Wetsell: The Annual Day of Traffic

This Saturday, the Wolfpack, the Carolina Hurricanes and the NC State Fair will join forces to host Raleigh's increasingly popular Day of Traffic.

On one brisk October day each year, NC State, the Carolina Hurricanes and the NC State Fair unwittingly team to celebrate the Raleigh's Annual Day of Traffic. That day arrives this Saturday, when the versatility of our good fairgrounds is exploited for the sake of  commemorating our ability to fill roads with as many cars possible.

The day begins when the NC State Fair opens at 9 a.m., kicking off nine days of pig-racin', carnie-gazin', gastro-intestinal challenging fun. Tailgating for the NC State football game will get going at roughly the same time, as the Wolfpack will kick off against the Duke Blue Devils three hours later.

The State Fair plus an NC State football game is always a successful recipe for traffic, but is that really enough traffic? No! Approximately four hours after the football game ends, the newly coined and conveniently adjacent RBC center will host a hockey game! Canes fans who reaped the rewards of a successful 2001 season in the form of hiked ticket prices will naturally need to arrive at least four hours early to beat State Fair traffic. But, since there will already be miles of NC State fans taking up parking, Canes fans are probably better off camping out on a median off Highway 40 the night before. And this game should be a dandy, a rematch against last year's first round playoff opponent, the New Jersey Devils. The New Jersey Devils and and the Duke Blue Devils in the same place in one day? There is an irony in this schedule that some may pick up on.

Several years ago, Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill was named the best place to live in America by Forbes magazine. The triangle appealed to many families because of its burgeoning job market, moderate climate, and lack of hustle and bustle typical of thriving communities up north. Within a few years, the triangle was home to many newcomers, who helped introduce the daily gridlock they were accustomed to back home. Since most came from places like New Jersey, many also had sons or daughters attending Duke University. So, the move was an easy one to make. The complexion of our community began to change as these immigrants brought with them the customs and traditions of their northern hometowns, and so tailgating (not the football kind), turn signal optional driving and bumper-to-bumper-traffic became as much a signature of the South as tobacco, barbecue, and grits. And ice hockey.

Yes, those devils from up north gave us not only traffic, but ice hockey, an attempt to inflict the northern cold they knew upon us. (However, they did not count on so many locals "warming up" to the sport.) The truth is, these transplanted northerners are bitter about discovering that "moderate" is not necessarily a euphemism for "comfortable," nor implies no snow, only no snow plows. But here they all were, and the transplanted northerners had no choice but to utilize their connections with Duke to punish the triangle for trapping them in a place where drink refills are free, but only promptly served to those who drink sweet tea. Like the tea they drink, the transplanted northerners are bitter, and they all intend to recreate the hell from which they spawned. Is it any coincidence that the State Fair no longer contracts with James E. Straits Shows, but Amusements of America, a New Jersey-based company?

There you have it. Ice hockey and the State Fair are all part of a devious plan to help create the Annual Day of Traffic, a cruel celebration masterminded by bitter but powerful relocated families of Duke students. This elaborate scheme is meant to not only frustrate good North Carolinians, but delay the arrival of State fans into Carter-Finley for as long as possible, to help give Duke a better chance to win. State fans were no more honorable last week, executing a similar plan with Operation Red Storm in Chapel Hill, a plan Duke certainly had no intention of stopping. But with the paucity of Duke football fans, the powers that be had to move defensively to help try to secure their own goals. Instead of invading Carter-Finley, they aim to keep us out of it. Most evil of all, they arguably take more joy in seeing us suffer in miles of traffic than seeing Duke win.

To give the illusion of a community taking actions to alleviate congestion, traffic guerrillas have engineered public announcements of preferred routes and the availability of shuttle buses. Now, what is worse, sitting in traffic for hours in your car, or standing for even more hours in traffic in a bus? Local authorities, manipulated by the unseen hands of transplanted northerners, have recommended only one route for the football and hockey games, Wade Avenue to Edwards Mill Rd. Now, there are at least five ways to get to the stadium and arena. Why, tell me, would they ask everyone to take only one specific route? And why would they choose the route likely to back up traffic the furthest, with no escape for motorists? One simple word: Conspiracy.

As the New Jersey Devils and Duke Blue Devils descend upon the state fairgrounds, we can only hope that the only battles they win are in the parking lots, and not on the field or ice. I believe the teams the Pack and the Canes face will be thwarted by their own sinister designs. As Duke players walk onto the field Saturday, the powerful scents of funnel cake, ham biscuits, and corn on a stick will fill the stadium, nauseating their foreign stomachs. The New Jersey Devils, sure to be lured by the novelty of one of the most eccentric attractions among all NHL cities, will test their mettle on the Tilt-A-Whirl or the Scrambler before the game, and later will hit the ice with serious cases of carnie vertigo, paving the way for Hurricane UpChuck. Victory will be ours.

So this Saturday, simply relent and help celebrate our Day of Traffic. After all, getting stuck in traffic is as much a part of our culture as football, hockey, and livestock.

You can email the author at brett@struttingwolf.com

Brett Wetsell apologizes in advance to any northerners he may have offended, he knows they are not all devils, especially his in-laws.

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