Monday, September 3, 2012

The Doppler Billboard

Ever seen those digital billboards?

You know, those billboards on the road that are not the painted signs, but instead an electronic display that toggles through three or four different ad campaigns?

The fact that they exist implies that they are actually a viable money-maker, though I am not sure how.  Apparently the electric bill costs less than it would to actually hire people to paste billboards up there. 

But my God, those things are annoying.

Especially if you are driving at night, when it changes from a black screen to a bright, white glowing rectangle of luminosity.  That flash of change is a very disconcerting moment.  Certainly not appropriate or safe for driving.

That being said, those billboards do get my attention. 

What can I say?  I was raised by the television and video games, so bright lights immediately attract my attention.

And I suppose that is all the advertisers care about, regardless of how safe it is for motorists.

But yesterday I saw an advertisement on a digital billboard that really pissed me off.

It was apparently paid for by the local news.  Displayed on half of the screen was a live look at the NBC10 Doppler Radar thing, which gave an apparently up-to-the-second view of the weather, and potential precipitation.

Really NBC10?

Is this really necessary?

Or helpful?

I am terrible with maps as it is.  Whenever I happen to catch the weather when I am watching the News from the comfort of my couch, I have enough trouble trying to decipher exactly where my town is underneath the mass of floating clouds that may or may not represent rain.  And then I have to figure out whether those are clouds that have already existed or if they are the predicted routes of future clouds.  And then I have to figure out if those are clouds that contain rain, sleet, or snow.

By the time the weather is over, I have a general idea of whether it is going to be sunny or cloudy.

And that is while I am sitting on my couch.

So how, then, do you expect me to decode your Doppler billboard while I am driving?

Not only am I ten miles from my house (and thus much less capable of figuring out where I am on the map), but I also don't know if I am traveling towards or away from those moving segments of colors that are making their way across your stupid, unreadable map.

This is not a Hardy Boys novel.  You don't have to give me all of the evidence and let me solve the mystery by myself.  You could simply do the courtesy of saying "Rain ahead!"

You know, with words.

But even that isn't really necessary or helpful.  I'm already in the car and on the highway and there isn't much I can do to prepare for upcoming precipitation.  So long as I have my windshield wipers, I am pretty much good to go.

I only know of one person who would actually be able to interpret it in the ten seconds it takes to drive by it without getting into an accident.  And he went to school for meteorology, and probably doesn't need to look at the billboard anyway, since he knew what the weather would be like two weeks ago.

So thanks, but no thanks, NBC10.  Your Doppler Billboard strategy is a failure.

But as far as your Sheena Parveen strategy is concerned....  

Probably the main reason I don't pay attention to the actual weather.

Never, ever change.

-Youngman Brown


  1. oh, this is hilarious!!! love it!!


  2. Haha! Our weatherman is a creepy old man who doesn't even TRY to put the microphone in the seductive V of his shirt.

  3. It will start raining in your neighborhood in 10... 9... 8...

    Oh wait, we're wrong again. Just wrong WITH ACCURACY, and UP TO THE MINUTE!


  4. I don't like those billboards. They hurt my eyes. Just about everything hurts my eyes. They are especially horrible when it's dark, as you said. The sudden flash of light hurts my eyes and then I can't see where I'm going. No wonder I hear so many horns honking when I drive at night.


  5. Nice

    We had a cougar do the late news on a local channel here. Yes... you keep telling me about the political situation in the pacific you saucy minx you

  6. Oh, good, if you have trouble figuring those maps out, then I don't feel so dumb that I can't either :)

  7. I would love to have been in on the pitch for that billboard; "okay, guys, they are already out in the's tell them what they are already driving in. Who's with me?" Now, a tornado warning or flood flash, I get, but a doppler radar? How about just the seven day forecast or even the traffic cameras LOL

    Don't get to attached to your weather girl - she's a hottie - she may have a future at the Weather Channel...

  8. What I can't stand is when there is actually something interesting that I want to see (like an add for an upcoming concert), but I'm too far away to get the details, and just when I get close enough to read it . . . new ad. Argh!

    Love the Hardy Boys line. So funny.

  9. Our meteorologist is no looker, but he's pretty good at his job. It's a compromise, I suppose. I have seen a billboard with a doppler radar on it yet, but since I live in tornado alley, I expect it soon.

  10. Info overload!
    Meteorologists have to be the best con-men and women on the planet.
    'So in order to predict the weather correctly you need to buy us the biggest computer on the planet...honestly we wont use it to play counter strike....promise'

  11. Good grief, what a horrible thing to display on a billboard. I'm with you on not being able to decipher those weather maps. Also, I'm with you on the whole driving at night thing. There's one of these billboards over a pretty busy highway here. One night, I was driving past it when the screen went from a nice dark background to a GLARING WHITE picture. I literally felt my retinas burning!

  12. Is anyone else concerned or is it just me who's worried about those flashing billboards? Those poor people with epilepsy. Those flashing lights could induce a seizure! Seizure + cars = :S

  13. Agreed, they are completely annoying! A major car accident waiting to happen...

  14. Police officer: Son, can you tell me why you just crashed into 8 other cars, flew off the side of the highway, and rolled into a ditch, causing a massive traffic pileup that lasted 4 hours?

    Me: Sorry, sir, I was just trying to decode the doppler billboard.

    End of story.

  15. So profound, yet simple. We have them all over my town and I pose the theory that the accident rate has increased on our roads. We don't have a hot weather person, sadly.

  16. I would watch Sheena's forecast with rapt attention. In fact, she could tell me that a tornado was bearing down on my house and I wouldn't care

  17. Thankfully for you they don't put Sheena Parveen on the mobile billboards eh? :P

    Enjoyable read as always GYB!

    Michael A. Walker
    Defying Procrastination

  18. They should instead have that Crazy Frog do a "Weather Rap" about the upcoming rain. I'm sure that would prove more educational...and less distrac...OK, scrap that, bad idea!

    Daniel Nest

  19. Dagmar Midcap, weather woman, NBC 7 in San Diego – she makes my barometric pressure rise.

  20. So glad to see this in Dude Write....

  21. Holy crap! I need to start watching your weather. We're too small town. We don't have the digital billboards and our news people have been working for the same station for 20+ years. And therefore, not very young or hot.

    You lucky bastard!

    Besides, I never watch the weather, there's an app for that.

  22. In our province, they just made a big deal about a new distracted driving law. You can't be on a cell, unless it's hands free, program your GPS, or anything that takes your attention off the road. Yet we have these signs. Just try not to look at them! It's crazy.

    Nice post.

  23. Well, this could actually be a good idea. Say you're on your way to some annoying event that your significant other has forced you to attend. On the way you notice the weather billboard. Immediately, you can call your significant other and say, "Hey, I just passed a weather billboard. Apparently the event you want me to attend is located under a blanket of red stuff. I don't think it's safe for me to drive any further. Goodbye." And now you don't have to go wherever it was you had to go!


When you comment, I vibrate.