Friday, April 20, 2007

High Water Condition

If there were an award for obscuring simple explanations with stupid, pseudo-technical terminology, then we have a winner. As we all know, NYC was hit with record rainfall this past Monday when a northeaster dumped almost 7.5 inches on us. So what would you guess to be the most fundamental problem people experienced on roads, in tunnels, and in basements? Take a guess. That's right - "flooding". Funny word, isn't it. The LIRR thought so to, so they decided to call it a "high water condition." At this point, I feel obligated to state upfront that this will be more of a rant, but there is a moral to this story so please bear with me for a moment.

I'm not against the word "condition", its just that it should be reserved for instances where an explanation cannot be described by a single word. For example, one could say with a straight face that a fire can cause a smoke condition. You couldn't really say that its smoking or smokey, because that just sounds silly. But when there is an over-abundance of water, where places are inundated or unnaturally submerged, you can state with confidence that there is flooding.

As you can guess, this past storm resulted in flooding at certain locations which in turn caused pretty bad delays on the LIRR. Delays are a widely expected consequence of flooding, and if flooding can cause problems, just imagine what high water conditions can do. Apparently, high water conditions just piss people off. Maybe the LIRR wanted to build it into something bigger. Perhaps "flooding" didn't sound serious enough, and riders would have complained that the delays were unwarranted from just a little flooding. Oddly, I think it had just the opposite effect. Using a ridiculous phrase like that actually toned down the seriousness of the situation. Flooding implies that there is too much water, overflowing, etc. A high water condition implies nothing. So when those words were said over and over again on the PA system, I'm sure I wasn't the only one who thought -- how high? How much? Do they mean high tide? I bet that the energy used to transmit those wasted words through the air violated some environmental law.

OK LIRR, here's the lesson for today. Simple explanations have a better chance of achieving the desired outcome. So how about this for a very real and powerful statement, "there will be 30-40 minute delays due to flooding at the east river tunnels." I am sure that some of you will say I am making too much of this. But like every other commuter that stormy day, I just wanted to go home, see my family, and tackle that high hunger condition.


pink said...

I have $5 that says that use of the phrase 'High Water Condition' was promulgated by a doofus, life-tenured MTA bureaucrat who felt it sounded nicer than 'flood'. Problem is, this only works on doofus bureaucrats who likely never steps foot in a train.

Anonymous said...

My cat's breath smells like cat food.