Mon | Oct 15, 2018

Gordon Robinson | Something to cry about!

Published:Tuesday | September 18, 2018 | 12:00 AM

So, Jamaica's traffic chickens have finally come home to roost.

For the past 10 days, motorists have clogged the airwaves weeping, wailing and gnashing their teeth at the horrendous gridlock caused by the apparently inept traffic planning, resulting in three major roadworks programmes operating contemporaneously with back to school.

As if we weren't already sufficiently worn out mentally from creating ways to lambast Juliet Holness for endorsing her name on free school bags or to keep traditional schools' reputations unsullied by low-performing teachers (oops, sorry, students), now God rolls on Heaven's floor laughing at us after sending us some REAL getting-to-school issues.

While we searched for imaginative ways to call school bag gifts 'politicising education' and 'tribal'; while we schemed to remove blots on traditional schools' pass rates by sending students in most need to already underperforming schools without calling it 'expulsion', NWA was quietly hatching a plot to give us something to cry about.

Remember when you pouted as a child because a toy was taken away? Remember your father asking menacingly, "Do you want me to give you something to cry about?" Well, our Heavenly Father has done just that. Roadworks, broken mains, car accidents and citizens' violent protests have all conspired to turn morning and evening traffic, already arduous, into hell on earth.

The writing was on the wall from the Barbican roadworks, during which there were zero signs, zero flagmen, and zero assistance for motorists, while the drivable sections of the roads changed weekly. One Saturday morning, on a life-saving run to my friendly neighbourhood Off Track Betting Station (OTB) in Barbican Square, I nearly destroyed The Old Ball and Chain's car by getting mired in a quicksand of construction gravel because I chose the wrong of two unmarked route options. After all that, there's no straightforward way to reach my OTB, as the cluster of businesses on the square's north side have been isolated by an impassable intersection and a high road divider.

Coming from East Kings House Road, you must turn left at Barbican Road, navigate a dangerous U-turn at Birdsucker, and turn left immediately before the lights. Leaving is another disaster, as to reach East Kings House Road directly involves running a gauntlet of three competing lanes of traffic while being unable to see the traffic lights. The 'alternative' route is endless or tricky.

I digress. Jamaicans are rightfully up in arms regarding recent traffic inconveniences, as NWA planning seems non-existent. But nobody is talking about the elephant in the room - us. Jamaicans rank among the world's most undisciplined drivers. This has been allowed to permeate our driving psyche for decades without effective police intervention.

 

BLOCKING INTERSECTIONS

 

We block intersections at will, overtake lines of traffic, and play chicken with oncoming vehicles; recklessly undertake; drive on sidewalks; stop and block the road, as Americans would say, on a dime; and commonly use the road as our playground.

Half-Way Tree has become a nightmare for law-abiding motorists, as taxis block the road willy-nilly while 'loader-men' stroll among traffic signalling like policemen and terrorising every other user of the road. Sometimes the police are present, but I've not detected a discernible difference in the horror. So the police are doing a pretty good job in current circumstances, but they only have themselves to blame for previously letting indiscipline go unchecked. At a time when discipline is needed more than ever, indiscipline continues apace.

BTW, didja notice PM's calm approach? He concedes that there's "a sense" of poor planning and appears unruffled (as usual) while promising improvements. Let me tell you why. You know this ain't finishing in eight months, right? Early 2020, just in time for the next election campaign, velvet-smooth roads will be unveiled and we'll quickly forget the inconvenience; rush to the polls; and give JLP another five years of totalitarian rule. At least, that's the plan. Watch for it!

Peace and love.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.