I’m lucky enough to get to decide where I work from, which means that I avoid using my car or public transport between the hours of 7AM and noon. One of the few perks of being a writer is that I can do it from my own living room, so one of my life hacks is to limit in-person meetings to the early afternoon, which in my experience is the time period least likely to leave me stranded, waiting for some main thoroughfare to become unclogged.
For various reasons, during the past week I found myself having to attend appointments at different random times in the morning. So out came the car and on went the podcasts. This time I decided to record and share my experiences to try and understand exactly how bad things are. It’s one thing to read about the constant traffic on Facebook, while comfortably sipping coffee on my terrace, and quite another to be part of it.
For science and for posterity, this is what I learnt while stuck in morning traffic for four days in a row.
1. Leaving early to beat the rush doesn’t work. Every day I left home at a different hour. The nature of two of my appointments saw me leaving fiendishly early at 6.30am and 7am respectively. The traffic was already intense. On the other two days I left home at 8am and 9am. Things were exactly the same. It should have been obvious really, as there are enough people in Malta going to the same places that spreading the load won’t make much of a difference. Not unless you leave home at 5am, which would be ridiculous for an office job.
2. Speaking of office jobs, is government providing any incentives for those that offer remote work options? It’s clearly needed and, sadly, it’s equally clear that many employers are digging their heels in and persisting in treating their teams like schoolchildren who need supervision. Those of you who made bad hires that can’t be trusted to be productive from home, please don’t make the rest of Malta pay for it. This shift in lifestyle is needed even in the unlikely scenario that public transport fixes itself, as there are simply too many people crammed on the streets at the same time.
3. E-scooters and bikes are not a longterm solution for anyone who has a serious commute. Not until Malta’s roads make the shift to handle them, anyway. As things stand they only serve to fuel road rage and accidents. E-bikes in particular were not designed for use on crowded thoroughfares but for shorter, safer commutes. They are perfect for crossing neighbouring towns in good weather, which is why they should have been better regulated rather than banning rental options. No-one’s going to buy an e-bike just to use it for 20% of their journeys when the weather is good.
4. Telling me I’m ‘not stuck’ in traffic, I ‘am’ traffic isn’t going to solve anything either. None of us are contributing to traffic because we want to, you self-righteous pricks. We are there because we have no other reliable transport option. I live in central Malta and I’m not about to risk missing my business meetings by rolling the dice that my bus connections will be on time and not full.
Neither am I going to add a 15-minute walk to the bus stop, plus waiting time, plus added commute time, each way. This is not the London Underground where you can whip out your laptop and continue working. This is the Malta bus where I’m likely to be standing shoulder to shoulder with 20 other people on an overcrowded vehicle. Moreover, arriving to my meetings drenched or stinking of sweat is not a good look. So yes, regretfully I will continue ‘being traffic’ until I’m offered a workable solution that doesn’t involve me losing clients.
The way forward? Hell if I know. My job is to point out what should be obvious. Providing solutions should be up to the traffic experts. Meantime I will continue doing my part by working from home and having online meetings when possible. It’s a small contribution, but it does mean one less person on the roads to hinder your journey.