Tom Swiftly and his Incredible Traffic Model


Version 1.0

© 2015 James Beattie Morison

Some transportation planning humour. Puns and Tom Swifties count as humour don’t they?

CAUTION: Story contains bad puns. Proceed at your own risk.

Tom glanced at the clock. It was 1:07 Saturday morning and council just started on the last item of Monday’s meeting. He turned his attention back to the mayor and city councilors. They glared back at him. He needed to come up with a quick answer. He leaned forward to the microphone. “You’ll see the benefits of the project right away,” Tom said swiftly.

Out of the corner of his eye Tom could see his boss, Harry, nod in agreement. The mayor and councilors still looked unhappy. Councillor Mudd spoke first.

“How will we pay for it?” Councillor Mudd asked monetarily.

“That’s already been taken care of,” Tom pretended.

“I bet it will suck piles of money out of taxpayer’s pockets,” Councillor Mudd said vacuously.

Tom shook his head. “It won’t cost that much,” he said efficiently.

“Do you think we have all the money in the world?” Councillor Mudd asked wealthily.

“It’s the best alternative,” Tom replied optimally.

“You don’t see my point, do you?” asked Councillor Mudd obscurely.

“I don’t understand,” Tom replied uncomprehendingly.

With that, Councillor Mudd sat back in his seat and smiled smugly. He turned to Councillor Hall who spoke next. “I’m shocked,” Councillor Hall said electrically. “Your forecast is just a bunch of unwarranted assumptions run through a random number generator to justify a pet project,” he added futuristically.

Tom glanced at Dick, his junior engineer. Dick gave Tom a thumbs up. Tom turned back to the councilor. “Our model is based on a solid foundation,” Tom said basically.

“What are you hiding from us?” Councillor Hall asked covertly.

Harry spoke up. “We’re not covering up anything”, he said baldly.

“I’m not sure I can trust your opinion.” Councillor Hall said unreliably.

“I wouldn’t tell a lie,” Tom said prostrately.

Councillor Hall glared at Tom, then Dick and finally Harry. He turned to look at Councillor Walker. “That’s all my questions,” he said exhaustively.

Councillor Walker glanced up from her smart phone to see that all eyes were on her. She glanced back down to read something, and then focussed on Tom. “Why do you want to do away with the riverside walkway?” she asked in a pedestrian manner.

“We followed a formal series of steps that led us to infer that it was necessary,” said Tom pathologically.

Councillor Walker sighed. “If only we could get more people to use motorized bicycles, we could avoid this,” she moped. She looked over to Councillor Brown. “Next!” she said subsequently.

Councillor Brown slowly opened his eyes and blinked as he looked at Tom. “What about the snow during the winter?” he asked icily.

“We won’t need snow barriers,” Tom said defensively

Councillor Brown looked over toward the mayor. “Can’t we put this discussion to bed?” he said sleepily.

Mayor King watched Councillor Brown as his eyes closed again. “I think we can stop here for now,” she said temporarily.

© 2015 James Beattie Morison

Tom heard Dick groan as he reached the door to their office. Dick was slumped over his desk. Tom shook his head and then flopped down in his chair. “Another work week begins,” he said mundanely.

“I thought that meeting would never end”, Dick said eternally. “How did things go Sunday?” He asked religiously.

“I have no recollection of the last twenty-four hours,” said Tom lackadaisically.

Dick put his head in his hands and moaned. “I might as well be dead,” he croaked.

“Councillor Mudd really got my goat,” said Tom satirically.

“And Councillor Walker too. Does anybody walk on that path?” Dick asked constitutionally.

“That’s where my wife and I went on our first date,” Tom said lovingly.

The two co-workers went quiet as they heard the familiar foot steps of Harry approach down the hall. Harry came in with a deep frown on his face. “The situation is grave,” he said cryptically. “I need you to do something for me.” he said helplessly.

“You can count on us,” Tom said numerically.

Harry smiled. “I want you to put together a short presentation,” he said briefly. “The mayor wants to get a final decision on the project,” he continued judgementally.

“How much time do we have?” Tom asked longingly.

“We need to be ready by three this afternoon,” was Harry’s prepared response.

“What room is it in?” asked Dick warily.

