The Deep Denial of Traffic Reporters

Normally I am all about a healthy bout of denial. It's good for you! But when your personal denial starts to impact literally thousands of people, it's perhaps time to realize that an adjustment must be made. Around here no one personifies denial more intensely than the traffic reporters.

First, it's ridiculous that in a major metropolitan area such as ours the traffic reporters haven't done what they were doing in Chicago-land 15 years ago and switched to a time-based reporting system. (As in, "45 minutes from the Occoquan to the Mixing Bowl" and so forth). The majority of the time, we're still plagued with terms like "sluggish" and "heavy" and "jammed" all of which could mean exactly the same thing or vastly different things depending on wheather or not they're trying to vary their vocabulary (did they just use "Sluggish?" chances are, they're now using "jammed" in the same context) or really trying to indicate slow but moving (sluggish) or "Holy cow! Just stay home and save yourself the irritation" (jammed).

Now, one radio station does intermittently use phrases such as "allow an extra 30 minutes between Dale City and the Occoquan" (a distance of, generously, six miles for the curious). But it's intermittent and is generally used for only that stretch or a small handful of other stretches. So if you don't happen to be travelling that road, you're still stuck with "Sluggish" "jammed", etc. (And why do we never hear "torpid", "dillatory", "laggard", or "languid"?)

Pushing aside my frustration with traffic lingo, however, if for the past seven work days (and counting!) the traffic reporter has had to mention that you need to allow an extra 25 minutes between a particular stretch of road. Even if it's just for the summer (though I doubt it as we seem to be heck-bent on building as much high-density housing as we possibly can cram into spaces around here - you know, to protect us from all the unhealthy side effects that we might run into if there were trees and grass allowed to grow - cause gosh, why would you only want 4 families to live on that acre when you could build condos and get 100 extra cars on the road!?) Regardless, at what point do you just suck it up and admit that 45 minutes is the new 20?


  1. Well, just out of curiosity, say the traffic reporters came to their senses, learned to tell time, and broadcast delays in the terms you request. How would that affect your behavior? Would you be more patient? Would you have a better outlook on life? Would you be able to more clearly discern that thin line between reasoned response and wild gunplay? Would you be more tolerant of questions like these?

    Just wondering. ;-)

  2. These are good questions. Most likely it would help in a few ways:
    1) Listening to the traffic ahead of time would help me know that if it's taking x minutes to go y distance I need to hurry (or I have time to stop for coffee) if I want to be place z by time p. (Rather than now where basically you just get in the car and cross your fingers.)

    2) I would be able to complain about traffic more accurately.


  3. I think we can all agree that improved accuracy in complaining is something that's sorely needed nowadays in this country.

    I've been complaining about that for years.

  4. I don't listen to traffic reports anymore. I realized that it was pointless. I leave at the same time every morning and arrive when I arrive.

    It's why I believe that employers should not clock watch in areas like this one. Just have your employees make up the lost minutes from their occasional tardiness, which is what I do, by the way. Most days I arrive on time - the days I don't my boss knows it was traffic issues that made me late and that I'll stay later to make up for the lost time.