MEDIA

Awesome Department of Transportation Twitter Feed Calls Slow Drivers Scumbags

MEDIA
May 07, 2014 at 3:00 PM ET

In an effort to liven up its dull Twitter feed and save a little money, Seattle’s Department of Transportation recently acquired an aggressive new tool to help manage its social media outreach: a 21-year-old intern.

With a mix of memes, irony and inappropriate humor, the young upstart had a pretty good run sassing up the relentlessly dry stream of daily bridge closures and traffic updates. But then, in what should come as a shock to absolutely no one, the intern took it too far, dropping a doozy during a bumper-to-bumper standstill near the West Seattle Bridge this week.

To shame the motorists rubbernecking near the site of the crash, he took to Photoshop and gave them all “scumbag hats,” a reference to Scumbag Steve, an Internet meme that connotes a refined air of assholedom.

The West Seattle Transportation Coalition, a watchdog group, derided the tweets as “inappropriate and unprofessional” and seized the opportunity to blast transit cuts, while online commenters were roughly split between pissed off and just plain confused by the Scumbag Steve reference. Generally, though, it seemed pretty odd to everyone that a major governmental agency was calling out unsuspecting drivers as scumbags.

After the Seattle DOT removed the offending tweets, its communications director, Rick Sheridan, explained the situation to the Seattle Times. “Our traffic-management center staff typically will use a humorous meme to highlight a problematic roadway situation,” he said.  “Our intent is not to insult motorists, rather it’s just to call out where there’s a problem so people can make decisions about their trip.”

It turns out that handing over the keys of a $400 million city agency to an intern and asking him to act as your official mouthpiece with next to no oversight was a pretty great idea while it lasted.

Unfortunately, boredom eventually got the better of our young charge, who appears to have grown increasingly impatient with stalled cars and rubberneckers. The close watcher of the @SeattleDOT feed may have noticed his dispatches steadily devolve into more unhinged territory.

And sarcasm.

And eventually, scumbag hats, which first started appearing in late April.

At the time, the intern likely didn’t realize that the hats were one meme too far. He had used them before to great effect, with generally positive feedback.

His attempts at creativity weren’t always home runs, but he tried.

And at some point, he got really loose and started throwing up random personal tweets, no doubt trying to breathe a little life into an otherwise mind-numbing and tedious job.

We salute you, young intern. Here’s to hoping you won’t be swiftly and permanently silenced. As far as government Twitter accounts go, yours will be tough to top.