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Lileks: Meet the two types of people who gum up traffic

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS
  • Star Tribune
  • March 8, 2014 - 4:35 PM

Twin Cities traffic is the 16th worst in the nation, says a new study. Or, if you’re a gas-tank-is-half-full type of person, there are 15 cities with traffic worse than ours. But let’s consider why ours can be so nettlesome.

The reason Hwy. 62 is backed up in the I-35W interchange has nothing to do with infrastructure investment. They just rejiggered the entire thing, while it was open to traffic, which is the equivalent of doing a heart transplant on someone who’s jogging. No. It’s because of two people:

Caspar McTimorous, whose approach to merging off the ramp into traffic is like a turtle with nitroglycerin strapped to his back entering a herd of stampeding buffalo, and hence backs everyone up; and

Rusty “the Thrustmeister” O’Blivious, who barrels along in the right-hand lane as cars are trying to merge, belting, “THIS LANE IS MY LANE, THIS LANE AIN’T YOUR LANE, MY STYLE IS BOLDER, YOU’RE ON THE SHOULDER!”

These two personalities combine over and over again, and traffic backs up. The light rail will not solve this unless one of the cars slams into Rusty’s and takes him off the road for a few months.

Then there’s the meet-and-greet where I-35W north tries to bleed into Interstate 94 eastbound, a nightmare that’s like two marching bands crossing paths and exchanging uniforms and instruments while still playing. Every time I take that miserable patch I resolve to buy a Hummer, outfit it with a cowcatcher and rig up speakers that play Wagner’s “Flight of the Valkyries.”

Thus, it will always be, and we know it. If you’ve been to New York or L.A. or Chicago, you know how their roads make the flight of Parisians from the approaching Nazi army look like a couple of horses clopping down a country road. We don’t have it that bad.

Upside: The more time you spend in your car, the more time you have to listen to the news on the radio, or the music of your choosing. Next time you get home and your housemate asks, “How bad was traffic?” don’t say “Ugh. Horrible.” Say, “I’m up to speed on the Crimea, the Chinese yuan devaluation and Nigerian ethno-religious tensions. Then I was reminded how much I enjoy the first movement of Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2!”

That bad? I’m so sorry.

jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858

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