"All the time," he says, laughing. "Sometimes I'll use off-ramps as reference points, and sometimes I'll use communities. I might say Kearny Mesa to La Jolla one time, and then I might say Kearny Villa Road to Genesee Avenue the next time. And then I need different ways to say 'slow.' Expect brake lights, brake lights appear, congestion starts, traffic slowing, and so on."
At 5:02, Landeros leads me to "the glass room," a soundproof glass enclosure in the corner of the operations room where he does his live television broadcasts.
He brushes his hair, hooks himself up to a bunch of wires, and surveys various cameras to determine which traffic views he might show to people who are watching the evening news.
"I like to show the 15 near the Ted Williams Parkway," Landeros says, bringing this camera's view up onto a nearby screen. "Another one I like is the 52 leading into Kearny Mesa. And then, my favorite," and at this, he hits a few buttons, and a spectacular view of downtown comes onto the screen, "boom. Look at that. The 5 freeway headed south toward downtown, with all those buildings in the background. You should see the view from this camera in the morning, with all the sunlight coming through the windows."
At 5:10, eastbound on the 94, near 28th Street, the first crash of the Thursday rush hour occurs. A black Chevy Tahoe and a black Ford Escape have gotten into a minor fender bender.
Landeros sees the report of the crash on the dispatch screen and then finds the two cars on one of the freeway cameras. Within moments, we can see that the Escape has rear-ended the Tahoe, and the unharmed drivers are talking to a police officer on the center divide.
"Not a serious collision," Landeros says, "and they're not even blocking any lanes. But still, all the lookey-loos slow down, and traffic gets congested."
I comment that this seems like a slow rush hour. Or rather, a fast rush hour, as it were.
"Very noneventful," Landeros says. "But we don't use the Q-word in here." At this, Landeros produces a yellow notepad and a pen and writes something down. Then he shows me the word "QUIET."
I say, "Quiet," and Landeros waves his hands theatrically.
"No," he says, mock seriously. "You could blow it for us. It's a jinx. We don't ever say the word. Instead, we say 'noneventful.' "
Landeros positions himself before a television camera and small klieg light. He continues to chat with me, even as the light comes on and the camera activates. He's got a small television on one side of the room showing the five o'clock news. The traffic segments will come on right after the segments about the weather.
I can't hear Brooke Landau, Channel 10's traffic anchor, but she must have said something into Landeros's earpiece because he interrupts our conversation to say hello to her. They talk about what they'll be covering when they go on the air.
A second collision occurs at 5:20 on the westbound 8 at Taylor Street. According to the dispatch screen, two vehicles are on the right shoulder, a gray jeep and a green sedan. Landeros finds them a minute later on a freeway camera, and all we can tell is that the crash was not serious. "They're exchanging information," Landeros says. "Those are good people, good citizens of America."
At 5:25, the traffic segment starts, and Landeros goes quiet, evidently listening for his cue on his earpiece. A minute later, his face suddenly appears on the television screen -- for about two seconds, before it shifts to freeway-camera views -- and he bursts out talking.
"And good afternoon to you," he begins. "The first camera we're going to take a look at is at 15 and Ted Williams Parkway. You can see the traffic moving nicely. You might see some slowing when you get to the Rancho Bernardo area, but it's a pretty nice drive for the most part. And into Santee, very tight from the 163 all the way to Mast Boulevard, but it should lighten up as you get into Santee. Brooke, back to you."
About 19 seconds. Short and sweet.
"So that's it for that," Landeros says. But less than two minutes later, his telephone rings, and it's time for him to do another 45 seconds for radio. He goes through the whole routine and doesn't miss a word.
After he's done, Landeros looks over at me. "Switching between the two mediums is a real challenge."
To me, he sounds like a pro.
A few minutes later, scanning the dispatch screen, Landeros says, "We're pretty accident-free."
He tells me that although it's a noneventful rush hour, this isn't at all unusual. And even if there were multiple collisions with fatalities, the energy in the operations room wouldn't change much. No one raises his or her voice, and no one starts running around. It's still the same 20 or so people, answering 911 calls and monitoring information.
At 5:40, a third accident is reported on the dispatch screen. Northbound 5 at Sassafras Street, a four-vehicle collision -- golden Lexus, black Jeep, and two unknown vehicles. And when Landeros patches in to the proper camera and toggles the joystick, we see that this is, again, a minor accident. Certainly no injuries, and we can't see any twisted metal.
A few minutes later, Landeros delivers his second report for the five o'clock news. After he finishes and packs up the wires in the soundproof glass television room, it's right about 6:00 p.m. His phone rings, and he does his last radio spot for the evening.
Landeros's workday will continue for a few more hours, but his celebrity time is over until tomorrow.
"Well," Landeros says, as he leads me out of the building, "tonight was a slow night. But oftentimes, we can go a couple weeks in a row like this, with no serious crashes and nothing life threatening. And then all of a sudden, it's bam! We'll get a whole bunch of them right in a row." He tells me the last fatal crash in the area occurred over a week before.