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.
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.)