Congresswoman Grace Meng Responds To Jewish Community

Whenever you want to go anywhere, there’s traffic.  And people know this.  That’s why when you get there, everyone asks, “How was traffic?” 

“Traffic was the best.  I got a lot of thinking done.  Also, my right leg is now about six times stronger than my left leg.  I can kill a turtle.”

But there has to be some way to avoid it, right? 

In the old days, we used to find out whether there was traffic by listening to the radio.  (I don’t know how they found out about traffic before radios were invented.  Probably the postal service.)  Every ten minutes, the radio would spend one minute talking about traffic, right after you’d joined the highway you were trying to find out whether to avoid.  And then, in that one minute, the radio would zip off a million different highways, and you’d say, “Shoot!  Did he say our highway?  I wasn’t listening.”  And the other person in the car would say, “I don’t know; I thought you were listening.  Can we put on the music now?”

So you’d quickly turn to another station in the hopes of making their traffic report, and then another, and it would turn out that whether or not there was traffic on the route you wanted to take was actually a machlokes.  Which station do you pasken like?  How come our rav never addresses that in his speeches?  Unless he does, and I miss it.

Also, sometimes we’d turn on the radio after we were already in traffic, just to see if the guy would mention our highway.  (“Hey!  We’re on the news!”)

I think we’re actually trying to test the traffic report to see how accurate it is.  That said, I’m always disappointed when I’m actually sitting in traffic and they don’t announce my highway.  (“Hey!”)  At first, my theory was that in certain places, it’s normal to have traffic, so they never report it.  The radio isn’t going to tell you that there’s traffic in Brooklyn, because there’s always traffic in Brooklyn.  In fact, that’s how Brooklyn was formed.  A bunch of people were stuck in traffic, and they said, “Well, we might as well pull over and live here.” 

“We can’t!  There’s no parking!”

But you can’t really blame the traffic guy in the traffic copter for zipping off highways as fast as he can and missing some, because his main priority has to be to get back to watching where he’s going.  His main priority is not your personal traffic jam and whether you can hear your highway mentioned, especially since he never actually sits in traffic himself.  He has a helicopter.  On the other hand, when he comes late to work, he doesn’t have an excuse. 

“Why are you late?” 

“Traffic.”  

“Wait…”

And anyway, no one really cares about traffic if they’re not personally affected by it.  When you’re driving down a highway and you see that the people going the other way are stuck in a long line of traffic, you don’t feel bad for them.  You’re just happy you’re not them.  And in fact, the longer their line of cars, the funnier the whole thing is to you.  You’re keeping track of how long the line is, and secretly hoping that it extends all the way to your destination, and when it doesn’t, you’re kind of disappointed.  You get to the end of the line and you see people driving seventy miles per hour toward this traffic jam, and you’re like, “Wow, they have no idea!”

So nowadays, we have various GPS devices, whose goal is to actually get to your destination without traffic as well, because they have to actually sit in the car with you and listen to you yell at other drivers through two layers of glass.

Not my GPS.  It doesn’t care.  My GPS is pretty old, so at this point in its life, it doesn’t mind going slow.  It had a traffic feature when we got it, but it no longer does, for some reason.  Nor does it have a way to update its maps anymore.  We’ve gotten another GPS since then, but that one is actually harder to use, which is definitely a feature you want to have to deal with while driving.  So basically, taking directions from this GPS is like taking directions from someone who used to know how to get there. 

“Get off here!” 

“There’s no longer an exit here.” 

“Recalculating…  Hey, what happened to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel?”

So sometimes, if I remember, I will look up traffic conditions on my computer before I leave the house, and then hope they’ll be the same by the time I get there.

“I hope there’s no traffic getting to the traffic.”

I also don’t have a phone with any kind of map capabilities, because I mostly work from my living room, and I know how to get there.  Sometimes there’s traffic on the stairs, but I can usually avoid it by jumping out the window.

My wife has one, though, and sometimes she uses a specialized traffic app called Waze.  My first exposure to Waze came a few years back when I was chaperoning an overnight trip for my sons’ camp.  I was driving a van, and another father was driving a van, and his van got everywhere before mine. 

So I asked, “How do you keep getting everywhere before me?” 

And he said, “I have ways.”  At least that’s how I heard it.  And I figured one of his ways was that he’s in Hatzalah.  Meaning that either he turned on the sirens, or he’s just used to driving big vans really quickly, while I was hunched over the wheel, convinced that there was no way the passenger side of my van wasn’t constantly knocking off side mirrors.  But I later found out that it’s actually a traffic app.  Which didn’t explain why even when we were driving three blocks, he still got there before me.

I actually have no solid proof that Waze works.  Because a lot of times when my wife and I use Waze, we still hit traffic, and we’re like, “But we’re using Waze!” 

“Okay,” you’re saying.  “But if you would have gone a different way, there probably would have been even more traffic.  You don’t know.” 

So first of all, that statement sounds an awful lot like what we say when it comes to Hashgacha Pratis, where something bad happens, and you’re like, “Yeah, but you don’t know that if you’d gone a different way, something worse wouldn’t have happened.”  I can hold that belief when it comes to the Ribbono Shel Olam, but I’m not also going to keep it for a phone app. 

And second of all, I would know if the other highway was worse.  I would turn on the radio to see if they mentioned it.  That’s why cars still have radios – so you can listen to reports about all the roads you’re not taking.  Though I’d never really be sure the other highway wasn’t mentioned, because the app keeps talking over the traffic report. 

“Quiet!  We’re listening to traffic.” 

“Stay on the highway for five miles.  Then stay on the highway.” 

“Shah!”

But there are a lot of techniques that people have that in their head minimizes traffic.  For example, some people say you should just allow time for traffic, which sounds great on paper, but… Wait a minute.  This is paper.  And it doesn’t sound great.  I used to work for a company that was about ten minutes down the highway from my house.  If I left the house ten minutes before work, it would take me 45 minutes to get there.  So I did some math, start waking up earlier, davening earlier, and leaving the house 45 minutes before work, and it took me ten minutes to get there. 

Though that’s another technique – that some people want to leave early enough, to, quote, “beat the traffic.”  When they say that, I picture them actually trying to beat the traffic – driving down the highway really fast with a huge clot of cars slowly in pursuit. 

“They’re gaining on us!  How is that possible?”

But anyway, there’s really no point in giving you tips to avoid traffic, because if I had any real tips that worked, there’s no way I’m going to share them with everybody.

And the annoying thing is that you never know why you’re in traffic, so it’s hard to take steps to avoid it.  You could be in traffic because of an accident, or because someone at the front of the clot is driving a van full of excited kids at five miles an hour.

So there’s no way I can help you avoid traffic.  Instead, I’m presenting this super-helpful list of things to do with yourself if you’re already stuck in traffic: 

- Talk to yourself

- Read your driver’s manual cover to cover

- Personal hygiene

- Entertain the people in other cars

- Entertain the people in other cars through personal hygiene

- Switch seats with your passenger every few minutes

- Learn a new language

- Learn to yell at your GPS in a new language

- Clean as much of your car as you can reach from the front seat, including windows

- Eat your lunch now to save yourself time later

- Put your seat back and do sit-ups

- Make faces at the people who are speeding along in the other direction and laughing at you.  If it’s me, I’ll try to wave back.


Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia, a monthly humor columnist, and has written six books, all published by Israel Book Shop.  He also does freelance writing for hire.  You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.