I listen to an all-news radio station that give me traffic reports “on the ones.” I am sure that I could also get reports on other stations “through the twos,” “for the fives” and “on certain sixes.” It wouldn’t really matter. They don’t make the traffic. If they did, I’d go down the station and have a “chat” with them.
Each time I listen to the “traffic minute,” it lasts much longer than a minute. There is so much going wrong that the announcer has to speed through the litany of automotive dysfunction at a mind-crushing rate. I often worry for his safety. He must constantly be on the brink of an aneurism.
“Trouble on the roads this morning,” is how virtually every segment begins. “We’ve got congestion on all major arteries and traffic backed up or completely stalled on all routes and every road and street.”
That’s the headline – if you will – that everything everywhere is bad. Unless it is your first time in the city or your first time driving in rush hour, this headline is superfluous.
Who do they think is listening to traffic reports? First-time motorists? Why would someone who has never driven through the hell of rush hour tune in to hear a traffic report? What sort of person is driving along happily listening to Journey and then just thinks, “I wonder if traffic is bad this morning?”
Nobody. It’s only we lifers who are listening. So why not start every traffic report: “Hi. It’s the same this morning – now back to Journey.”
Once the traffic announcer is done the introduction he gets to the traffic news. He is always in a helicopter or airplane. You can hear the blades swirling or the small aircraft engine humming. They say it’s so that he can see the traffic better. I don’t believe this. I think he is in an aircraft because that is the only safe place for him to be. If he were on the ground telling people how bad the traffic is, people would hunt him down the way the villagers hunted down Frankenstein at the end of his movie.
Then the announcer speeds through a description of current traffic conditions.
He speaks so quickly I often wonder if he is sneaking in subliminal messages.
“We’vegotacollisononQueenStreet SATANISMYLORDandmultiplecarpileupontheGardiner. Stalledtractortrailor HAILSATANonthe401and SIX-SIXTY-SIXslowmovingtrafficonMavis.”
Or maybe they are commercials.
“We’vegotacollisononQueenStreet 10%OFFSOCKSATTHEBAYandmultiplecarpileupontheGardiner.Stalledtractor SCRATCHANDWINtraileronthe401 SALEENDSMONDAYandslowmovingtrafficonMavis.”
At this point in the broadcast, it is customary to switch to another traffic reporter. It’s as if the main announcer can’t take it anymore. He can’t carry the awful burden of telling an entire city, once again, that its roads and highways are malfunctioning at an alarming rate. That the commuting system is so badly broken that it will take decades just to bring it up to a level where it is merely malfunctioning.
So, he throws to another reporter, often a young woman (I guess this is supposed to soften the bad news that is to come). She is somewhere else, perhaps in another aircraft, or she is stuck at the station, like the captain of a sinking submarine, reporting our descent.
Guess what? Things are terrible where she is too. “All the major routes” where she is are not running smoothly. There are “vehicles blocking left lanes” where she is. There are “stalled vehicles blocking right lanes” where she is. “Emergency crews are on the way.” That’s what she says.
We never seem to hear about the emergency crews getting there. Rarely.
Just once I’d like to hear the announcer say, “Emergency crews arrived at the scene of a fender bender caused by tailgating and publically castigated the drivers of both vehicles. Emergency crews provided passing motorists with rotten fruit with which to pelt the stranded drivers. They then towed away their vehicles and left them to walk home.”
I guess that’s why I am no longer going to listen to the traffic reports. All they do is provide voice-over for my agony. It’s like somebody standing beside you while you crouch at the toilet trying to get over a bad case of stomach flu.
“You’re going to puke now. You’re puking. Vomit is exploding from your mouth. You’re going to stop for a moment. You’re thinking maybe it’s over. You’re in a cold sweat. You’re going back over the major events in your life looking for some sin that you might have committed that brought this on you. You’re feeling a little better now. No. No, you’re not, you’re going to puke again.”
That’s what traffic reports are to me. They inform me what I already know. Traffic is congested. Routes are blocked. Hell is other people. All is the best in this best of all possible worlds. Never complain. Never explain. Traffic is stopped on the DVP.
Follow Andrew Clark on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy