It’s The Traffic Guy’s birthday tomorrow (29 August 2014) and the East Coast Radio legend has more than one reason to celebrate. He has 30!
East Coast Radio will be celebrating Johann Von Bargen’s three decades on radio tomorrow.
Everyone’s favourite Oom chuckles as he remembers his first traffic report onair in 1984, on what was then Radio Port Natal (which went on to become East Coast Radio). At the time, JVB was a traffic officer with the Durban City Police.
“My very first crossing had to do with an accident on the Northern Freeway, now known as the Ruth First Highway, near the Virginia Airport. The guy sitting next to me at the time said ‘Don’t forget to turn on the switch when you are talking. Also don’t forget that there are 250 000 people listening to you. That’s when the silence happened. I opened my mouth and – I promise you, I exaggerate not a bit – nothing came out. Nothing. And that was me.”
Fast forward 30 years, and JVB is one of the most recognisable voices onair and a personality in his own right. More than 1.6 million people now tune in to The Traffic Guy to help them navigate KZN’s roads to get to work/school/home safely. The three decades since his first onair experience, has seen him move from a police officer on foot patrol to a traffic cop and then a member of the police escort unit (his job was to escort abnormal loads and state presidents when they visited KZN).
Johann is a wealth of information and hilarious anecdotes. You could literally spend hours being lost in his tales of adventure as a traffic officer (he spent 20 years doing this) picking up the pearls of wisdom he drops along the way (“Communicate, communicate, communicate. If you have something to say, then say it! It works in business and in marriages. Communicate!”)
Mention his sizable female following, and JVB goes red in the face. “Very embarrassed to hear that. Thank you very much for the compliment, I really appreciate it, but look at this face. Give me a break!”
Few people know that Johann’s lifelong dream was to be a pilot. In 1968, before he joined the police force, JVB worked on the airforce base as part of his (then compulsory) military training. He desperately wanted to be a fighter pilot but was turned down after he failed the hearing test. The passion lived on though, and now his weekend hobby is flying on a Boeing 747 simulator.
So how does the longest serving onair traffic reporter feel about his 30 years on radio? “I do not regret a single day. There’s not one day that stands out for me but literally hundreds. When people have either sent me a message of some sort and said ‘thanks for the information’ – that’s my special day. And I have hundreds of these over the past three decades. It’s been an amazing adventure from day one!”
Despite his remarkable journey and the stories and adventures that go with it, JVB is just “a regular guy.”
“I would like to be remembered as somebody who people could trust, who could go to in confidence and somebody who would actually take the trouble to help others,” he says, his trademark grin causing his blue eyes to sparkle.
Guiding people through morning and evening rush hour every day for the past thirty years, it’s safe to say that The Traffic Guy has long since earned that reputation.