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Awkward Stoplight Moment

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And this is how the cool boyfriend sits in the passenger seat of his girlfriend's car.
He's looking at me, wish the light would turn green
Oh set me free, oh set me free
The Front Bottoms, "Backflip"

A character is driving down the street in their vehicle, minding their own business, until they come across a stoplight with a red light and they are immediately required to stop. While waiting, the character looks around and notice next to them is another driver and, for whatever reason, they really don't want to be seen by that driver. They could either hide their face, hoping the driver doesn't recognize them, and wait until the light turns green, or they could just drive through the red light risking getting in trouble with the law or, worst-case scenario, accidentally cause a car collision with an oncoming car or hit a pedestrian. No matter what they do, they know it's really awkward to be next to that other driver they want to avoid.

Awkward Stoplight Moment is when a driver stops at a stoplight and they get seen by someone they don't want to be seen by or they see something weird. They're either seen by another driver or a pedestrian on the street.


It doesn't have to be just a stoplight, it can also be a stop sign, or they can also be stuck in traffic.

Compare Uncomfortable Elevator Moment.


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    Comic Books 
  • Wolverine: Issue #47 of his second solo title revolves around a drug user who snaps and goes on a killing spree, with Logan as more of a background character for most of it. Near the climax, as Logan is on his motorcycle at a stop light, the killer pulls up beside him in his car. Already drunk and ramped up on adrenaline from his previous kills, as well as armed and with stolen money in the seat beside him, the killer starts freaking out as he looks at Logan, seeing that he's not someone to mess with and wondering if he's a cop.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Beethoven's 4th: Beethoven and a dog that looks identical to him named Michelangelo accidentally switch places with each other. After being reunited with their respective families at the end, the two families are driving home and they meet up at a fork on the road. They're surprised to notice that their dogs look identical to each other, but they never learn about the switching of the two dogs.
  • Better Off Dead: Lane (John Cusack) stops at a traffic signal twice when the Ree brothers pull up next to him, daring him into a drag race. The first time, it ends up with him rear-ending a pickup truck; the next time, the car nearly sinks in a puddle.
  • Citizen Ruth: While Stoops is being driven to an obstetrician by her kindly pro-life mentor, Ruth sees the rolling wreck of her baby-daddy's car pull up alongside. She tries to avoid being seen, but Ricky recognizes her nonetheless. Ruth is worried that her sponsor would have second thoughts about harboring Ruth, knowing a slumball fathered her child, and that she has a history of substance abuse.
  • At the end of Election, Jim McAllister loses his job as a high school teacher after intentionally sabotaging the outcome of the election for student body president. Shortly afterwards, he is driving through town and stops at a red light, next to one of his former students who was responsible for counting the votes. Knowing what Jim did, the student rolls down the window of his car, spits on Jim's passenger window, and drives off.
  • In the film version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Duke and Gonzo are trying to drive out of town when they see Lucy, a girl they had previously ditched, crossing the street in front of them. Duke makes a probably-illegal U-turn at high speed to get away from her.
  • One scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off sees Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane at a stoplight in a taxi, right next to Ferris' dad while he's reading a newspaper in another taxi. His dad glances at them once and when he looks at them again, Sloane takes Ferris's spot and wears sunglasses to disguise herself while Ferris and Cameron hide below their seat.
  • The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob: Pivert has been kidnapped by Slimane and is trying to attract two cops' attention while he's stopped for gas. Then the hired killers searching for him pull up alongside his car. Both look at each other before recognition kicks in, forcing Pivert to drive off (and nearly running over the cops), lengthening his rap sheet still further.
  • No Man of God: Bill Hagmaier is an FBI agent who has been conducting death row interviews with Ted Bundy. Bill is driving while listening to an audio recording of Ted talking about how he'd lure women to his Volkswagen and then bash them in the back of the head with a tire iron he had hidden in a wheel well. Bill has carelessly left his window down, which causes the woman who pulls up next to him to give him a shocked stare. Bill rolls his window up as he drives on.
