By Helena Rodriguez: Local columnist
I’ve been seeing a lot of red lately, and I’m not referring to my bank account. Yes, it has something to do with the red bows, lights and candy canes of Christmas, but there’s more.
Have you ever noticed there is something about the color red that puts people on “red alert?” Teachers love the color red. It seems to blend in well with term papers they grade. On the other hand, students dread those red marks — so much so that some teachers have caved in and now use more student-friendly hues: such as purple and pencil.
Police, on the other hand, seem to favor red. I heard that drivers of red cars are more likely to be ticketed than others. Judging by my driving record when I had my racy little red ZX2, I would say that is true. I blame it all on the paint. Now that I have a white car, I have not had tickets. But then again, the singer formerly known as Prince sold millions of records singing about a Little Red Corvette in 1983. There are no songs about a four-door white Ford Focus, like I now drive.
Red is a hot color. Hot as in a red hot chile pepper, but not so hot anymore if you’re talking about the band, The Red Hot Chile Peppers. They haven’t had a recent hit.
There are so many other meanings associated with the color red. If you’re talking about money, being “in the red” is not cool. If you’re in the 50 and over crowd, then you’ve earned a spot in the swingin’, carefree Red Hat Society. And when it comes to wine, red is just fine because that’s exactly what the song “Red Red Wine” by UB40 says. Notice it’s not called “White White Wine.”
Now, if you’re talking about being on red alert, raising red flags, being red-eyed or red-faced or having to cut through red tape, then that’s another story. But if someone rolls out the red carpet for you, then you’re special.
Speaking of red, what is it about redheads? You’ve heard the saying, “Beaten like a red-headed step child!” or being caught “red-handed?” And what about that someone who doesn’t have “a red cent?”
Red is always in fashion, as in going out and “painting the town red.” And what about those Cincinnati Reds, the Red River, and let’s not forget, the “Lady in Red,” another ode to the popular primary color in song form.
There’s something special about that “red” Powerball, that little girl with the “red riding hood,” the children’s game, “Red Rover” (who is Red Rover anyway?), the restaurant Red Lobster and The Red Cross, an internationally recognized symbol of help.
When I was a full-time journalist in Texas and had to go to the small town of Albany more than once, I would ask for directions over the telephone. People there, although I will not call them pessimists, would always say something like, “… When you get to the red light, turn right.” Being the highly observant and investigative journalist that I am, I pointed out to a colleague that I had actually seen that town’s one stoplight turn green.
I asked a few people about other common associations with the color red. A new one to me is the sailor saying, “Red sky at morning, sailors take warning; red sky at night, sailor’s delight.” There’s also the comedian Red Skelton, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the old TV series and movie, “Red Dwarf” and of course, the red planet of Mars. Don’t forget about the Redskins and rednecks, too.
There are many other associations with red. One of my favorites, however, is this famous story that a former editor e-mailed me. It is by an unknown author.
A famous author teaching an English class asked students what the color red represents. Students chimed, “blood,” “ink,” “hearts.” The author hung his head in disgust and said, “Passion!” He then added, “All writers should remember that!”
Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: