October 17, 2004
THE MIAMI HERALD
TRAFFIC WOES DRIVE US CRAZY
DAVE BARRY, Herald Columnist
Our traffic problems are getting worse, according to a recent
study by the Institute of Discovering Things That Make You
How bad is our traffic
mess? Consider these alarming facts:
FACT: Commuting by automobile
now takes so long that many workers have no time to do any
actual work. When they reach their place of employment, they
grab a cup of coffee, spend a few minutes discussing the previous
night's episode of The Apprentice with their co-workers, and
immediately start the long commute home, unaware that their
jobs were outsourced to Asia months ago.
FACT: In the past year
alone, commuters whose car radios were tuned to "classic
rock" spent an average of 347 hours - more than two weeks
- just listening to the song Takin' Care of Business, by Bachman
Turner Overdrive. The statistics are even more chilling for
Black Magic Woman.
FACT: Gridlock is so
bad that as many as 15 percent of women drivers now pass the
time by picking their noses. (The figure for men remains steady
at 100 percent.)
FACT: In greater Los
Angeles, the only documented instance in the past two decades
of anybody actually getting anywhere by car is O.J. Simpson.
FACT: Traffic is now
a problem even in rural areas such as North Dakota, where
this year, for what is believed to be the first time in the
state's history, two motorists arrived simultaneously at the
same intersection (North Dakota has six). They were stuck
there for several days, each motorist gesturing, in friendly
Heartland fashion, for the other to go first. Ultimately they
both had to walk home.
FACT: Bachman Turner
Overdrive was originally named "Brave Belt."
Clearly, we have a serious
traffic problem. The question is, what can we do, as a nation,
to get motorists off the roads?
One obvious answer is
to allow them to drive on the sidewalks. This is the system
used in Greece, where the entire motor vehicle code consists
of a single law: No stopping. This law requires Greek motorists
to use a loose interpretation of the term "legal right
of way, " which in Greece is basically defined as "Greece."
I learned this while I was in Athens for the Olympics, and
on two occasions a moving taxi made direct physical contact
with me while I was sitting at a cafe table. The second time
the contact was pretty firm, so I gestured at the taxi driver
to indicate "Excuse me, sir, but your taxi has struck
me, " and the driver shouted something that I assume
was Greek for, "What do you expect?! You're SITTING AT
A CAFE TABLE!!"
But the point is that,
without a bunch of "red tape" laws requiring motorists
to stop or yield or avoid humans, traffic in Greece moves
quite freely everywhere, including inside the Parthenon. If
we adopted such a system here, we could speed up our traffic
flow, and as a side health benefit really perk up the average
pedestrian pulse rate.
Another possible solution
to our traffic problems is "car pooling, " which
is when a group of people ride together in one car, saving
gasoline, inhaling each other's bodily emissions and arguing
over which radio station to listen to ("Hey leave it!
I LIKE Black Magic Woman!") So we can rule this solution
A far better solution
is mass transit, which has been proven to be effective in
Boston, Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C., all of which
have excellent mass transit. (They also all have really horrible
traffic, but I am asking the jury to disregard this.)
The problem is that mass
transit is very expensive. Washington, for example, would
never have been able to build its superb subway system without
billions of dollars generously provided by federal taxpayers
like you. Most cities - probably including yours - don't have
that option. So what can you do? The answer is surprisingly
simple and affordable: You can steal Washington's subway!
I don't mean the whole
thing, of course: That would be illegal. But if everybody
in your city were to visit Washington as a tourist, and each
of you just happened to take a Phillips screwdriver, and you
each took just a few minutes, between visiting monuments,
to unscrew a small piece of the subway and bring it home,
before you know it, guess what? That's right: A large sector
of your city's population would be in prison. This would ease
Whatever traffic solution
we decide on, we need to do it soon, because as a nation,
we need to get out of gridlock and start takin' care of business,
every day! Takin' care of business, every way!
Please shoot me.
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