  • Psycho: Marion tells her boss at the bank that she has a migraine and has to go home, when she really is skipping town with the $40,000 cash that the businessman left as a deposit. She is waiting at a red light when her boss, crossing the street, sees her before the light goes green.
  • Pulp Fiction: Butch stops at a red light just as Marsellus (who has sent hitmen to kill him for not throwing a fight) is walking across the street. Soon as they notice each other (complete with a perfectly precise "motherfucker"), Butch guns his motor and runs Marsellus down.
  • Trading Places: While he's being driven to work, Billy Ray notices Louis and Ophelia in a taxi across the street. While Coleman tries to pretend he doesn't know what's happening, Louis sees them and sticks his head out of the taxi window shouting "That's my car!".
  • In Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, the One-Armed Man (aka MIKE) chases Leland and Laura down at a stoplight, prompting Leland to break down after he seems to reveal cryptically that he knows Leland is BOB and that Leland killed Teresa Banks, and warns Laura that her father is not to be trusted.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Afterparty: That Yasper (driving Aniq, Chelsea, and Walt) and Brett ended up at the same red light while driving to the afterparty is a recurring event in the testimonies. Aniq remembers Brett yelling a death threat, but Brett (who imagines this event as part of a The Fast and the Furious-style car chase) was really yelling about his daughter's stuffed animal.
  • Cruel Summer: In one episode, Jeannette and Kate stop beside each other at a stoplight. Jeannette panics at the sight of her and waits anxiously for the light to change, while an outraged Kate storms out of the car and bangs on Jeannette's, demanding she get out. As soon as the light turns green, Jeannette books it.
  • Full House: In Season 6 "Be True to Your Preschool", Kimmy gets her driver's license and takes the Tanner girls for a joyride in her brother's car. When they see a group of guys from the chess team from their school walking down the street, they decide to gloat to them about their car while they play a game of "Ring Around the Chevy" that involves leaving the car and running around while stopped at a red light. When they try to get back inside the car, they end up locked out and stuck while the chess team players laughs at them as they leave. Just when it seems like things can't get worse, Danny comes by during his daily bike ride, ensuring that they get caught in the act. While Danny is going to call Kimmy's brother about his car, he tells the girls to walk home to think about what they did and it's two miles to get home.
  • The Middle: In "The Waiting Game" Frankie and the kids happen to stop next to Mike and witness him singing along to "More Than a Feeling" in his car, much to his embarrassment.
  • Roseanne: When D.J. brings "obscene reading material" to school, a parent-principal conference is arranged; Roseanne, who usually takes care of these things, forces Dan to go instead in the name of being more active in the kids' lives. Things quickly become awkward — the staff has always just assumed Dan was dead because of his lack of involvement, D.J. pretends that Dan isn't his father, and the reading material in question is a comic book Darlene wrote. Later, as Dan sits in a police car after beating up Jackie's abusive boyfriend, who should pull up next to them at a stoplight but the principal. Dan sheepishly waves with his cuffed hand.
  • On one episode of Seinfeld, Jerry is driving when he stops at a stoplight. He reaches up to scratch the side of his nose while the girl he's dating pulls up alongside him. From the angle she sees him, it looks like he's picking his nose. Jerry realizes what just happened as she drives off.

  • Described in one of the verses of "Backflip" by The Front Bottoms, in which the singer gets stuck at a stoplight next to his ex-girlfriend's new man. This is apparently so embarrassing that he fantasizes about moving to Florida and buying a new car with all the windows tinted so the new boyfriend wouldn't be able to see him if it happened again.

  • A sketch from a 1980s BBC radio show: A woman pulls up at a traffic light, only to find she's stopped beside a lecherous-looking man. Their internal monologues alternate, as she worries that she's giving him an excuse to race her when the lights turn green, while he welcomes the prospect... then the light turns green, she drives away, and he muses that he really ought get a car some day.

    Video Games 
  • One of the notorious ad spots for Penny & Flo Finding Home sees Penny getting stopped at a traffic light and seeing her boyfriend in the car next to her... with Flo. After realizing he's been caught, the boyfriend leaps out of the car and gets hit by an oncoming bus.

