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The Department of Transportation decided the good citizens of Pagosa Springs needed their very own stop light 25 years ago. They put it on U.S. 160 right in front of Goodman’s store. This was our first stop light experience. We were accustomed to dealing with them in cities, but not in Pagosa Springs. This was our first sign that the traffic gods had found us.
On one of those early stop light days in the winter when tourists had abandoned us, I made my daily trip to the post office. After retrieving my mail, I stopped on my way back to the office at our new, red light. Sitting at the light and going through my mail, I came upon an interesting order from Judge Haas, and opened it and began to read. I was never good at multi-tasking and soon became engrossed in the order, forgetting the red light. When I looked up, the light was turning red again, having been all the way through its cycle of turning green, then yellow and now red again. When I looked in the rear view mirror I saw, to my embarrassment, six cars behind me, all blocked by my inattention. Not one of them blew their horn.
Through the years I have often reflected on just how special it was to live in a community where we know and are known by every other neighbor. Rudeness is not an option. We all know we will see that person again … soon.
In cities, other drivers evidently feel qualified to criticize the driving habits of fellow travelers and we’re lucky if they confine their critique with only the horn. I remember one week in Denver, the week following 9/11, when the horns fell silent. I think we all felt closer during that week, more like “we,” less like “me.”
Last week, I was down at June Madrid’s office registering a car. The paperwork they sent me was wrong and the young lady who waited on me, Eleanor Shelton, gave me a temporary registration so I would be legal until the proper paperwork arrived. The charge was $31.22. I wrote a check. Being a forgetful old codger, I forgot to give her my check. In Denver, such larceny is met with swift justice, but not in Pagosa. The next time I returned to June Madrid’s office, I was told that Eleanor, that angel of government employees, had paid my $31.22 for me. I was in shock: a public employee paying my bill for me? She said, “Oh, it’s OK. I knew you would be back around one of these days.”
They say you can’t go back home, or as the ancient philosophers say, “You can’t step in the same river twice.” But, they haven’t seen the San Juan River and some things, good things, don’t change so quickly.