“In the mayor’s boardroom,” said Harry wearily.

“Do we need to be there?” Dick asked presently.

“Yes, I won’t excuse you”, said Harry unwaveringly. “The mayor said she wanted both of you there,” he added desirably.

Tom smiled at Dick. “It’s our personal magnetism,” he said ironically.

© 2015 James Beattie Morison

After Harry left, Tom and Dick looked at each other glumly. “We’ll never be ready in time,” Dick said lately.

“This is an opportunity to regain council’s trust,” Tom said respectively.

“I need a quick cup of coffee,” Dick said instantly.

© 2015 James Beattie Morison

The small cafe was nearly empty. The waiter stood by Tom and Dick’s table. “What else would you like to eat?” the waiter asked consummately.

“I want the brown bread,” Tom said wryly.

The waiter wrote on his note pad. “Only one napkin each,” he said monotonically as he turned and walked away.

Tom quickly hid the napkin he’d been drawing on and pulled out a new one. “We need to try different values of Dr. Cook’s variable constant so they can see what difference it makes,” Tom said flexibly.

Dick stared at the napkin. “It isn’t clear to me,” he said fuzzily.

“My pencil is blunt,” replied Tom pointlessly.

“I’ve thought of another exception,” Dick rebutted.

“It’ll have to wait until later,” Tom said ultimately.

Dick looked at his coffee. “We’ll need a different kind of Java”, he said jokingly.

© 2015 James Beattie Morison

Back in their office, the two colleagues waited patiently as the computer model ran. “This traffic assignment algorithm has some really cool choices,” Dick said optionally.

“Yes, I’d say it was number one,” Tom said rankly.

The computer model stopped and moments later the results popped up in the screen. Dick’s face turned red. “The program didn’t do the last scenario,” he said descriptively.

“Some day, people will be able to file lawsuits against computers,” said Tom soothingly. Dick restarted the program and in a couple minutes they had all of the results. “Is it any smaller?” Tom asked reductively.

“It’s become much bigger,” said Dick with a groan.

“Is it too wide?” Tom asked broadly.

“I’m swimming in the middle of Paris!” shouted Dick insanely.

“Chill out Dick,” Tom said coldly. They both sat quietly as they thought. “What if we build the bridges at the same time?” Tom asked coincidentally

“Traffic will grow completely out of control,” Dick said exponentially.

“That just doesn’t add up,” said Tom, nonplussed. “Let’s test it anyway,” Tom suggested experimentally.

Dick typed away on his keyboard and restarted the model. It only took a few seconds. Dick looked at the results. “It worked!” he said laboriously.

“I’ll work on the slide show,” Tom said presently. “Can we give the presentation an artistic touch?” he queried beautifully.

“We have no Apples,” Dick replied fruitlessly.

© 2015 James Beattie Morison

The Mayor’s boardroom was dark. Dick sat at the back, while Tom ran the computer up front. Harry stood in the middle and frowned as Tom clicked through the slide show. Harry waved to Tom to stop and pointed at the screen. “Put more emphasis on that title,” he said boldly. Tom made the change and clicked to the next slide. “Why doesn’t that text line up?” Harry asked squarely.

“I like the ragged margins,” said Tom without justification.

“Can we do it as a list?” Harry asked pointedly. Tom nodded and made the change. Harry shook his head at the next slide. “Can we do something different with that chart?” He asked graphically. Tom fiddled with the settings until Harry gave a smile. “Go on,” Harry said persistently.

Tom hesitated. “There is one fly in the ointment,” he buzzed.

“What?” Harry demanded powerfully.

“The data belongs to someone else, so we can’t release it,” Tom let out.

“Who?” asked Harry owlishly.

“The Inter-provincial Road Hauler’s Association”, Dick conveyed.

“Gosh darn those truckers,” Harry muttered semi-seriously.

“It is a closed meeting though,” said Dick secretly.

“Anything you tell a politician will go public,” Harry mused as he let his thoughts leak out.

“If the politicians like it, the truckers won’t make a stink,” Dick sniffed.

Harry frowned and shrugged his shoulders. “You can never tell what the politicians will do. I don’t know which way the wind blows,” he said vainly. He turned to look at Tom. “Do we really have to have it?” He asked needlessly.

