I know for most guys, there’s a something in their lives that they’re into. Something that takes up spare time. Something that helps to keep some level of sanity. Maybe it’s a huge screen TV, a motorcycle, a car, a gaming system, trains, or an extensive Star Wars action figure collection. (You know who you are.) All of these items have some sort of, what is commonly called, the Spousal Acceptance Factor – or how much of your “something” is tolerated by your significant other.

For me, traffic lights have a relatively low SAF. I have a small house so I have to be creative when it comes to finding places for them. For the full-size signals, I’ve been relegated to the shed, outside under a tarp, and in the corner of the garage. I don’t keep my smaller signals in the main living area of the house. All of the toy, decorative, and nick-knack signals I own are on a shelf in my home office or carefully packed in a box in the basement. Unfortunately, my wife doesn’t see the same beauty in my signals as she does for her china that she displays in the hutch in our dining room.

I do have a couple of signals in our back yard, but they’re smaller and relatively tastefully displayed. During gatherings, my wife likes the ambiance they give off at night when they’re lit up so I thought I’d add another for my son’s birthday party. While the other signals are smaller, consisting of 8-inch lenses, I hung a full-size, three-section, 12-inch-head signal from a tree. Well, it dwarfed everything else and my wife put the kibosh on that. For me, that was an indication as to where the line was drawn for the SAF. I can display some signals sometimes, but the decisions are definitely weighted to what my wife wants. (Of course!)

What I’m getting at is that there is a balance between what you can and cannot get away with when it comes to our hobbies. I know there are some spouses out there that don’t mind at all what the other half does as long as it maintains happiness. (And doesn’t promote going broke or gets someone hurt.)

A month doesn’t go by without a “Really?” from my wife. But I guess she knows that I  enjoy them. When you think about it, it involves history, design, and science. I’m not sitting in front of the TV for hours on weekends yelling at a football game or heading out to play golf every chance I get (I’ve never actually played a full round) so whether or not she thinks so, I think she’s lucky that the one hobby I have is pretty tame in comparison to what I could be doing. It has a low spousal acceptance factor, but I’ll take whatever I can get.

scroll to topWilliam Potts’ 4-way signal from 1920, now on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, Michigan.Checker traffic signal