Every which way, the road and the walkways go. Straight, crooked, up, down. Through woods and cities, fields, and parks.
From the city to the country and back again, this is a nation of roads. Americans are wedded to their wheels, their trucks and cars. We can’t imagine a world without a road to get from here to there, wherever here is, wherever there may be. There absolutely must be a road … because we are defined by our roads.
No road? Impossible. That would be un-American.
It’s hard to believe, but it’s been two years since I visited my favorite old fire engine. He’s right where I last saw him. In the vacant area across from the post office.
Harder to spot him from the road, now because the bushes and brush have grown around him. Enclosing him tightly in overhanging branches, wildflowers and weeds closing around his old tires.
There’s a little memorial nearby in memory of lost firefighters, the Worcester fireman and the 9/11 first responders. And a few locals, too. I don’t know if anyone but me visits any more.
Old Number 2, with all his memories, is slowly being forgotten by everyone. Except, I guess, me.
Most of us don’t think about traffic. We just deal with it. It’s part of life. Whether it’s trying to find a parking space or sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a holiday weekend, traffic is everywhere.
I don’t usually think about traffic these days because we don’t have much. This is the country. A traffic jam is a tractor and two cars at an intersection. Road repairs. An annoying slow driver. A bridge washes out.
Until we moved here, though, traffic was the single biggest issue controlling our lives. Road work in Boston made it impossible to get from one side of the city to another. Gridlock during holidays effectively closed the city.
When we lived in downtown Boston, one Friday in December, Garry asked me to pick him up at work. He had packages to carry.
I left the parking lot, drove a block, and stopped. Nothing was moving. An hour later, I still hadn’t moved. I u-turned and went home. It was pre-cell phones, so I called the guard at the front desk at Channel 7, asked him to tell Garry I couldn’t get there.
The next day it was in the papers and on TV — Boston was gridlocked. It was the Friday before Christmas. Everyone had decided to go shopping. No one went anywhere.
A year later, we moved to Roxbury, just outside the city center. It was less congested. You could park for free on the street.
Along came the Big Dig, aka the Central Artery-Tunnel Project. It was a monstrous project involving rerouting and redesigning almost every road in, out, around, and through Boston. It changed the main artery (Route 93) — an ugly stretch of permanently clogged elevated highway — into a permanently clogged tunnel.
It didn’t solve the traffic problems, but it made traffic invisible. On the plus side, it straightened out some of the city’s worst intersections and made getting to and from the airport easier.
The Big Dig was the most expensive highway project in history. Plagued by cost overruns, scheduling disasters, water leakage, collapses, design flaws, poor workmanship, nepotism, corruption, payoffs, substandard materials, criminal arrests for some offenders (but not enough) and 4 deaths, the project was scheduled for completion in 1998 and was supposed to cost $2.8 billion. It was officially finished in December 2007 and cost $14.6 billion.
The Boston Globe estimates when all is said and done, including interest, fines, and lawsuits, the project will cost more than $22 billion and won’t be paid off until 2038. Maybe not even then.
The Big Dig drove us out of Boston. One day, I had to go shopping. The supermarket was a mile away. It took me 2 hours to get there and another hour and a half to get home.
“Garry,” I said that evening, “Let’s get out of here!” And we did.
We fled. Traffic was controlling our lives. We couldn’t go to a restaurant or a movie. We couldn’t shop, park, or get to work. People trying to visit us couldn’t find our condo because the exit to our neighborhood was often closed. Out-of-town visitors roamed helplessly through the streets of Dorchester looking in vain for a street sign or marker. Sometimes we couldn’t find our way home.
I spent years of my life in traffic. The time I spent at work plus 2 to 4 hours of commuting, my life was dominated by traffic. By the time we slouched into retirement, we were wrecks.
Do I have a solution? No. But I know that commuting and the constant traffic wore us out. One day, we snapped. We couldn’t do it anymore.
Funny thing about traffic. You may not notice it when you live with it every day, but if suddenly, it isn’t a major factor in your life, it’s a whole, new world. A far better world.
If you could split your time evenly between two places, and two places only, which would these be?
Easy choices! I’ll take Jerusalem, Israel and New York, New York.
I’m (of course) assuming you will be supplying attractive housing and unlimited plane fares. Furnishings and appropriate wardrobes, and of course, a generous stipend.
That would work for me and my husband. You are paying his way too, right? And all my best friends and close family as well?
Naturally, suitable transportation will be provided at each location. You know … cars, taxis, limos as needed? And support personnel? Cleaning staff, cooks, personal assistants? Dog walkers?
This is going to be our reward for a long life of hard work and challenges no one should have to face, so I’m expecting great things.
Thanks for your kind offer. I’m not even going to pack my bags since I’m sure your people will be in touch and make all the necessary arrangements. Have a good day and thanks again.
I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.
Yesterday, we went to Busch Gardens. We did nothing, got wet, walked too much, came back exhausted, soggy and poorer. We seem to have absolutely impeccable timing for getting places at exactly the wrong time!
We planned carefully and sensibly. We figured that if we went late in the day, it would be cooler and probably less crowded too. Logical right? I mean, the park‘s open until 10 at night, so getting there at 3:30 should leave us more than ample time to whatever we wanted and ride whatever we wanted.
After we finally got through the long walk to the park from the very closest parking lot, we decided to take the train ride that loops around the park. It would give us something of an orientation, an overview.
We were at the front of the line on the platform, ready to board the ride. Which is when the announcement came that the ride was closing due to weather issues.
Weather. Mainly, lightning. Not to mention wind and rain. So we stood around a bit, milled around in confusion, then eventually headed back the long road to the rest of the park.
With great anticipation, we waited for a weather update. We were in a code orange, which is bad, but the next announcement was “Code Red,” which was much worse and actually closed everything, except shops.
Shortly thereafter, the sky opened up and a sheet of water fell out. We stood under an awning speculating — along with everyone else — whether or not there was any chance the park would reopen.
It did not reopen.
We hauled ass back to Guest Relations, where they were very gracious about the whole thing and seemed genuinely sorry that we come from so far away, didn’t get to do anything except eat a pretzel and get soaked. They refunded half the money because our friends had to leave today and we took rain checks and will make another stab at it tomorrow. We would have gone today, but the weather report doesn’t look promising and I couldn’t deal with the same scenario two days running.
The best experience of the day? The electric scooter that you can rent and drive around the park. I loved it! It was way zippier than I thought it would be and fun, too. Unfortunately, by the time I got it, I was already over-tired and when we finally got back to the hotel, having stopped at the grocery store in between and then cooking dinner … we had barely enough strength to climb into bed and pass out.
Today, the humidity is 99% and thunder storms are likely in the afternoon, so we are going to go tomorrow morning when hopefully, it won’t be raining because that really IS our last chance.
Talk about disappointing! Nice that Garry and I get another shot at it, but I so wanted to go with my friend too … but … well … it didn’t happen and if there’s one thing you cannot count on, it’s usually the weather.
They’ve left now and it’s very quiet and feels kind of empty. I’m trying not to be a bit down-hearted, but it’s difficult.
Tomorrow is another day, I hope.
- The coasters of Busch Gardens Williamsburg (examiner.com)
- Busch Gardens Williamsburg Gets Revolutionary New Roller Coasters (manhattan.ny1.com)
Think about what you wanted to accomplish last week. Did you? What are the things that hold you back from doing everything you’d like to do?
Photographers, artists, poets: show us BARRIERS.
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And NO, I didn’t take this picture, but I think it really says it, don’t you?
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