At a Seattle Mariners professional baseball game last night, we were parked in the garage between the football and baseball stadiums in Seattle. This was a perk for the front-row tickets given my wife by supervisors for all her good work of the past few months. No nose-bleeders for this group on this warm late-spring night!
And no hiking tens of miles to the car following the game. This time we would be the snooty royalty that annoys the masses of peons, and like snooty royalty, we would be parking across the street from the baseball stadium free of charge with the BMWs, Mercedes and exotic sports cars of the world.
Walking only a few yards to the car was really cool.
But after the game, not getting out of the same parking garage for over an hour, gridlocked in non-moving vehicles just outside the stadium, sort of ruined the thrill of parking in the garage where they charge mere mortals up to $50.
More disturbing, it became apparent that the traffic planners in our city were either bumbling idiots, or they deliberately make traffic as bad as they can for some sort of jaded devious reason, following typical sporting events. Because the friendly Seattle police officers supervising traffic flow after games were making things far worse, not better!
How do I know this?
After waiting an hour in toxic fumes that could melt steel, I finally managed to escape the confines of the concrete garage, but was immediately ushered to the east side of Safeco Field where all vehicles did not move. Nor could they move, because helpful, friendly Seattle police traffic officers were routing all 45,000 vehicles into the same one-lane alley south of the stadium.
Ironic, because I sort of wanted to go north, and catch the freeway on-ramp that would take me north, that I could see...ever so close. Just cross the street and away we would go on I-5 north.
But the friendly, helpful police traffic officers were having none of that! Nope, they insisted all traffic go south, right into a big gridlocked mess where nobody could move because other helpful police traffic officers were routing everyone there too.
So there we sat. For a very long time. Nobody moving and everybody getting extremely agitated.
Finally, the two-hour mark after the game hit, and like magic all the police officers hopped on their little parked motorcycles and sped away into the night, suddenly leaving all the gridlocked intersections unregulated.
And once they did, within five minutes the traffic had completely cleared out.
No more helpful traffic cops equaled no more gridlock. Who would have thought?
At that point many of us, as we drove home, asked the important and profound question most citizens in Washington State have asked after sporting events:
“Hey, if traffic is better without the friendly, helpful police regulation following games, perhaps the city is wasting its money by having each and every intersection littered with these fine, uniformed folks?”
Maybe a prudent plan would be to not spend the money for all these lovely traffic heroes, and instead let things be like they are during the rest of the week?
Why not let traffic do what traffic does, without the “help”?
Once, several years ago, following another game in which this exact same thing happened, I emailed the beloved traffic commission chairperson and suggested this wonderful and intellectual idea.
And just like the friendly, helpful police traffic officers at every corner last night, he eventually emailed me back with suggestions of various physical activities that I could do to myself.
He also mentioned that people as stupid as me don't realize that this was actually a huge traffic improvement. "You idiot!"
See this is because the Seattle Police Department, in co-operation with the City of Seattle and various inept mayors, has carefully crafted a set of hiring guidelines for every single traffic planner. Here’s how it goes:
Clause No. 1
If the applicant shows college education or traffic planning experience, that person will immediately be disqualified for employment consideration by the PGSTPC (Postgame Seattle Traffic Planning Commission).
Clause No. 2
If said applicant shows any natural talent for common-sense thinking, that person too, will immediately be disqualified for employment consideration by the PGSTPC.
Clause No. 3
Preferred applicants will normally be found in chimpanzee cages at the Woodland Park Zoo, or found sleeping under bridges in frigid temperatures.
Clause No. 4
Habitual inebriation for each traffic planner is a plus. In fact, if said applicant arrives at job interview immediately after consuming a fifth of Jack Daniels straight up, that applicant will vault to the top of the stack and may be immediately hired and assigned to supervise all traffic planning for the day, before sobering up.
Contrary to what you might think, the goal of the PGSTPC is not to clear traffic out. Nope. The goal is to keep traffic confined in unmoving gridlock for as long as possible.
Speculation persists that the local business community is behind this reasoning, insisting that the longer you stay in their neighborhood, the more crap you may buy. Oh sure, most of those businesses are closed by the time the Mariners games are over, but...well, please see Clauses No. 1 through No. 4 if you are confused about this policy.
Also, within the traffic code is the north/south directional concept. If said vehicle prefers to travel north (because your house is north of the stadium), each and every regulated traffic corridor will insist you go south. For many miles too. Conversely, if your house is situated to the south, then the very same traffic corridors will route you north in the opposite direction you wish to go, usually into gridlock and parked contraptions that cannot move.
Years and millions of dollars were spent on little, unknown GPS chips that police officers read from your vehicle as you approach, like they do for the toll bridges. Particular effort is put into stringent requirements insisting the direction of your vehicle goes in the opposite direction that it should.
Because it’s fun for intoxicated traffic planners to see all the cars not moving for hours after a sporting event.
And don’t bother screaming at localized traffic cops on corners about all of this, because that will merely make them cranky. They didn’t do the traffic plan, they merely enforce it. In fact, when frustrated motorists yell at cops, frustrated motorists may soon find themselves charged with heinous crimes and strip-searched in public.
What frustrated motorists can do, however, is write sarcastic articles like this one when they get home several weeks later, and then send them to every public official they can find.
That’ll teach those jerks.