There was no traffic report growing up in Sioux Falls, SD. However, we did have prices from the farmer exchange. The corn trade was a more pressing matter than the rush hour traffic on I-29.
The traffic report is a source of pride for each of the local news networks. In fact, they have entire teams of reporters designated to the beat. As I speak, there’s a man named Eric Kirchner from the KGW 8 traffic team diligently reporting the traffic flow hundreds of feet above the 405 in a helicopter.
It’s just an average Wednesday morning commute for thousands of Oregonians, and here’s Mr. Kirchner, confirming that yes, traffic is indeed heavy because it’s a rush hour. Just like yesterday morning at this time was. And the day before that. Tomorrow, at this time, will also see heavy traffic.
Never once, as you were growing up, did you hear a classmate say, “I want to be a traffic reporter when I grow up!” It’s the only on-air job where there are no legends or icons. I imagine traffic reporters are former meteorologists who couldn’t hack it. That’s saying something, because meteorologists are given a lot of leeway considering weather’s unpredictable nature. You can suck really, really bad at giving the forecast and still find work in Des Moines.
For those who truly can’t hack it, there’s traffic.
It’s always a little awkward when there’s a major accident during a rush-hour commute. Traffic gets stymied to one lane as vehicles pass by the wreckage like red-blood cells through a capillary. Police stand around, looking concerned. Emergency responders are yanking bodies from twisted metal, piling the wounded in ambulances.
The traffic reporter says, “Yeah, um, minor accident on 205. You’re going to want to take a detour this morning, folks.”
Looking on, you just know someone’s discovering their husband or father has been hurt in a car accident, yet here’s this dolt more concerned on making sure potential tragedy doesn’t inconvenience anyone.
Are traffic reports useful? Yeah, I’m sure. To some. But it’s like the 10-day forecast: You can tell me it’s going to be 54 degrees and rainy on Mar. 5, but I’ll worry about it when we get there.
If I’m sitting here at 7:08 a.m. watching the traffic report, none of the information I’m receiving matters if I’m not on the road at that moment. Simple logic, folks. It doesn’t take an ex-meteorologist in a chopper to solve that one.