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Stuck in traffic while the bureaucrats ignore you - Bob Paslay

I left work last Friday and headed back to midtown Atlanta on the surface roads and thought I would cut by the Turner Field and come in that way. But since I don't wear a watch or think about such things, little did I know the game was just over and I found myself in the center of baseball traffic.

Hmm, I say to myself. I didn't get to watch the great plays or eat overpriced hotdogs or sip a few brews, but here I am stuck in bumper to bumper traffic.

My observation is that everyone on the left side of the road wants to be on the left side and those on the right side want to be on the left and those in the middle don't know what they want to do. So in addition to crawling forward cars are trying to get over, blocking other cars. In short it is an organized mess.

I let my mind wander to the sights I have been watching all day long of the traffic trying to get out of Houston before the hurricane came. They sat for hours without moving. Some ran out of gas as they waited. Gas stations along the snaking interstate were packed or out of gas.

Why, I asked myself can government not organized evacuations from the coast better so it runs smoothly. As you know I hold a low opinion of bureaucrats and it was certainly not altered this week by the arrogant testimony of the former FEMA chief who pointed fingers at everyone other than himself and seemed angry and offended that senators were daring to question the mess in New Orleans and Mississippi.

The reason bureaucrats fail is they are used to people dancing to their tune and if it takes hours to wind through a slow line to fill out a form the bureaucrats don't care. They don't plan and they don't think about the people impacted by their dinosaur ways.

So everyone is fleeing Houston. They are told to get out. Now bureaucrats have finished their part of this evacuation, at least in their own mind. "We said get out and now we are finished."

Why, I ask myself, am I watched a packed interstate and no cars moving northward at the same time I am watching an empty southbound side with a car coming every few minutes.

This is not brain surgery. Reverse those lanes and make all lanes northbound. Block the entrances coming south so no one can get on the interstate. Secondly why is there a jam-up. It is because hundreds of miles ahead no one is directing traffic to get those cars off the interstate. It is business as usual.

I remember going to the World's Fair in Knoxville in 1982. There were two exhibits that everyone wanted to see - part of the Great Wall of China and the Japanese one in a theater in which the ground shook and it simulated events like earthquakes. At the Chinese exhibit you got in line and stood there for hours. No one cared if you were melting in the heat. No one looked for a way to lessen the wait.

Across the exhibit grounds the Japanese were doing it differently. Say the theater held 800 people and the show lasted an hour. They took the first 800 people standing in line and stamped on your hand: 1 p.m. On the next 800 they stamped 2 p.m. and so on.

After the person going through the line stamping had finished affixing your time you were free to leave. You just showed back up at 3 p.m. or your appointed time and they rushed the 800 people right in. No standing in line for hours. No hot sun. No discomfort.

So the Japanese World's Fair officials proved that if you plan and if you are concerned that things run smoothly you can make it work.

Why can't the officials in Houston say something like: Everyone whose name starts with A to D can leave at 1 p.m. Like I said why can't they figure out how to get people off the other end. For example, they could say everyone going 150 miles or less can take the normally southbound lane northbound. Those going more than 150 miles can take the regular northbound lane.

It is not like a hurricane is never going to threaten the coast again. We were a small country years ago and as we got bigger we never came to grips with having to organize things.

Bureaucrats remind me of the scene from "Home Alone" in which people are rung around trying to get to the airport and then to France. They tell everyone to leave and then don't help them by getting anything planned.

This is not just true of Houston. It is true of everywhere. Let a disaster occur in your neighborhood and see what happens.

The recent debacle over hurricane relief is frightening because it points up how vulnerable we are to not being able to respond to other disasters.

I am not going to retrace my amazement and anger over Ice-gate, the FEMA debacle over ordering truckloads of ice and sending them everywhere except to the hurricane victims. One truck cost $9,000 to take ice from up north heading to New Orleans. But it was diverted to Columbia, S.C., that didn't need any ice.

And this is what boils me. This FEMA chief sitting up there in his fancy suit denying anything was wrong. And then I find out they have put him on the payroll as a "consultant" after he quit in disgrace. What an abomination. What a typical bureaucratic thing to do.

Bob Paslay is editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald and can be reached at bpaslay@news-daily.com or at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257.