Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Operation Freeflow - The Teeny-Weeny Detail They Overlooked

Few things capture the experience of living in Dublin in the early years of the 21st Century as much as the remarkable paradox of Operation Freeflow, the traffic management system that the city uses to deal with Christmas shoppers. (The only real way of dealing with Christmas shoppers, of course, is to machine gun the wretches, but then you’d have Amnesty International annoying you and it wouldn’t be worth it. Pity). It’s not so much the system itself as the relentless self-congratulation that goes along with it that gets An Spailpín’s gabhar, as it were. I mean, dear Jesus, it even has its own website.

Look at the thing
. Look at that little picture there of Dublin in the snow. Does that look much like Dublin to you? Doesn't look much like it to me. Who do they think they're kidding? It’s more like a scene from one of those Budweiser ads – those Budweiser dray horses wouldn’t look half as pretty if they’d been kept in some twelfth floor flat in Ballier all year, I’m thinking.

Look at all this bumph from the Irish Times’ breaking news section:

"Hundreds of gardaí have been drafted into Dublin for the force's annual drive to keep the capital's traffic moving over Christmas. Some 160 officers have been transferred to Dublin Garda stations for Operation Freeflow, which began yesterday and will finish on January 4th. In addition, 48 motorcycle patrols will be put on key routes at peak times, supported by other mobile patrols, mountain bike patrols, the Garda Mounted Unit and the Garda Air Support Unit, according to the Garda Press Office. The operation will be managed from the Garda Traffic Control Centre on Harcourt Square, which will be in contact with Dublin City Council's Traffic Centre."

It sounds like a feature length episode of CSI, with Grissom working out a heuristic on the back of an envelope to see how many 1982 Ford Cortinas can be jammed into the Liffey Valley Centre. And, to be honest, it’s hard to argue with a lot of it; it’s a good thing that there are mobile patrols with mounted and air support to make sure the city can keep the traffic moving.

But here’s what gets me: What about the rest of the bloody year?

Reading from left to right across the foot of that ridiculous Freeflow website, which I'm clearly having a lot of trouble getting over, the Dublin Transport Office, Dublin City Council, the Gardaí, the Department of Transport, the Dublin City Business Association, Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus, Iarnród Éireann and the LUAS are all swelled up like harvest frogs, bursting with pride because they can get the traffic moving in December. Well, what about the other eleven months of the year? You can live and die in the car then, stuck in the timeless parking lot that is the M50, the junction of Berkeley Road and the North Circular Road, the entire village of Dundrum, and a thousand and one other traffic black holes. Where are these jokers then? They’re no-where to be seen, that’s where they are.

It’s like hiring a carpenter to put up shelves and when he only hammers one nail into the damned wall, not only does he think he’s done a great job, he expects to the congratulated on it. He thinks he’s just built Noah’s bloody Ark. Incredible.

An Spailpín Fánach advises all readers who have the ill-luck to have no choice but to shop in Dublin to rise at the crack of dawn to do so, if you can at all. And for God’s sake don’t be fooled by some load of soft chat about taking “public transport.” Public transport is miserable enough when there’s just you and your buke to bring onto the bus, with the driver scowling at you for wrecking his buzz and that whiskery buck on O’Connell Street getting in your way and doing nothing, I mean NOTHING, else, without having to face all that while being loaded down with cashmere ganseys from Arnott’s, scented candles, box set DVDs of TV shows that were very middling when actually broadcast, signed copies of Maeve Binchy’s books and three bottles of whiskey, while also being in charge of the safety and well-being of Adam, 8, Maedhb, 5, and Benjamin, 2. Take the car, for God’s sake. Life’s too short.

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