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At The Races

At the Races #2: Traffic Cop

Traffic Cops: One End of the PRR Whistle Spectrum




Traffic Cops appear in stark relief to the zealous volunteer.11More on the Volunteer coming March 3. Whereas the volunteer is newly indoctrinated in, and thus unprepared to wield, their new powers, the Traffic Cops are well-practiced in the art of standing around, and ostensibly controlling athletic events-cum-carnivals-cum-parades. In the face of rabid volunteers, pushy spectators, and put-out locals, Traffic Cops for the most part remain serene and stoic behind their mirrored lenses. And why should they be anything but? They’re either at the race sucking up some off-hour overtime pay or they’re here during their regular shift.


For the former, earning extra money to watch a competitive pageant of colour and speed means that they’re essentially being paid to watch Days of Thunder, only it’s a human-powered Days of Thunder that is happening in real life. Obviously you can’t blame them for accepting an easy day’s work, especially when you’re getting paid well to do it.


The latter, the on-duty officers, are in a position to spend their regular hours amidst a jovial group of excited fans who have come out in the hope of having a pleasant, shared community experience. The on-duty Traffic Cops managethrongs of blissed-out picnickers, local flaneurs, casual tanners, and the occasional super fan. This contrasts with their regular shift, where there is a chance of being spit on or cussed at, chase a suspect down over backyard fences and around barking dogs (which unlike a breakaway in a bike race is not fun), or engage in life-threatening/life-threatened moments.22Our basis for writing this list is watching one and a half episodes of Cops—accuracy not guaranteed. Basically they’re lifeguards at an Olympic swim practice—they’re for show more than for go.


And unless these Officers are bona fide cycling fans, it’s extremely unlikely they show anything but passive interest in the event. Let’s face it: they have most likely worked Holiday Parades, Music Festivals, Gala Events and even Local Fairs. With such rich histories of experience, we cannot reasonably expect these officers to pay any real attention to the race—especially when they have a little on-demand Me Machine in their pocket that gives them what they want when they want it. To be clear, I am talking about smartphones here.

In the end though, the obvious boredom of Traffic Cops is wholly necessary to counteract the (over)zealous enthusiasm of Volunteers.”– MFSWe here at MFS implore you, the PRR Watcher, to take some time at your next race to observe the interaction of these two archetypes in the field. It is, at times, a not-so-graceful dance that helps us to better realize the full picture of the human animal.

AT THE RACES is a study of the more ubiquitous or “prevalent” types of chillers found spectating PRRs on any given day, at any given race. To help us properly identify and catalog chillers, Manual for Speed commissioned world renowned interpretive illustrator and dog walker Thomas Slater. Thomas holds a Ph.D. in Contemporary Human Taxonomy from Oxford and has been supporting his family as a commercial illustrator since the age of 7. His recent work titled Gran Fondo’ler (Confessions of a Cycling Enthusiast) is currently being considered for a solo show at the Tate.

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