When PennDot announced last week that the electronic message boards above the parkways that say things like “Consol Center, use Blvd. of Allies exit” or “Congestion, next FIVE HUNDRED MILES, YOU SUCKER. WHERE’S YOUR GOD NOW?” would now be telling us our estimated travel time to reach various destinations dependent upon traffic conditions, my first thought was, “Ugh.”
Because when those signs were first installed back in the pioneer days my pa and I were stuck in extra special traffic only to find the reason for it wasn’t an accident or rubberneckers, but rather a whole mess of cars slowing down to read the newfangled signs.
We would also notice that when the sign was broken and spitting out heiroglyphics, drivers would slow down and then immediately speed up once they passed the sign — maybe trying to decipher if Jesus was leaving them a personal message about the rapture or building a baseball field.
As a collective lot, Burghers are brakers. There is no way around this. Burghers brake for birds and geese and tunnels and three drops of precipitation and accidents on the other side of the highway. We brake for rainbows. Hell, I’ve seen traffic jams created just because a tow truck was parked on the side of the road not doing anything but sitting there all by its lonesome.
BRAKE! Look! A tow truck. Let’s slow down in case a dozen children jump out of the truck and run into the road. It could happen.
So when I read about the forthcoming “time to destination” messages, I figured it would just make Burghers slow down to read and do math.
Oooooooh. 75 minutes to downtown from Monroeville. Carry the 1. That makes me 23 minutes late for work. There’s a good chance I’ll need my Pistol of Traffic Justice by the time I hit Edgewood.
I don’t drive downtown during morning rush anymore, so I don’t know yet if people are slowing down to read, thus creating worse traffic, but when I finally encountered the signs on my way downtown for a lunchtime meeting and I passed under one near Edgewood that said, “Time to Downtown: 8 minutes,” I said, “Challenge. Accepted.”
Six minutes, baby.
It’s my new game.