It’s three-thirty in the morning and I’m awake. I’m awake because the dog jumped on me. The dog jumped on me because he is afraid of thunder. Why was there thunder? The weatherperson didn’t say anything about rain in the forecast. I watched the late night weather and traffic reports, and remember hearing about the broken water pipe that would cause traffic jams during tomorrow’s rush hour, but not a word about rain in the middle of the night. Yet it was unmistakable. There was a thunderclap, causing the dog to jump on me, and I am awake. What more proof do I need?
I am lying on my back, staring upward, and suddenly find myself unable to fall back to sleep because I am obsessing about the weatherperson. What motivates one to become a weatherperson? Weatherpeople, like dentists, are not always regarded with affection. They are blamed for spoiling picnics and baseball games. Right now, I’m angry at the weatherperson for not preparing me for the thunderclap in the middle of the night. I might have given my dog a tranquilizer. Then I wouldn’t be lying here thinking about how tired I’m going to be tomorrow. But it’s not tomorrow, is it? It’s already today. I’m going to be tired today.
Weatherpeople have credentials and a fancy title: meteorologists. They should be able to do a better job of predicting. At the moment, the weatherperson is even lower on my list than the dentist.
In a moment of kindness, I try to picture the weatherpeople as children, someone’s son or daughter. Perhaps sweet, nerdy kids with an obsession about barometric pressure, a need to understand Noah and the flood, the source of lightening, or why it hardly ever rains on the Jewish High Holy Days. Signs of this passion must have been evident in their young lives: a strategically placed autographed photo of Willard Scott, twelve copies of the movie “The Perfect Storm,” in the video cabinet, a room decorated with posters of Puxatawny Phil, a younger brother locked out of the house during a hurricane in order to measure the force of the wind gusts.
These young scientists worked hard, went to college, then graduate school, took courses in physics, chemistry, calculus, thermodynamics. So when we finally see them smiling at us in front of the weather map, as they explain the cold fronts and warm fronts that only they can observe because of their exclusive Doppler radar (how can they all have exclusive Doppler radar?), we should feel a measure of confidence. They have been well-educated and are now qualified weather professionals who provide correct predictions at least fifty percent of the time. But not tonight.
This is not helping me. I’m still awake. My thoughts are no longer my own, but controlled by sleep deprivation. The TV screen in my head is now playing the traffic report. A new obsession takes hold: how does one qualify to talk about traffic? Like the meteorologist, does the desire to do this type of work stem from a childhood passion? Did the candidate once delight in setting his Matchbox cars on fire or throwing his toy Hess truck over a cliff? And, if so, is there a program of higher education for future traffic reporters? Is there a degree program in “trafficology?”
Tomorrow, I mean later today, I will begin my research. I intend to call Triple A and Google traffic schools. Not the ones that teach you how to drive, but the ones that teach you how to talk about driving. About accidents, and lane closures, and jack-knifed tractor-trailers, about demonstrating enthusiasm while reporting a twelve-car pile-up. A course on discovering alternative routes, or the history of the clover-leaf. A section on how to be constantly, annoyingly perky while delivering all sorts of bad news. Perhaps an elective on selecting outfits that are chic and stylish while also providing ample freedom to point and sweep your arm up and down across a giant road map. (The weatherperson could benefit from this course as well. Perhaps it can be an interdisciplinary offering.)
What about the helicopter? You know, the traffic helicopter that flies above the interstate during rush hour and shows you how nothing is moving? Maybe we should save that one for graduate school.
I wait for daybreak. There is much to do. My sleepless night has not been in vain. If my idea is implemented, I see a brighter future for the educated traffic reporter. And for all us viewers out there, we will feel as secure with the advice about the best route to work, as when the weatherperson tells us that we can leave our umbrellas at home.