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Brian Jones: Circular solutions to Muskrat Falls


Published on August 11, 2017

Roundabout sign.

©Stock photo

A big thank you to the CBC Radio host who provided one of the best laughs of the summer by uttering a hilarious mixed metaphor.

While interviewing someone about the City of St. John’s plan to install traffic circles on the parkway and whether local drivers could figure them out, the radio host opined motorists should be able to, because “it’s not rocket surgery.”

Brian Jones

Comedy writers try to think up stuff like this. The all-time gold medallion for mixing metaphors goes to an anonymous hack penning dialogue for episodes of “All in the Family” in the 1970s, who had blusterous TV character Archie Bunker deliver the line, “We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.”

The best one I’ve ever heard live and in person was years ago in university during a discussion of historical personages, when a fellow student asked, “Wasn’t he the guy who shot an arrow through an apple and discovered gravity?”

No denigration intended toward the CBC, of course. Providing listeners with a chuckle and taking their minds off the Muskrat Falls mistake for a few minutes is a worthy public service.

For black humour, Newfoundlanders can depend on their fearful leader, Premier Dwight Ball.

For black humour, Newfoundlanders can depend on their fearful leader, Premier Dwight Ball.

(Fearful? Yes. “We can’t audit the project now, because I fear it would delay construction of the money pit.” “We can’t cancel the project, because I’m afraid that would cause people to blame me rather than Danny Williams for the disaster.”)

Ball’s arithmetic abounds with malevolent mirth. Electricity bills won’t double when Muskrat juice flows, he triumphantly informs the populace, because his government will ensure power rates don’t go much beyond 17 cents per kilowatt hour.

An increase not of 100 per cent, but of 70 per cent — and to think some people thought there would never be a premier better than Danny.

The 100 per cent vs. 70 per cent suggestion is mitigation irritation. Liberals apparently think a 30 per cent difference is significant, even though annual bills will still rise by thousands of dollars.

In our house, Ball’s power policy will mean an average monthly bill of $425 rather than $500. Pre-Muskrat, it is $250. I thus laugh reluctantly at the premier’s black humour.

Public anger is inexplicably muted regarding the Falls fiasco. Perhaps Ball’s performance isn’t receiving proper attention because people realize it is mere rehearsal. The real reaction will likely come a few years hence when he steps onstage and delivers the one-liner, “Your bills are in the mail.”

But I digress. My original intent was to address the CBC Radio host’s suggestion that St. John’s drivers could handle traffic circles because, after all, it isn’t rocket surgery/brain science or whatever.

There are reasons to doubt it. Just this week, there was a news item about a taxi rear-ending a bus. And those two are professionals. What chance do mere amateurs have on the chaos that is St. John’s streets?

Traffic circles — or “roundabouts” as they are sometimes called — are terrific devices, but whoever invented them never met a Newfoundland driver.

We’re having a wonderful summer, with sunshine and heat not felt in several years (knock on a wooden horse, as the CBC host might say). On a fine day, take a trip to Bell Island. As added incentive, ride the new Legionnaire ferry.

When you get to Portugal Cove, see if you notice anything odd about the ferry traffic lineup. OK, I’ll explain it: there are two lanes for ferry traffic, but only one lane is ever used. Although infuriating for local residents, because it creates dangerous lineups extending onto the main road, there is a logical explanation for this: Newfoundland drivers are too stunned to grasp the concept of alternating traffic movement, i.e., left, right, left, right, while loading onto a ferry.

Navigate traffic circles? Not a chance.

 

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at bjones@thetelegram.com.