Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pittsburgh's Great Operatic Traffic Cop Dies

OK, I'm not from Pittsburgh and just wasn't here to see this guy at work. But I remember him from Candid Camera.

Two things come across, the first being that seeing anyone who really loves their job in action is always a joy.

The second is just how much the social lives of cities and how we view them has changed. Clearly this cop understood the human "messiness" of city traffic, isn't just a problem to be controlled, but an intricate dance in which the goals of all people are gently coordinated. An old lady may be slow to cross, someone may need a nudge to stop or slow down, perhaps a kid dropped his favorite toy in the street-- these are not always serious police matters to be solved with tickets and "law enforcement". Mostly the role of this arm swinging character was to have people slow down and watch out at a critical urban intersection.

Interestingly, Victor Cianca was loved more by Pittsburgher's than by many fellow officers.

"I've gotten more guff from the guys I work with than I ever got from the public," he said in 1982.

When he was invited to New York to accept an award from "Candid Camera," then-Police Superintendent James W. Slusser refused to let him to travel there.

"If he wants to be an actor, he should take a course at Carnegie Tech," Mr. Slusser said, at the time. Mr. Slusser later allowed Mr. Cianca to go, though it was too late for the man to receive his award."

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