Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Confederation Chaos in Fort McMurray

In case you are new to town the chaos I refer to in the title isn't any sort of debacle surrounding the confederation of our country. Frankly that went relatively smoothly from what I understand, no messy wars or massive discord for us polite Canadians. No, the chaos I refer to is what is happening on the Confederation overpass/interchange at the bottom of Confederation Drive, and I wouldn't exactly say that what is happening there right now is "polite". In fact it's becoming the exact opposite of polite, and headed into downright ugly.

To bring you up to speed the provincial government opened up the new Confederation overpass earlier this fall. Things seemed to be going pretty well at first, but it didn't take long for things to fall apart, and in a rather spectacular fashion. Now, I will admit that I don't go out to site on a daily basis, but I do use that artery to get downtown, and have been baffled to find a trip that once took 20 minutes was now taking closer to an hour. Being self-employed I have the luxury of planning around such chaos, and rescheduling my trips to quieter times, but most people in this community don't have that option, and so they sit in traffic. And sit. And sit.

If you are on Twitter you can pretty much watch as the pot simmers, and then boils over on an almost daily basis. The Tweets start out disgruntled, and rapidly become angry. They reach a fever pitch, with people warning that others will soon "go postal" (I always suspect they mean they might well go postal but don't want to admit it), and with rants about firing everyone from the member of parliament to the MLAs to the mayor to the dog catcher (incidentally I hope everyone realizes we can't really "fire" elected officials - democracy doesn't really work that way, and unless you are planning some sort of radical overthrow of the government we have to work with what we have).

Folks, we are living in a difficult time right now in Fort McMurray. We are going through a tremendous number of changes, including our roadways. And while it would be nice to believe that things will go right the first time, and that it will be perfect, I think we need to accept that it won't. Things will be tried, and they may fail, or they may work. If they fail they may need to be tweaked. If the tweaking doesn't work they may need an overhaul. In some instances it will be a case of trial and error - and there will be some pain along the way.

I know it's hard to be patient. I know that when you are sitting in traffic, late, that your patience disappears. I know that when someone zooms in to merge after you've been sitting in traffic for 45 minutes (and expects that you will let them in) that your blood pressure goes up and you fantasize about strapping them to the hood of your car with a sign on them that says "I caught this jerk trying to cut into line on Confed" (okay, maybe that's just my fantasy). I also know something else - losing our minds about all this will not change a damn thing. It will just make us a cranky, irritable, unhappy bunch.

I don't know that there is a solution until the roadways are completed and all the changes designed to make traffic flow better are finished. I suspect that until that point we are going to continue to see mayhem in traffic. There may be small adjustments that will help things improve, but I think we may need to acknowledge that we are still dealing with inadequate infrastructure for a community this size, and that we will need to exercise more patience as our current governments work to address a legacy they have inherited from others. I'm not going to suggest we all sit in our cars and sing "Kumbaya", but I think we all might need to just calm down slightly before we suffer a collective stroke. We can rant and rave about mass political firings that will never happen and we can issue dire warnings about others (read as "us") going postal and we can go crazy but in the end will that make traffic flow any better? Nope. In the end all it does is make us crazy, so what's the point?

Sometimes we can't control what happens to us - we can only control how we react to it. While we can express our displeasure with traffic issues by contacting our elected officials and Transportation there isn't much point in going ballistic because it's just not going to make any real difference except in how it makes us feel. It makes us feel powerless, and angry, and unhappy. So choose a different path. Choose to tell the officials about the issues, and if you have suggestions for improvements add those, too. And then strap yourself into your car, and relax. If you have to sit back and think about England (the advice once given to new brides who were nervous about their wedding night). Going crazy only really affects one person - you. So in the end if the only one going crazy makes crazy is you, why bother?

Oh, and if you have to? Sing Kumbaya if you must. And if you happen to cut in front of some redhead going south on Confederation in heavy traffic and notice her giving you a steely glare just be aware that you've likely narrowly escaped being hogtied to the hood of her car. You've been warned.

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