I am in charge of traffic in New Haven. I control the traffic lights. From the computer on my desk I can make driving smooth or I can make it a nightmare. If I didn’t have this power I would have to find power somewhere else.
I sit at my desk, across from the three six-foot screens watching and coordinating lights to allow for firemen and policemen to speed through intersections as safely as possible.
My brother is an air traffic controller and he tells me that I don’t know what power is. He says he can make people late for their connections by keeping them in the air or on the taxiway for real or imagined reasons. He told me that he once told a landing Delta jet to “go around” because there was a dog on the runway. He laughed when he told me that, so I told him how I once kept the lights on Church and Chapel and Church and Elm all green to create a traffic jam that lasted over an hour.
My brother and I have nothing in common except trying to one up the other in our “control” stories. My wife won’t fly into Newark when he’s on duty and his wife won’t come into New Haven when I’m at work so we have to meet at a neutral site if we’re going to get together. My brother knows that I know the other traffic lighters in the area so he won’t set a get-together spot in advance.
He acts all spy-like and wants to call me while I’m on the turnpike heading in a given direction and tell me where to meet. I can’t have him controlling me so I tell him I’ll go to a city or resort and call him to meet us. He won’t do it because then he’s not in control. If there weren’t family get-togethers like weddings, funerals and bar mitzvahs we’d never see each other.
Paul Beckman was one of the winners in Queen’s Ferry Best of the Small Fictions (2016). He lives on the CT shoreline and in earlier years worked as a paper boy, pin setter, numbers runner, air traffic controller and real estate guy. Some publishing credits: Literary Orphans, Thrice Fiction, Matter Press, & Molotov Cocktail. His flash story collection is Peek from Big Table Publishing. www.paulbeckmanstories.com
You can see another story from Paul in 50/50