Gridlock…. or the Journey into Hell.

I am pretty sure that when the multi-talented painter Sandro Botticelli painted his version of Dante Alighieri’s ‘Inferno’, or the Journey to hell, I am sure he had no idea that what he was really painting was not the famed staged strata of sins on the way to the dark depths of despair, but simply the early morning traffic snarl that is Malta in the early hours of the day.

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It is 9 in the morning, and I have just had the dubious pleasure of coming back from Birkirkara on a 12km round trip to take my daughter to her A level morning session examination.

Truly, it has been a hellish experience… because let’s face it, circa 12km in 2hours translates to around 6km an hour. So, instead of leaving home at 7, like we did, it would have made more sense to walk to St.Aloysius at a steady pace of six per hour, leaving home at 7.45… and probably still have made it in plenty of time.

The roads were absofuckinglutely jam-packed with cars trying to go hither and thither, but to no avail. Our worries started as soon as we saw traffic policemen near the St.Lucia roundabout, who insisted that we take the road up towards qormi though the new bypass. It was useless to haggle with the guy. This is nothing personal against the police, whom I consider awesome, but this guy was simply following orders. I wanted to go down through the Addolorata hill, but I was not allowed.

OK. Nothing to do, I had to go down through the Luqa bypass, but as soon as I saw the huge amount of cars packed like sardines in an impossibly tight sequence, I decided to pass through the back of Luqa. There again, after a brief respite, the end bit was absolutely horrifying.

A girl in tight black spandex and a green shirt flew past, and I groaned at the sight. It was sin no.1, Lust… not at the girl’s bottom, wiggling here and there just like a chipmunk… but because she was on a bicycle, flying past and blissfully oblivious to the stalled traffic.

Needless to say, the teenager in the back seat was growing more agitated by the minute. To cap it all, ‘cowboys’ began peeling out from the back, darting down wrong-way, only to plead with puppy eyes and allow another car to let them slip in. Or so they thought until they tried to slip inside my line. ‘No way Jose!’… A quick snarl from my bulldog face soon put a stop to a fading red Omni van, that was just then looking anxious as a huge truck began roaring up the hill, the van squarely in its’ path. I couldn’t have cared less if it smashed him to oblivion. Because by then my pulse was racing with the realization that we were going to cut it tight with regards to time. His sin? Greed!

I guess that with my anger, it was the sin of ‘wrath’ that we were traversing at that moment in time. Dante would have been proud of me.

Finally, finally, we arrived at the bottom of Qormi Hill, and I was torn between making two turns… right to Aldo Moro, or left to the Qormi roundabout… Aldo Moro was absolutely blocked, so we took Qormi. The road there is absolutely pulled up, so it was single lane all the way to the roundabout. I must say however that after that bit near the supermarket, the roads were now clear, and as I pulled away, feeling my little Sid surge with power, hitting a hundred k in a blink of an eye, (sin no.7 , Pride)… only to slam the brakes to bring the car to a sixty as the camera came in sight.

We got to the examination venue with about twenty minutes to spare, as a sigh of relief escaped my daughter’s lips…

I’m not going to talk about the drive back, since it was invariably another bottling up of anger as cars jostled each other in an effort to get wherever the hell they needed to… sigh…

So now, I have a few questions that I beg the minister for education, and that for transport to reply to…

1. Who the heck sets the examinations to start at 9am? WHO IN HIS RIGHT MIND, would set up examinations at the very peak of traffic? Why not start them at 10? or 10.30?

2. Why do we need to go to Birkirkara and Naxxar (from Tarxien!!!) to sit for an exam? Why, there are so many schools in the southern area that could easily double up as examination halls. Crossing the main thoroughfares of Marsa and Qormi to go for an exam at nine is absolute madness.

3. Let’s remain with the utterly idiotic notion of exams at that time. Some would ask, why not use the buses. WE did when we were young…. ah… “when we were young”… probably means ‘in the past’… Well, the fact is that back in the good old ‘hairy-chested-drivers’ days, buses were actually reliable. I can’t believe somebody would ask that question. With Arriva, despite all the advantages of dedicated bus lanes, one still isn’t sure of getting where he wants on time. IF he gets there at all.

4. A suggestion. Why doesn’t the Education Department create a pick-up point, say, Paola square,(to name just one) with a coach that heads with all the students towards the examination centre? Obviously there are too many localities, but driving from Zabbar or Cospicua to Paola is far more easy than driving to Naxxar. So make up 5 or 6 main-zones. Any difficulties can be telephoned ahead, and prospective examination students can rest their minds that they will sit for the paper, no matter what.

(Sandro Botticelli was an Italian painter of the early Renaissance-era. He contributed to the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel and painted the immortal The Birth of Venus. His depiction of the Inferno, probably tripled church attendance in those times.)

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No space to park!

Not too many days ago, certainly not more than 4 or 5, I had the dubious pleasure of reading a piece on the Times, about teachers in a school in Sliema. These teachers were disgruntled by the fact that the local council had imposed a 2-hour parking limit on the public roads adjacent to the school.

Now I admit I am not too good of an administrator, and my first impressions were that elected members of the local council had been smoking something stronger than diesel exhaust fumes. I mean, come on… that’s absolutely ridiculous! Can you imagine a teacher rushing out every couple of hours to move his car?

Reading further on, this time to the many varied and colourful comments, the raging war of the words continued to escalate. At one point there was somebody who even suggested that the ‘toffee-nosed twits at Sliema (his words) wanted their own personal parking space in front of their homes’.

There is no need to say that I found this chap quite likeable, and agreed that the Sliema residents were the first to sell their soul (and town) to the businesses cropping up all over the place, and then wanted a slice of the same pie.

I chuckled to myself as I thought to myself…”That’s what they need next, a personalised parking space!”

Actually this little piece of brain matter floating in my head proved to be my undoing as that evening I arrived home from work. Going round the public garden where I live, I realised there simply was nowhere to park my little Daihatsu (aka Sid!).

So naturally, I had to park a little bit aways from our house. Once on my street, I realised what the problem was.

It was full of my neighbours’ cars, and while I have no spite, or want to disagree with any of them, all smashing people, I thought that it was quite unfair for a family to have 7 (!!!) cars parked out in the street when they have a massive garage just beneath their house. Likewise the family next door had the husband’s, wife’s, two offspiring AND their boyfriends’ cars parked on the single lane parking spots. This trend continued right down to the bottom of the public garden.

And I thought to myself… those guys from Sliema, far from being toffee-nosed, actually had a point. What if there was a SINGLE parking space for each of the families on the block? It surely made sense, and is something that is in use abroad. In Southend (UK), for example, there is no chance you can park in a residential street. Forget it. Cameras take a picture with their beady eyes every time a vehicle enters the street. If the car stops for more than a quarter of an hour, and the number plate does not belong to a resident, then that owner is right royally screwed.

If at least, after 8pm, every house had its’ single parking space, then the chances are good that one will be able to unload himself close to home.

Of course, then again, I would also make it a prerogative that families having a garage, MUST park their cars in that garage. No ifs and buts….

…and with that thought, I turned back to park my little Sid in the garage.

Ah well…. can’t win ’em all!

Until the next time…. be safe!