Traffic hell thanks to the F-U-DOT
This past week, ironically on Election Day, it was as if the traffic gods bore down like some Old Testament locust-throwing-flood-ravaging deity intent on sending our collective blood pressure through the sunroof. And there is not enough statins in the world to settle down an angered demographic already at risk for stroke.
In total, 5,300 residents and visitors were late for dinner. Add to this the sad casualty rate of 23 Longboaters who passed away while stuck either driving or in the passenger’s seat somewhere between St. Armands Circle and Longboat Key. And realize that those who passed ebbed at less than 1 MPH into the afterlife.
The most impressive statistic is the sheer number — 8,245 — of expletives hurled at the FDOT and bridge workers who raised New Pass Bridge incessantly for three straight days.
All of this was preventable; here is why. When I got stuck in traffic, I called my son. I was in front of Madison Avenue Deli on St. Armands Circle. We spoke for 30 minutes and at the end of the conversation I had progressed to Chase Bank, which is 10 feet past the deli.
I told my wife of the beauty of New Mexico and Vermont and the Yukon and everywhere that does not feature endless traffic forming for no apparent reason. It started to affect my sanity. I called the Police Chief. Chief Cumming had his mailbox is full message since so many others had called him all day about the same thing. Then the Chief called back and told me the news.
“Steve, it is unreal. The FDOT and bridge contractors are installing some new software and they are opening the bridge every time the light at MOTE turns red — about every 10 minutes. I went to the bridge personally and pleaded with them to perform this work at night instead of the middle of the day in peak season and they essentially said, ‘Sorry, cannot do that.’”
Lies and misgivings
It was nice to know the cause, but the arrogance and lack of consideration bordering on contempt by the FDOT and its contractor should leave us all aghast.
It was only last year that the FDOT told our Town Commission after pleading and negotiating that it would not open the bridge during peak traffic in season other than for the usual boat passages. They promised they would perform all maintenance and work-related non-emergency openings at night. The job they were performing last weak was the installation of the new computer module that controls the opening of the bridge. They needed to “burn in” the software through repeated openings that could have been done at night.
Our Mayor and Manager wrote feisty letters to the FDOT and they wrote our community back the kind of apology one gets when they call their cell phone company with a complaint. “ I am so sorry to hear you are having difficulty and thank you for you patience.”
I always yell back at someone who says that to me.
“Do not assume I am patient. I am a caffeined-up, angry ex-New Yorker who has a built-in disdain for people who read me scripts.”
On a strange but somewhat funny note, I was trying to merge into traffic and was waiting patiently with my blinker on. A woman was very aggressively determined to not let me or anyone else in. She lurched forward in her car and gunned it rhythmically as I tried to join the Diaspora of vehicles trying to get from St. Armands to Longboat. After realizing that there was no chance she was going to let me in, I got behind her car and its vanity plate spelled out, “Mazeltov.”
I was cranky and complained aloud to myself, “What a Mazeltov to be stuck behind you!”
Then at Lido Shores by the S-turn I made a very strategic and looking back petty move. I made a right through Lido Shores and emerged about 30 cars ahead of Mazeltov and soon got over the bridge. I had to drop some items off at Coldwell Banker at the Charthouse and parked. As I walked out of my vehicle, who pulls up but Mazeltov. She rolls down her window and yells at me, “You took my parking spot!”
I shot back, “You have to be a much bigger real estate producer in this office to earn a spot — not even Roger nor Bruce have their own parking spot.”
I walked off and delivered my items.
Later, I felt sad and ashamed. The traffic had brought out the competitive angry frustrated traffic demons. That mixed with the usual three or four caffeinated beverages lurking in my system and I was a good candidate for the Baker Act.
So my apologies to whoever Mazeltov may be. Even though you cut me off and yelled at me for parking where you wanted to — I should not allow myself to get upset in the face of a license plate that says “Mazeltov!”
I am sure I am not the only one who descended a few notches on the rhetorical scale that day while stuck in the grip of traffic.