Traffic Reports

Traffic reports. Can’t live without them, can’t trust them.

My first big breakthrough was to find a radio station that broadcasts their morning traffic reports “on the five.” Five after the hour, fifteen after, twenty-five after and so on. I added a new habit to leave my radio tuned to this station when I got home from work, so it would be there when I turned on the radio as I was leaving the house.

I want to hear a traffic report first thing in the morning, before I get to the Interstate, in case I need to use an alternate route to get to work. My home-to-work route is quite simple, really, considering how far away I live. But if the Interstate is mostly closed down, or totally closed down, I need to know that right away because my alternate route’s origin is near where I live. If I get on the Interstate and it’s closed down, I can certainly use an alternate route, but it will be clogged with other alternate-route drivers. And that’s assuming I get enough prior notice to get off the Interstate before finding myself without access to an exit ramp, which sometimes happens.

My second big breakthrough was to figure out that I could listen to that radio station before I left the house and hear a traffic report before I even get in my truck. I’ll spare myself the embarrasment of telling you how long it was between the first big breakthrough and the second.

But traffic reports aren’t always reliable. There is one radio station that used to broadcast their afternoon report while I was driving to work early in the morning. There just aren’t that many wrecks at 5:30 a.m. and those traffic reports had a long list of wrecks, malfunctioning traffic lights and stalled vehicles. No, I just don’t think so.

There are other times when I hear a report just as I’m coming up on the problem area, only there is nothing there. This type of report doesn’t bother me. Bonus for me to travel through the problem spot without any delay.

It’s the absence of any reported problems that irk me while I’m in stopped traffic, three lanes merging into one lane because of a serious wreck. The police are already there (several cars), the firefighters are already there, and so is the EMS vehicle. Traffic report? “Good to go.” (Is “bad to stop” the opposite of “good to go”?)

And I will always, always be behind a vehicle larger than mine so that my view is blocked. When at last the larger vehicle merges into the next lane, I will find myself smack dab behind the wreck/police/fire truck.

Remember when the radio stations used to have traffic helicopters? Multiple radio stations, not just one. Every afternoon you could see the helicopters circling the city. Then it got to be that there was one traffic helicopter that they shared. Every once in a while the traffic reporter (with some cutsy fake name like Left Turn Laverne or Right Turn Randy) would forget which broadcast they were recording and would use the wrong radio station call letters.

And now? No traffic helicopters. The radio stations, the city and who knows who else have “monitoring equipment.” Some sites let you see the traffic from their web cams. I checked this out, thought it was a great idea. Ha, ha, the joke is on me. The cameras were mostly downtown (a traffic hot spot, to be sure) and none were on the south side of the Interstate where I needed to get information from.

A few years ago I was driving home from a friend’s house on a Sunday evening. The Interstate was one big parking lot. I was lucky and had a mostly full tank of gas. Lucky because I was on the Interstate for two hours, stuck there in the middle lane. Then, then, the DJ of the radio station I had been listening to all along said, “I’d like to remind everyone that there is a bad wreck on the Interstate going south and it is completely closed down.”

Remind everyone?” I had been listening to that one and only radio station for the last two and a half hours and he had not once said anything about the wreck. He wasn’t reminding us of anything. If I could have reached through that radio, I would have given him a good Three Stooges thrashing. You know, the kind where no one gets hurt, but thrashee gets the point and the thrasher feels so much better.

Yes, the Three Stooges had quite a lot going for them. They probably got all of their ideas while stuck in traffic.

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