Wednesday, 14 January 2009

truth and trust

What do you do when confronted with a flat lie? No, this is not a kid with a crumb-darkened mouth saying he did not take the cookie, how could you say that, Daddy. My kids are way past that, and anyway I have taught them not to lie. (Yeah, it's brown skag, Dad. Really sweet. Want to try some?) Yesterday evening on the westbound 401 the electronic sign read : TRAFFIC MOVING FREELY. And it wasn't. I was sitting in the middle of a six-lane jam, lines of red brake lights stretching far far into the distance. The sign was lying to me. It kept its lying message on display for minutes on end.
I like the chatty highway signs. There are the charming random philosophical comments: DON'T LITTER, CHILDREN ARE OUR FUTURE, THE ROAD BEHIND AND THE ROAD AHEAD ARE EQUALLY INACCESSIBLE, EVER THOUGHT ABOUT INVESTING IN REAL ESTATE? But that's a subject for later. I appreciate the MTO's attempt to tell me what is happening on the road ahead of me. COLLECTORS MOVING WELL, EXPRESS SLOW PAST NEXT TRANSFER, says one sign, and I obligingly head off the express lanes to the collectors, along with everyone else, so that the next sign I see (from the collectors) reads: EXPRESS MOVING WELL, COLLECTORS SLOW.
I enjoy the varying degrees of traffic slowness the signs like to talk about. COLLECTORS MOVING SLOWLY, EXPRESS VERY SLOW. Poor old Express, I think to myself, angling towards the transfer ramp. COLLECTORS VERY SLOW, EXPRESS VERY VERY VERY SLOW.
Bit stilted, the language. If I had the job in traffic control center, staring at the MTO cameras and changing the signs for the commuters, I'd try for a bit more drama. EXPRESS SO DAMN SLOW YOU WILL BE BETTER OFF WALKING OH MY GOD IT'S JUST AWFUL! Or at least some poetry. COLLECTOR LANES BLOCKED UP WORSE THAN UNCLE BERNIE AFTER A CHEESE SANDWICH. STAY CLEAR!
I know that traffic conditions change quickly, so I don't resent the occasional piece of outdated info on the signs, but yesterday's surprised me. TRAFFIC MOVING FREELY. No it's not, you silly sign! I wanted to say. Look around you. It was like the weather girl holding an umbrella in a downpour, telling me that it's going to be sunny and clear all day. When the sign did finally change to VERY SLOW I waited for an apology, but none was forthcoming.
I waited a long time.


Marilyn said...

They should publish a book, "The Collected
Works of the Traffic Writer". An apology could be
included on days he/she was wrong. I can see it
flying off the shelves.

Richard Scrimger said...

I wonder if they'd market the book as fiction or non-fiction ...RS

Anonymous said...

Get yourself a flying car like the one Ian Fleming dreamed up for his kid's book.
I'd suggest a jet pack but it's cold out. Plus it's hardly a practical family car.