Alamogordo, New Mexico in the early 1980s was unusual in that the town was still relatively small in spite of sucking at the cash teat of Holloman AFB for nearly 50 years. More a wide spot in the road for truckers the main street through the village sported no less than three KFC’s and two McDonald’s. When a Wendy’s opened it was front page news.

At the time a person looking for a friend could pull up to the Sonic and ask if they saw a “dude in a white car” and be told he headed up by the old tree. Decades ago the view down main street would also have included a mushroom cloud. The nuclear blast is long gone but the radiation persists. Members of the military still work and train in sections of desert adjacent to Trinity Site in land cordoned off with barbed-wire fencing. Rusting signs declare the area will be unsafe for thousands of years due to radiation from buried cold war materials in forgotten Government landfills.

People typically referred to Alamogordo colloquially as “Alamoghetto” and when not embarrassed to admit they live there, still do. In the 1980s traffic control in the town consisted of several stop signs and two stop lights. A third traffic control signal at the entrance to the White Sands Mall was still years away. The roads were empty enough that few people actually bothered to stop for red lights as there was rarely any opposing traffic.What cross traffic there was comprised mostly of military going to and from work, shift change at the KFC and trucks re-supplying the drive-through dairy and liquor stores.

You could always tell a driver was new to the area as they would stop at red lights and signs. After time they would pause less and less time before displaying frustration at the light timing and accelerate through the intersection against the signal. The longer one lived in the area the more likely they would come to an intersection and proceed without stopping, having become used to there being so little oncoming traffic. What was odd was that so many people failed to heed traffic stops that a kind of weird social reversal in driving habits occurred.

It got to the point that people would perform full stops at green lights to make sure they wouldn’t get hit because so many drivers got used to ignoring the red lights. Absurdly, the same people that would go through an intersection against the signal would stop to ensure their safety when the light was with them.