The Ramblings of a Mad Man: Travel Time

When I was in high school, which was longer ago than I’d like to admit, but not so long as my knees and back often pretend, I started a newsletter called Etc.  Why Etc.? Clip art wasn’t nearly as popular then and the only logo word ’95 could create happened to be a big star that said Etc. stamped through the middle.  In retrospect, the text may have been editable, but it had taken me so long to figure out how to insert the logo I just went with it.

The newsletter had a readership of about four over a very strong three issue run.

The most popular feature was a segment titled “The Ramblings of a Mad Man” in which I attacked such serious issues as socks with sandals and garlic breath.

The world needs this type of hot-button brilliance and, as such, I have decided to resurrect the column on a weekly, or whenever I feel like it, basis.

Today’s column is going to take the shape of a What Bugs You Wednesday?

I live in Des Moines.  Well, technically I live in West Des Moines because Des Moines is the size of a movie theater popcorn –which is way more popcorn than you need, but not much of a metro.  In a city, where I live would simply be the west side of Des Moines, but in the Des Moines metropolitan area it is its own suburb and, technically, a new county.

I told you that to tell you that as a bit of background information.  Here’s some more:

I work at East High School on the East Side of Des Moines.

It takes me, at most, 17 minutes to get to work.  That includes waiting at stoplights to get to the freeway.  In fact, that estimate requires I am stuck at at least one light for minutes.  Plural.

Last year, the DOT put in electronic signs along I-235 (hereafter referred to as “the interstate” though could appropriately be described as “the road”) dishing out advice on safe driving and then giving an update as to how many people have died in car accidents within the year.  My favorite piece of advice was “Don’t drive distracted!”  Apparently, irony is wasted on the Department of Transportation.

Recently the signs have gotten an update.  Instead of the two (one in each direction) signs hanging on overpasses, there are now two when you are heading east, and I haven’t counted on the way home.  These signs no longer give driving advice, instead they give travel time estimates.



Remember the vast expanse of the Des Moines Metroplex?

If not, just tilt your screen until you can read the times on that sign: 3 Min, 6 Min.

I’ve seen these signs around St. Louis, heading into Denver, and outside of Chicago.  In each of these areas it is nice to know if you are looking at a half hour or an hour moving the next ten(ish) miles.  These beautiful new Iowa DOT signs?  I have not seen them tell me anything except “3 Min, 6 Min”.  Now, in fairness, this is the second sign I encounter on my journey.  The first one also tells me it is “3 Min, 6 Min” to a place that is one (or two, depending) exits down the road from this sign.  Doing some guerrilla math, the total ETA is between 9 and 12 minutes.

My tax dollars hard at work.

Before you expect me to rail on the gov’ment, cuss them up one side and all down ‘tother, you should know that I don’t mind paying taxes.  In fact, as a public employee, I appreciate paying my taxes — I would say “enjoy”, but my wife and I have recently started making money and it has become less “enjoyable”.  However, I grew up enjoying the perks of public education, have driven on public roads for years, went to college thanks to federal financial aid and loans, and, though I have yet to require their assistance, really appreciate the guys in the red trucks and hats who will put out the flames if my house should catch fire.  The list could go on, but I won’t.

What I don’t like is waste.  Human waste.  Wasted money.  Etc.

These travel time signs are the most inane thing I can imagine.  I can drive “all the way” to my home in the suburbs in the amount of time it would take me to get from the exit to the freeway in Portland.  That’s in “rush hour”.

They didn’t need electronic signs, they could have used those old baseball scoreboards.  With single digits.

The sad thing is: somebody got paid to come up with this idea.

Meanwhile, my auditorium at the largest high school in the state has no ventilation, inadequate space, horrible acoustics, faulty wiring, and cracking wooden seats.


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