“The explanation – ,” Tom said partly.

“Don’t bother to explain. You know I don’t understand this stuff,” Harry said incomprehensibly. He stood in thought for a few moments then gave a thumbs up to Tom. “OK”, he said fairly.

“That was the last slide,” Tom said terminally.

Harry looked at Dick. “How much time do we have?” He asked chronologically.

“We only have a few seconds,” Dick replied momentarily.

Harry turned back to Tom. “Do you think you can answer all the questions?” He asked masterfully.

“I feel like a well honed knife!” Tom replied sharply.

“Have we remembered everything?” Harry asked forgetfully.

“Your fly is undone,” was Tom’s zippy rejoinder.

© 2015 James Beattie Morison

The Mayor and councillors settled into their chairs. Mayor King gave Tom a strange look. “You don’t look like you did at the last meeting,” she said differentially.

“I’m taller than I was Saturday,” said Tom gruesomely.

At a sign from the mayor, Harry began his presentation. The mayor and councillors sat in grim silence while he talked. After Harry finished the presentation and the lights were turned up, Councillor Mudd spoke first. “Won’t that option cost too much?” He asked excessively.

“It won’t cost anything more,” Tom replied freely.

“Can you drop the rail line from the plan to save money?” Councillor Mudd asked distractedly.

“It won’t make any difference because the national government pays for it,” Harry responded federally.

“How is this proposal any different from before?” Councillor Walker asked distinctively.

“We have better information now,” Harry said knowledgeably.

“Why didn’t you try this earlier?” Councillor Hall asked previously.

“I’m embarrassed,” Tom admitted readily.

“How long will it take to build?” asked Councillor Brown constructively.

“Approximately seven months,” Dick replied roughly.

“Can you give us an exact estimate?” Councillor Brown ask precisely.

“We will keep working on that,” Harry replied continuously.

“I do believe I can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Mayor King beamed. She turned to the councilors. “All in favour?” she asked positively.

“Aye,” Councillor Hall said self consciously.

“Aye,” Councillor Brown said visually.

“Aye,” Councillor Walker said nautically.

“Nay!” Councillor  Mudd said hoarsely.

“You’re kidding, aren’t you?” Mayor King asked paternally.

“I’m dead serious,” said Councillor  Mudd gravely.

“Let’s not be too hasty,” the mayor said slowly.

“I’m still worried about the cost,” Councillor  Mudd said expensively.

“Think it over, I’m sure you’ll concur,” the mayor suggested agreeably.

“I won’t do that!” Councillor  Mudd said notably.

The mayor turned to Harry. “Can you reduce the cost?” She asked cheaply.

“Just a moment,” Harry said in a trice. Tom, Dick and Harry put their heads together and talked quietly. Harry and Tom turned back to the mayor and councillors, while Dick began to work frantically away on his laptop.

“Can we move on to the next item, I need to go to the hospital for some therapy,” Councillor Brown said impatiently.

“We only have one item,” the mayor replied exclusively.

Councillor Walker looked at Tom. “I would like you to replace the path without delay,” She said urgently.

“I promise we will do that later,” Tom said eventually.

“The pathway doesn’t matter to me,”  Councillor Hall said carelessly.

“I used to say that,” Harry exclaimed.

“You changed your mind?” Councillor Hall asked reversely.

“Absolutely, totally, completely,” Harry uttered.

Tom leaned over to Dick. “How’s it going?” he whispered progressively.

Dick smiled and gave a thumbs up. He passed a slip of paper to Harry and brought the new chart up on the screen.. Harry stood to explain the results.

“I’m impressed”, Councillor Mudd was forced to say.

“I think we’re all in favour now,” The mayor said uniformly.

© 2015 James Beattie Morison

Only a few minutes later the board room was empty, except for Tom and Dick. “I have no idea the councillors could be so hard on us,” said Dick thoughtlessly.

“That’s nothing!” said Tom naughtily. “One time they removed me from office,” he said disappointedly.

“I was absolutely vitrified,” said Dick glassily. “I felt like I would shatter into a million shards,” he added peacefully.

With that, the two turned off the light and left the room. Outside, Tom blinked. “The sun dazzled my eyes,” he said brightly.