Stock photo: Fotolia

I was a passenger in a car that was driven by a friend. When the light turned red, I had an eye-rolling moment. My friend reached into her makeup bag and began expertly applying eyeliner.

How many folks do weird things while stopped at a red light? I wondered. I decided to find out. Unlike Alan Funt of Candid Camera fame, I did my research sans a hidden camera. Instead, I used my voice recorder.

The recorder is a great tool for capturing those fleeting column ideas. (Writers know how fleeting those ideas are!) It was curiosity that got the best of me. A column hadn’t entered my mind — yet.

For two months, I documented what folks do when stopped at a red light.

  • Singing: This is a biggie. Folks sing and fist-pump to the music.
  • Plucking chin hairs: Personally, the beach gives better visibility.
  • Apply makeup: It’s done all the time; you could have fooled me.
  • Shaving: Guys plug shaver in the cigarette lighter.
  • Taking a selfie: Posting on social media?
  • Text: Technically they are stopped, but….
  • Apply nail polish: This takes a bit of skill.
  • Knitting: I only saw this once.
  • Talking to oneself: I do this too.
  • Eating: Think indigestion.
  • Flossing teeth: Makes sense after eating.
  • Picking pimples: OK, gross. I looked away.
  • Picking nose: More gross than pimple-picking. I felt nauseous.
  • Change clothes: A guy changed his shirt in 10 seconds.
  • Beepers: The nanosecond the light changes they honk.
  • Car dancing: Doing crazy dance moves.
  • Making out: Ah, love. But if you are with a “no-no” it’s risky business.
  • Hidden hands: Don’t know — don’t want to know.
  • Me: I people watch at red lights.

My little experiment was enlightening. We all have idiosyncrasies that make us unique and interesting. It’s what makes the world go around.

Most of our oddities while stopped at a red light are harmless. But, once we start moving, some of us engage in behavior that is downright dangerous — more dangerous than “no-no” kissing.

It’s been reported that 87 percent of drivers engaged in at least one risky behavior while behind the wheel within the last month. This statistic is an eye-opener. We may be guilty too, particularly during tourist season when the roads become congested. Our response can range from impatience to rage — especially when the car in front of us, sporting out of town plates, makes a U-turn!

I was traveling on a local road when a litterbug driving the car in front of me threw a wrapper out the window. It stuck to my windshield. Lucky for me it stuck on the passenger side. Different story if it landed on the driver’s side.

I frequent the Long Island Expressway and have witnessed many “I-wish-a-cop-saw-this” maneuver. Sometimes, my wish comes true.

Driving for many of us is second nature; we start our vehicle and off we go. Are we mindful of or do we fit into one or more of these categories?

  • Distracted drivers: They’re fiddling with something or other.
  • Emotional drivers: They’re running on adrenaline after an argument.
  • Aggressive drivers: They weave in and out of traffic at high speeds.
  • Drivers under the influence: They usually think they’re “fine” — until it’s too late.
  • Drowsy drivers: They’ve gotta get there at all costs, even a life.
  • Speeders: They drive like it’s life and death. Sometimes it is.
  • Impatient drivers: They cut you off, then gives you the “bird.”
  • Forget the rules drivers: They make U-turns wherever, frequently seen during tourist season.
  • Too-close-for-comfort drivers: They ride up your rear.
  • Law doesn’t apply: Why signal when changing lanes? They also ignore signs and lights.
  • Multitaskers: They’re doing more than driving.

Getting behind the wheel requires our full attention, excellent decision-making and good motor skills. I got a big wake-up call many years ago: I took my usual route to work. When I arrived at the hospital where I was employed, I didn’t remember driving there. Sound familiar?

Folks, do “whatever” you’d like at a red light. Pick your nose, apply makeup, play hanky panky. But when the light changes, drive like your life and everyone else’s like depends on it. Because it does!

Post-script: I satisfied my curiosity and a column was born. A win-win for me.

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Celia Marszal-Iannelli
Celia Iannelli is a native New Yorker enjoying a second career — in 'retirement' — as a freelance writer. She lives in Jamesport.