Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Too Lazy for Due Diligence

I'm not normally a . . . you know . . . activist type. But I had a thought while driving home from Kansas this past weekend.

About an hour north of Austin on I-35 (Austin! I-35! Oh, Texas friends, you know the insanity, don't you), our traffic slowed to a crawl for about twenty minutes. On a Sunday night after 10pm, I couldn't imagine what would be causing a traffic jam other than an accident, and hubby saw some flashing lights way ahead of us, so we assumed that was the case.

But as we neared the problem area, we saw that the flashing lights were on some kind of construction-looking vehicles, not emergency response vehicles. And these vehicles were empty and not moving; they were way off to the side of the road cushioned by three lanes of traffic blocked by orange barrels -- those orange barrels they use to block off construction areas.

Yet, we saw no construction. No construction work going on, of course (as if they'd be out fixing our roadways at night on a Sunday, the least busy traffic time on the highway, as would be logical). But there wasn't even any evidence of construction in progress. Three perfectly good, very drivable lanes were simply blocked off for no apparent reason, and all the Sunday night traffic on I-35 (north of Austin! Insanity!) was funneled into one lane . . . again, for no apparent reason.

Now, I know you all are thinking, "OH, yeah, I see that all the time. Drives me crazy." Because yeah -- we do see that all the time, don't we? Traffic lanes blocked off for "potential" construction zones although they are completely passable at that time and it seems they will be for the foreseeable future. And the flow of traffic is drastically disrupted because of it. We are all aggravated about that.

And my question is, why do we put up with it?

Doesn't the Department of Transportation work for us? If everyone who drove through that single lane of traffic Sunday night -- or even just half of the people -- wrote or called the state highway officials and complained about the situation, wouldn't they have to do something about it? If everyone who ever finds themselves in such a situation contacted the officials to bring the problem to their attention, wouldn't just the extra phone and email traffic be annoying enough for those officials to make more effort to prevent such scenarios from occurring in the first place? You would think so.

So why don't we make such calls? I submit two reasons. One, we are lazy. Two, we assume there is a reason for the blockage that we just aren't aware of. The first reason is obviously unacceptable; citizens cannot be lazy in a democracy. And I'm not sure the second reason is acceptable, either. We're not stupid. We can look at a piece of highway and tell if it is drivable or not. Why do we assume such incompetence from ourselves?

It concerns me a bit that we have this tendency to look at situations created by our government agencies -- situations that seem to all intelligent observation to be useless, wasteful, inefficient, perhaps even unethical or illegal -- but we don't trust our instincts about that. We give our government the benefit of the doubt. Do they deserve that benefit? Perhaps. But I think we lose something important in our lack of diligence in their oversight. And it starts in the little situations . . . the three lanes of traffic blocked off for no apparent reason.

But I'll admit: I'm too lazy to do anything about it. Sigh! We deserve the government we get.

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