With the city in the midst of a major multi-year project to redo a large highway exchange, it is an understatement to say traffic, which can be a thorny issue at the best of times, in Montreal is bad. It is horrendous with gusts to devastating. Some recent traffic induced situations have shone a light on human nature.
Many streets in Montreal’s downtown sector are old and narrow. In many cases, these secondary streets are reduced to one lane of traffic when there is parking on both sides. Twice this summer I have witnessed how this can bring out the worst in drivers.
One day a month or so ago I was on MacKay Street watching a large tractor-trailer as the driver attempted to back it into a lane. This involved blocking the street, almost putting the cab of the rig on the opposite sidewalk and I suspect a few prayers that the whole thing would not jack-knife.
The driver of the truck was not having any luck after several shaky tries. In addition, traffic was backing up for some distance and starting to block an intersection. However, people were being patient. Until a fire truck, sirens blaring lights flashing started down the street. Horns began to hoot as drivers wanted to get out of the way. I figured the driver would pull out, go around the block letting traffic flow, and try again. But no; just when it looked like he was going to do so this guy opted instead to give it another shot. With traffic building, sirens getting louder he tried to get that trailer into that lane until a cop strolled by and told him to get out of the way, go around the block. Even then the driver started to argue with the cop about having to make his delivery.
Yesterday was recycling day. On the next street over, Bishop, at 5:15 pm the contractor started to collect the recycling put out by the many restaurants, bars, and condos on the street. Yep, at rush hour. To make things worse, the truck had but one person to drive it and pick up the loads of cardboard and other recyclables. He would move up a few feet, get out of the truck, run from one side of the street to the other collecting, toss things into the truck, get back inside and move up a few more feet. All while a line of cars is growing behind him, down the street and causing a tie up on another street as drivers wait to turn. Who in their right mind would a) do recycling or garbage pick up at rush hour and, b) have only one person to drive and collect? It defies logic but probably puts a bit more cash in the contractor’s pocket.
But it wasn’t all bad. Last weekend I was driving west on a main street that intersects a highway exit. While waiting at the red light with my left turn indicator on several cars exiting the highway got stuck in the intersection blocking me from making my turn once the light changed. One fellow was so close to me that I could see he was going to do everything possible not to make eye contact, knowing he was in the wrong by “blocking the box”. But human nature being what it is he eventually looked at me no doubt expecting some rude gesture or comment. But all I did as our gaze met was shrug. A sort of “don’t worry we’ve all been there” shrug. He smiled and shrugged back and it was over.