Posted by: patenttranslator | April 16, 2014

Life Is Just A Game Of “Red Lights – Green Lights”


When my sons were still small I sometime used to take them roller skating on Sunday afternoon. I used to love skating with them to forgettable music (Backstreet Boys and Gwen Stefani were big back then), or watching them when they were playing their silly games such as “hokey-pokey”, or “red lights-green lights”.

“I’m a Barbie Girl” was also a very popular song among the juvenile delinquents from 4 to 17 about twenty years ago, until some well meaning but seriously misguided mothers noticed the suggestive lyrics and had it banned – the same misguided mothers, descendents of embittered and unfulfilled killjoys from England called Puritans, who had the legal age for drinking raised from 18 to 21 years in the United States, thus causing an epidemic of binge drinking among rebellious American teenagers.

Why do mothers always have to spoil all the fun for all the kids?

“Red lights-green lights” was my favorite game to watch.

In this game, one kid, designated as “it” plays the role of a stop light. The kids line up at a certain distance from “it”, who, facing away from them, suddenly turns around and shouts “green lights!”. In that moment, the kids start frantically skating as quickly as possible toward “it”. But they must not go too fast and they must pay really good attention to “it” because if they move too fast, they will not be able to freeze quickly enough after “it” suddenly changes his mind and shouts “red lights”.

If you are caught moving on “red lights”, you must go all the way back to the starting line.

Life is just another version of the “red lights-green lights” game. When you are almost at the point where you should claim your just rewards, somebody calls “red lights”, and you have to go all the way back to the starting line.

The translation business is like this too. Nothing is certain in this business. We never know when “it” will change its mind and send us all the way back to the starting line when we were almost at the finish line.

Just like in any other business, “it” has different forms also in the translation business. It can have the form of new technology that supposedly works so well that it can “almost” replace translator’s brain. Or the form of competition from third world countries where human translators are willing to work for so little that their counterparts who live overseas cannot possibly compete with them on price, only on that sometime invisible standard called “quality”.

After Wall Street shouted “red lights” when its fraudulent scheme finally became public knowledge, my business started gradually decreasing and so far it has not reached the almost vertiginous levels of 2007 and 2008.

I believe that the same levels will be reached and exceed again, even if I am caught by “it” moving when I should have been frozen in place.

“Winning isn’t everything …. it’s the only thing” is a popular saying in this country. But is it really true?

The kids who are sent by “it” back to the starting line in the “red lights – green lights” game never protest or argue with “it”. They always go back and continue enjoying the game even though the chance that they might still win has just been greatly diminished.

Maybe they understand something that grownups have forgotten: namely that enjoying the game is in fact much more important than winning … because it’s all just a game anyway.

When you win the “red lights – green lights” game, you become “it” and you then get to play the same game slightly differently: by sending other children back to the starting line, which must be fun too.

Unlike most adults who keep complaining and arguing incessantly about the injustices of this world, children understand that it is all just a game and that the only thing that really matters is whether we are still able to enjoy it.

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