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Noted in Traffic

A few minor irritants to get off my chest, noted in the last couple of weeks spent cycling the streets of Vancouver to and from a library nearby and driving out to Abbotsford to teach twice a week. I find the following three phenomena utterly baffling and I must vent…

First, I simply do not understand the “Caution! Baby in Car” sticker. Among the questions that occur to me when I see these things are the following: What do you want me to do with this piece of information? Are you merely conveying a piece of data that you think I need to be made aware of? Is the sticker meant to provoke a specific response from me? What difference is the fact that your vehicle contains a baby within it meant to make for those who share the road with you?

The implication seems to be that your having a child in your car (and your advertising of this to the public) is meant to divert me from my customary course of action which, apparently, would involve launching myself indiscriminately into any and all vehicles in my path without the slightest concern for my own safety or that of others. Who knows what traffic mayhem is daily being averted by these little stickers—commuters everywhere, who would normally treat city streets like demolition derbies, dramatically changing their minds at the last minute when they realize that (gasp!) some of the vehicles around me actually have children in them! And all thanks to these illuminating stickers! So much for the vehicular apocalypse I was about to unleash…

Second, we have the pedestrian-assaulting-crosswalk-signal phenomenon. I see this regularly when I take the kids to school, or just cycling around town. Our subject approaches the intersection and depresses the button for the “walk” signal. He/she waits a maximum of 2-3 seconds and then, upon noting that the “walk” signal has not immediately appeared, proceeds to pound mercilessly on the defenseless crosswalk button until the desired result comes about.

Some don’t even give the poor light the 2-3 second chance—they just walk up to the crosswalk and start beating on the button from the second of their arrival until traffic is stopped. If ever there was a practice whose efficiency would seem amenable to empirical disconfirmation it would be this one. The light seems to take roughly the same amount of time to change every time, regardless of the enthusiasm or the frequency of the button-pushing. Alas, the temptation to equate speed of light change with speed of button-pounding usually proves too much to resist…

Finally, we have the impatient freeway driver who jerks in and out of traffic, now hammering on the accelerator, now weaving into the shoulder to get around an RV, now slamming on his brakes to avoid colliding with the back-end of a fuel tanker, now beating his hands on his steering wheel, cursing in frustration…. Anyone who has had the misfortune of regularly driving the stretch of the #1 highway between Abbotsford and Vancouver will know that, at certain times of the day, nobody is getting anywhere in a hurry. It’s not a terribly difficult concept—four lanes worth of traffic all squeezing into two to cross a bridge doesn’t leave a whole lot of room to make up time by driving like a maniac—but there’s always a few guys who are convinced that if they can just get around the next couple of cars, a wide-open expanse of empty highway awaits them…

Usually, when I see one of these angry fellows (and they’re almost always men) pass by, imperiling himself and others by driving like a lunatic, I invariably see him twenty minutes later slowed down by the same on-ramp, the same stalled vehicle, the same clogged exit. His reward for twenty minutes of frenetic driving usually amounts to one or two whole car lengths—a juicy prize, to be sure, but one perhaps not worth recklessly endangering the lives of all who must share the road with him.

Maybe if more of us had those “Baby in Car” stickers…

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dave Chow #

    I too, have puzzled over the ‘baby-in-car’ sticker. My wife wondered if it’s at all related to in case the car is ever in an accident, that the fire fighters or would-be rescuers would note the fact, but, I’m a little more cynical. I think it’s more of a ‘look-at-me’ sticker.

    As to the pedestrian / cross-walk button assaults…I have a conspiracy theory…I wonder if there is a team of scientists stationed at each pedestrian crosswalk just studying the effects that the pause has on fellow humans…

    Crazy drivers? They’re not crazy drivers! They’re all students of a stunt driving course! Or, they are all attempting to try out for the next Amazing Race episode based around the fair cities of Langley and Abbotsford. Sure. That’s it.

    September 23, 2007
  2. Hey Ryan, common ranting ground for us at last! I’m so with you on the “Baby on Board” signs on cars. I usually have a baby on board with me in the car, but I would never put a sign broadcasting it. What’s the point?

    September 24, 2007
  3. J #

    Yes. If my car is out of control, and I see that the vehicle I am about to hit has a “Baby on Board” sticker, then in that “blink-of-an-eye” moment, I will calmly and deliberately swerve to hit something or someone else (as long as they don’t have a “Baby on Board” sticker themselves, in which case I will simply have to change my direction once more and plow headlong into the tree or concrete abutment).

    September 24, 2007
  4. Ah, I’m not alone…

    September 24, 2007
  5. there’s a sticker on my truck that says, “Large Ass Inside – Do not hit me it will hurt you!” I think it helps…

    September 25, 2007

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