the mundane needs of my daily life.

I, in turn, could then devote my every waking hour in a Don Quixote-like quest.

No, no, not for dragons like our Spanish friend. I would search for the even more elusive, exceedingly rare, right turn on a red light.

I know they're out there.

After all, the government made a great fuss in announcing their existence earlier this month.

We even received notification in the mail on what to do if and when we encountered one.

Sort of like a beluga whale sighting or finding a dead crow felled by the West Nile virus.

The only difference is that dead crows, apparently, are more common.

After two weeks of exhaustive research -- and I guess exhaust is the operative word here since I've been idling at red lights a lot -- I've managed to spot one corner that allows the mythical right turn on a red light.

This was a t-junction where there was no possible chance of an oncoming car interfering in the turning process.

Unfortunately, the car in front of me opted not to turn -- which was her right -- until the light actually changed, thus defeating the entire purpose of the law.

What I have found are numerous signs forbidding the manoeuvre outright.

These appear at any light where there is a danger of more than one car per hour coming from the left.

Signs also appear where there is even the slightest chance of anyone under the age of eighteen or over the age of twenty-one likely to cross the street.

Where these conditions do not apply, signs indicate you may turn on a red light but only between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

One of these signs, in Quebec City, is conveniently located at a turn that leads directly into the local Walmart parking lot.

Obviously designed for the huge flow of drive-by shoppers with insomnia.

An interesting twist on the time-restricted turn is the sign that shows the stop light picture with a red light and a line through it.

You might think that you can't turn.

But then, as I said, the time is indicated directly below the pictogram which would lead you to assume turning right is legal between ten at night and seven in the morning.

Suddenly, just to see if you're really on the ball, there is a green arrow that lights up indicating a turn is acceptable even though it's the middle of the day.

Do you obey the pictogram? The time restrictions? The green arrow?

No wonder people go into a state of paralysis.

Oh well, let's just add it to white margarine and moving on July the first.