It’s been rainy. Really rainy. It seemed to take forever, but winter has finally descended upon us here in Phoenix. Maybe it’s not the horrible, frigid nastiness going on in the east right now, but it’s also not 85 degree weather like it was just a few weeks ago. Coats are out and being worn, let’s just say. Okay, fine, so far the lowest I’ve seen is 49 degrees. Don’t you laugh – you try living where it routinely spends much of the summer in 115 degree heat and then feel what 49 degrees feels like. It’s cold, man. “Me without my muff!” I can hear you quoting Robin Williams from Good Morning Vietnam. Hush.
Arizona drivers and any amount of rain do not equal a good thing. In fact, it’s a freakin’ mess. Combine that with the recent freakout over speed cameras on the freeways and you’ve got a complete nightmare. I keep seeing this quote from comedian George Carlin, something like “average intelligence means 50% of all people are more stupid than you.” Rain and these cameras really proves how right the late, great Carlin was. Let’s look at the rain first. It rains, and people slow down, which is natural . . . but we here in Phoenix slow waaaaaayyyy down. My drive to work is normally about 45 minutes, maybe an hour in bad traffic. Yesterday morning it was raining, not even particularly heavy rain . . . it took me one hour and forty-five minutes to get to work. I encountered no accidents, no closed roads, no actual blockages of any type. And yet . . . one hundred five minutes to drive about 30 miles.
And then there’s the issue of the cameras that have been installed on the freeways. You won’t see me complaining about them on a moral basis. I think they’re great. People drive like idiots as it is and these will at least get people to think about some aspect of the driving they are doing. Besides, they aren’t even activated unless you are going at least 10 miles over the speed limit (12 over in 55mph zones, 10 in 65mph zones, to be exact.) That’s pretty fair – a cop likely wouldn’t let you off for 10 over, which is a pretty significant amount over the speed limit, especially in town, where traffic is congested, which is where these cameras are located. Out on the open road, have at it – pedal to the metal. But people are freaking out like they’ve somehow lost rights here or something, to the point that they’re trying to put something on the next ballot to have these cameras deactivated. Nevermind that this is a public safety issue, they’re only concerned about how they will raise money for the state. Here’s a thought: don’t speed so they can’t collect anything from you. And you don’t even have to “not speed,” you just have to go no more than 9 mph over. How hard is that? It’s not like the cameras aren’t hidden – they have big yellow signs that say “Speed Enforcement Ahead” or something like that. People are upset because they have to pay attention to what they are doing, rather than gab mindlessly on their cellphones or do their makeup or whatever.
As a result, people see the signs and slow down . . . and I mean well below the speed limit. We’re talking about 35-45 mph. Knee-jerk reactions to the cameras, over-reactions aimed at trying to prove a point about how distracting they are, when they really aren’t. If people would just drive normally, ie, within a somewhat legal bracket around the speed limit, there would be no problems. But people want to make a point and so they go over board by slamming on their brakes thinking it somehow registers to “Speed Camera Control” or something, when all it really does it just cause traffic to jam up behind them. It is pure stupidity, and I see why we have earned our status as some of the very worst drivers America has to offer (#89 out of 100, as a matter of fact. Pretty proud of that.)
So driving this week has been more than a bit of an adventure. Not the rollicking, good-times excitement of an Indiana Jones adventure, but more of a Falling Down type adventure . . . I guess that’s not “adventure” but more “descent into madness.” Yes, that about describes it.