Wednesday, May 31, 2017
What If The Waterslide Kid Had Tied Up Traffic?
Most people are good. But sometimes you are just going to see a horrendous display of humanity made even worse by the everydayness of it.
I see it several times a week, but it was absolutely turned up to 11 today. What happened was someone climbed up the Bay Bridge in San Francisco and threatened to jump. Here's what NBC Bay Area had to say in a tweet:
The video itself is 20 seconds of traffic moving at a crawl. Nothing you don't see everyday.
I get it. I've seen traffic reports and traffic reporters work. If you're stuck in traffic for a long time for seemingly no reason you'll want to know why. But the traffic isn't the angle that should be front and center. The question should be who is this person and what can we do to help him?
But the tragic thing is, we don't. If you are sitting in a car it seems that everything is about you and how best to move you forward. Someone's son/father/daughter/wife is up on a ledge threatening to jump? Dang it! I am late for my Crossfit class and don't have any more podcasts to listen to! Shove this loony over the side so I can get a move on!
If a UFO lands in the Bay Area I expect the headline to look something like this:
Also an alien has crash-landed in Redwood City blocking the third and fourth lanes on 101. That's a real mess there.
NBC Bay Area wasn't alone in this traffic-first angle. Man Sitting on Bay Bridge anchorage snarls westbound traffic was KTVU Fox 2's headline (that changed slightly but, as I said a couple weeks ago, they had the picture of the traffic and had the story filed under 'Traffic Stories').
Tomorrow morning we're going to wake up and some of us are going to watch television. I'm asking everyone reading this to please watch how the context of a story is different when it has an impact on traffic.
Traffic, which is ONLY caused by too many people driving, is explained away by, among other things, a motorcycle crash on 101, a tractor-trailer rollover on the 87, or construction on highway 85. Red lines on the map signify traffic problems and even though about 80% of Bay Area drivers travel alone and distracted driving is a serious problem NBC Bay Area wants you to join the Bay Area Wazers "to help viewers avoid traffic jams". (Laura Garcia-Cannon: you've said a couple of times after the traffic reports that people should not use their phones while driving and I am appreciative of that.)
So we have to ask ourselves some interesting questions about this car-centric world we live in. What if the waterslide kid had tied up traffic? What if that commuter train crash from years ago didn't have gory footage but instead tied up the commute? Would we be talking about safety issues, interviewing NTSB personnel? Asking why these things aren't better regulated? Car accidents outnumber waterslide issues by the tens of thousands and yet I don't see parents pulling their kids out of driver's ed.
So please: for those in the media who are reading this please put car accidents on the same footing as the waterslide kid and let's try not to make everything about a more comfortable car commute.
Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.