    Web Animation 
  • In Supermarioglitchy4's Super Mario 64 Bloopers, Season 8 "Mario Preschool", Bowser is teaching the kids on "Stranger Danger" by driving up in a stereotypical "Free Candy" van in an attempt to teach the kids not to go anywhere near strangers. The kids ignore his lesson due to their love of candy and hijack the van and drag Bowser across the city. After Bowser stops them and drives them back in the van, he stops at a stoplight right next to a police car. When the police sees Bowser in the van with kids inside, Bowser tells the police he's just taking them school, but he's immediately swarmed by a fleet of police cars.

    Web Video 
  • A common occurence in FailRace's Survive The Hunt series, where Alex tries to blend in with the AI traffic to avoid getting detected by hunters. Often, Alex is stuck at a stoplight next to a hunter and has to decide whether he should continue to blend in or run for it.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: In "An Incident at Owl Creek", after Stan humiliates himself by pooping in the neighbors' pool, he drives to work the next day and stops at a stoplight next to an electronics store where a crowd has gathered to watch the TV display. The televisions start showing a news report about Stan's accident, then someone in the crowd spots Stan and the whole crowd starts laughing at him.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: In "Harley and Ivy", the two title characters are at a stoplight when another car pulls up beside them. The guys in the other car start rudely leering and catcalling, until Harley gets mad enough to pull out a grenade launcher and blow up the car while the occupants run for their lives.
  • Family Guy: In the Season 11 episode "Joe's Revenge", after Peter, Quagmire, and Joe escape from some corrupt cops and steal their police car, they stop at a stoplight where another police car stops next to them. When the cops notice the guys aren't in police uniform they ask them if they're real cops. When Peter asks them if they're real cops, they panic and reveal they're not actually cops either and quickly drive off.
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: In the Season 2 episode "Partying is Such Sweet Soiree", after the gang, who are driving Madame Foster's car, catches Mac who was going through a crazy sugar rush, they stop at a stoplight just as Frankie and Madame Foster stops next to them. When Frankie glances at them, the gang quickly disguise themselves just before she looks at them again. Eduardo, who had to ride a tricycle because he couldn't fit inside Madame Foster's car, rides by Frankie and greets her until he realizes she wasn't suppose to know he and the others left the house.
  • Phineas and Ferb: In the Season 1 episode "Flop Starz", while on his way to stop Dr. Doofenshmirtz's latest scheme, Agent P ends up pulling up next to Linda at a stoplight. She has a Double Take, but Perry manages to ward off suspicion with a pair of Groucho glasses.
  • The Proud Family: In the Season 2 "Crouching Trudy, Hidden Penny" episode, when Oscar and Felix are driving in Bobby's car, they get real tired of constantly hearing Bobby's song. When they stop at a stoplight, two women stop next to them and compliment them on their music and invite them to hang out while they shoot a music video, which Oscar and Felix happily accept. As the women drive forward, Trudy and Sunset, their respective wife, stop next to them and shoot a Death Glare at them for flirting.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "22 Short Films About Springfield," during a section parodying Pulp Fiction, Snake Jailbird sees Chief Wiggum walking down the street while he's waiting for a red light, and mows the Chief down with his car.
    • Subverted in "Viva Ned Flanders". As Ned is lamenting how dull his life truly is, he sees Abe and Jasper pull up in a car with some beautiful women. But, as they're driving away, Abe cries out "Help, we're being kidnapped!".
  • Transformers: Prime: In "Speed Metal", Jack ends up stuck at a stoplight with his high school bully, Vince. Vince generally antagonizes Jack, and trash-talks Arcee, at which point Arcee agreed to break the rules on abuse of personal power to beat Vince in street racing.


Video Example(s):


Stranger Danger

Bowser is teaching the kids on "Stranger Danger" by driving up in a stereotypical "Free Candy" van in an attempt to teach the kids not to go anywhere near strangers. The kids ignore his lesson due to their love of candy and hijack the van and drag Bowser across the city. After Bowser stops them and drives them back in the van, he stops at a stoplight right next to a police car.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / AwkwardStoplightMoment

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