EDITORIAL: In a word: effective

Bill Wilson / August 05, 2011

At home with two kids under the age of three it’s Diapermaggedon. Wait, or is it Poopmaggedon? At work it is Editingmaggedon. Right now, brace yourself for Opinionmaggedon!

Seriously, what is it with finishing words in “maggedon” in this country in an attempt to play up some end-of-the-world-like event? Yes, it is featured in The Good Book, I am aware of the tie-in, but must we use the tag to liven up the personality of every blizzard, presidential strategy and even traffic-management event that goes on in this mediamaggedon-obsessed society? There has to be a fresh word out there to use, one that could be worn to the bone for the next several years.

The city of Los Angeles let me down a few weeks ago. With the weekend closing of the busiest stretch of highway—I-405—I was expecting an entire movie trailer of buildup and gusto, the kind that leaves you saying, “I have GOT to see that!” But who am I kidding? The modern-era Hollywood is known for cranking out mindless flicks just to make a buck. Of course, you can find the same one-minute devotion to creativity in the newspaper and television news industry, so what we got was Carmaggedon.

It began with all of L.A.’s streets and rail lines being jammed with millions of commuters, then a fleet of alien warships appeared out of the sky and launched the deadliest assault mankind has ever seen! No, wait, that was from the movie “Battlefield: LA.” But officials in southern California did play the I-405 closing like a war was going to break out and urged everyone to stay in their homes and not come out until daybreak on July 18.

Those behind the 10-mile closing took community outreach to the next level: Facebook pages and Twitter accounts were dedicated to the event, which was needed for crews to demolish a bridge so a new carpool lane could be added in the near future. There also were smart-phone apps, websites and YouTube videos devoted to the 405 situation, and traffic alerts could be seen hundreds of miles away. This event even had its own set of T-shirts, including one that read: “My gridlock is bigger than yours.” And you thought the numbskulls were limited to the media and entertainment industries.

Then there was real talk about the potential damaging effects. “Allow me to be blunt: It’s going to be a mess out there,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky posted on his website.

There was good reason for the harsh messages, which apparently had Californians glued to the media coverage like it was a car chase or news of a governor’s infidelity. Over 500,000 motorists use the 405 daily, it was in the middle of summer tourist and beach season, and there were no alternate routes capable of handling the onslaught of exhaust. However, SoCal was hip to this event-management routine way back in 1984 during the summer Olympics. The same kind of fright was generated, and traffic was lighter than usual.

The contractor on the job, which had a $12,000 per 10-minute delay hanging over its head, actually finished the work hours ahead of schedule, and reports coming out of the area were that traffic gridlock was averted. So my question is why are complete road closures like this usually treated like they should be taken completely out of the equation? If the most popular section of pavement can deny people a dance for a couple of days, why can’t this action be carried out in other areas across the U.S.? What transportation officials did in California was masterful, yet the techniques have been labeled most likely to succeed for years in the transportation-management industry. They communicated long, hard and around every corner covering the entire region. Perhaps what this process needs is a catchy name.

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