The Weekly Rant with Gary Patella

Thoughts and ideas on various grievances that are relevant to everyday life.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

On Pointless Traffic Direction

There is a job market trend that has always frightened a number of workers. Improved technology sometimes leads to a situation where the technology can replace a human. Supermarkets now have self-service checkouts, eliminating the need for cashiers. Airlines and movie theatres have kiosks that eliminate ticket agents, and factories obtain machines that assemble parts. Whether this trend is ultimately positive or negative is something I will not discuss. The trend is what it is, and most people believe it to be inevitable.

But there is a case where the trend is going in reverse. Something that has always been carried out by machines now is being replaced by humans. And in many ways, it is completely absurd. I am referring to police officers directing traffic.

There are now many areas where a police officer stands in the middle of the street and directs traffic. This used to be a rare occurrence that would take place when the street light was broken. Now it seems to take place where there is a fully operational street light! Are we completely free of crime? Aren't there still plenty of dangerous areas? It's bad enough that we have serious crimes occurring while officers are busy violating the fourth amendment, rifling through people's bags. Now we get even more wasteful by having officers direct traffic.

And if you have ever observed this traffic direction, you would see that it is completely stupid and unnecessary. The fully functional traffic light turns green, and the officer starts waving traffic through the green light. The light turns red, and the officer holds up his or her hand telling cars to stop. If people need a human to tell them that a green light means go, and a red light means stop, then that person should not have a driver's licence.

It is true that, every now and then, the officer will wave an extra car through a red light (consequently having another car wait for a few seconds at a green light). But this pitiful attempt to justify the assignment has no effect. Everyone can plainly see that the police officer is a wasted resource in this scenario. Perhaps I shouldn't really care. It doesn't actually affect me (other than the tax dollars paying for it). But stupidity in any situation always gets to me. And using an officer to mimic the traffic light is definitely stupid!

I think it's time that the decision makers in high positions stop making such retarded decisions. I would bet that many of the officers directing traffic also think the assignment is stupid. But if a cop is ordered to stand in the street, wave people through a green light, and hold up a hand to stop people at a red light, that cop has no choice. It is a completely useless assignment. But the brilliant minds that make the decisions seem to think otherwise. Perhaps it's time for some new decision makers.


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