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Shame Game

Driven to Distraction: Page of Shame creator Emil Gallant, author of the well-loved "jerque du jour" feature on the Highway 17 Web site, bikes to his new job in Scotts Valley--and says he doesn't miss the commute.

Despite a recent flurry of media attention, the world-famous Highway 17 Page of Shame Web site is making its final exit.

By Ami Chen Mills

If there was one guy who should have been stuck in last week's Highway 17 super-snarl, it was Emil Gallant. But he wasn't.

Gallant, 28, is the irreverent Webmeister who created one of the world's most popular Web sites, the Highway 17 Page of Shame, featuring almost-daily photos of rude motorists and Caltrans gaffes on the infamous San Jose­Santa Cruz thoroughfare. Gallant took digital photos of rogue roadhogs while commuting with buddy Curtis Feigel to his job at Apple Computer in Silicon Valley. Once at work, Gallant added his own "charming and inventive" invectives to put the suicide-prone in their place.

But a recent glance at the site revealed a jerque du jour photo from over a month ago. That's because Gallant quit his job at Apple in March and hitched his wagon to Starfish Software in Scotts Valley, 10 miles from his home in Santa Cruz.

So Gallant missed the spectacular five-mile-per-hour 17 parade last week. The Web site that scratched a miserable itch for pissed commuters as far away as Australia and Japan will see its farewell post this week.

Gallant received visits from roughly 50 countries a day, many from media outlets. His page attracted--and still attracts--a stunning flurry of international media attention. Apparently the big media isn't totally clued-in to recent developments. The San Francisco Chronicle ran an article on Mother's Day celebrating Gallant and his Web site well after jerque entries had dwindled from 18 in January to two in April and none in May. That feature story was picked up from the Dallas Morning News. Meanwhile, the San Jose Mercury News and the Santa Cruz County Sentinel, Gallant says, have both been well behind the times. "They picked up the story after all the foreign papers had called," he notes. "And the story in the Sentinel was inaccurate. They had the wrong URL. All they had to do was dial 411 and ask me themselves." Recent articles in the Sentinel and the Merc also failed to notice the Web site's curious stagnation.

"Right around March, the commentary stopped being in the first person and I started writing about funny road situations instead," Gallant admits. In April, settling in as Webmaster for Starfish, Gallant had friends of his take pictures for him on their own treacherous commutes, and then added off-site sarcasm.

Despite attempts to pass on the Page-of-Shame torch, Gallant says he's been unable to find the proper rebel with a rancorous attitude to take over. So, Gallant says this is it--for real. He will post a eulogy by the end of the week and put the brakes on his charade. With a 10-minute commute by motorcycle to his new job in Scotts Valley through Santa Cruz redwoods and four stop signs, "I feel funny talking about traffic problems," he says.

Over the Page of Shame's seven-month lifespan, Gallant received more than 310,000 hits--as well as advertising queries from an offshore gambling outfit and a 900-number dating service.

Ever the rebel, Gallant turned advertisers down. "Most of the stuff had no relation to the page. And I'd have had to kowtow to whoever was paying the bills." Now, the Page of Shame will become an archival site with possible, rare updates by Gallant and hyperlinks to new, more somber Highway 17 pages. Already there's the drearily titled "Highway 17" site by local authors Richard Beal and Robert Sward with links to maps and traffic reports. Gallant says a few folks are attempting to set up almost-real-time video links--updated every few minutes--to cameras at the Summit so commuters can log on before entering the grip of grinding gridlock.

For Gallant, though, the Highway 17 commute became almost delightful when he started his Web site last November. "I didn't really mind if someone cut in front of me, 'cause I'd have my day. I was kind of excited to get to work and get the latest issue out." Gallant--who is notorious, and hated, for bashing BMW, Volvo and VW bus drivers--drives a maroon 1991 Nissan NX2000--but you won't see it any more on your morning commute.

Although his daily Page of Shame fulminations made his formerly frustrating commute more fun, Gallant says he won't miss the highway, or his elevated position on the information superhighway. He has these parting words to continuing Highway 17 commuters: "Suck it up."

He's only half kidding.

Advice for The Steering Impaired

Gems from Emil Gallant's Highway 17 Page of Shame

  • Remember, it's all fun and games until someone has to call 911.
  • Blinkers are not a sign of weakness. Using them does not make your penis get smaller.
  • Hint: If you're being passed by a VW camper, you're not going fast enough.
  • [On Highway 17 itself] You can't polish a turd.
  • [On BMWs, or "Ultimate Rudeness Machines"] I guess if I'd paid that much for a car, I'd lose my sense of humor too.

    The Page of Shame address on the World Wide Web: http://www.got.net/theroad.

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  • From the May 30-June 5, 1996 issue of Metro

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