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On Zen and Road Construction

I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but there has been some construction going on on Picton’s Main Street.
It seems rather minor, really, with only the main artery into downtown becoming completely impassable. Most of us – who own helicopters and ultra-light aircraft – have had no problem finding their way to the Metro parking lot and the surrounding stores.
But for you few unlucky slobs who still drive cars, well, you’re screwed.
The first thing I noticed, as the project pushed its way from the Tim Horton’s lights to Talbot Street, is that everyone in the County also knows my ‘Secret Routes’ that I use to avoid tourist traffic in the summer months.
Everyone has been bombing through the Metro parking lot to that tiny little street at the back. Speed bumps? No problem. If you go over them slowly, they go: “OOOOOOhhhhm, bumpity-bump”. If you go over them at about 80 kph, they go: “Ta-tick”, though you might occasionally lose your muffler system in the process.
Once you’ve made it through the high-speed parking lot part, you get to pull onto Washburn Street. At least I think it’s Washburn, I’ve never really looked to see.
This is a road that, in Italy, they would call a highway. In the County, it’s sort of a cow lane in which people on bicycles would brush shoulders on the way by.
Still, during construction, that doesn’t prevent people from travelling at high speeds in both directions, leaning to the left and right to avoid collision.
Washburn is also a street which has axle-breaking potholes, frost-heaved sections, and poles, signs and buildings all pushing into the roadway. It’s sort of like Space Mountain at Disney World, except you’re paying for the cart you’re driving in.
You might also add into the equation that everyone you encounter here is angry, and has not yet had their Tim Horton’s coffee to stabilize their systems.
On the Other Side, everyone northbound from Cherry Valley is now bombing through Mary Street, only to be stopped for several centuries at the cursed Tim Horton’s lights.
Even though you have saved a lot of time by not going through the Liquor Store intersection, you will still end up sitting on Ferguson Street watching the lights turn from red, to red, occasionally to yellow, and back to red again.
If you’re like me, you will slowly enter into a calming Zen-like state, in which you can sit and notice that no-one is going through the intersection from any direction, and all of the lights you see are red. Everyone else is noticing this, and pondering the possibility of hammering the gas pedal and burning some serious rubber, in a Zen-like manner, and getting on with their lives.
In my calm state, I notice that there is a “No Right Turn on Red” sign posted at a peculiar angle across the street. It doesn’t seem to be pointed directly at me, so I’m thinking this was some kind of clerical error, intended for other people, who are driving out from under the cenotaph. (I also watched a full episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, through the window of the building on the far corner.)
As you know, I spot things that ordinary, sane, people don’t see.
So here is my perception of coming in from Bloomfield in the heat of construction.
There’s a cop in the middle of the street, because the streetlights are flashing yellow, and nobody in the County knows what this means.
He has a glow-in-the-dark yellow vest on, and he’s standing right beside a construction worker with an identical vest. Except the construction worker has a walkie-talkie, and is talking to someone wa-a-a-a-a-y down at Tim Horton’s about whether or not cars are allowed to travel east or west through the one-lane dirt-hole that used to be a street. They also talk about hot dates they had last Friday night, and whether the Toronto Maple Leafs will ever win a game again.
The cop has no walkie-talkie so, effectively, has no idea what these other guys are doing. He’s just motioning people in every direction which, since no County drivers know how to operate a signal light, is purely guesswork.
To them, it must be like trying to catch ants in a jar – cars just head off in any direction, and eventually turn around at Fish Lake or Gull Pond, and point themselves back toward Picton to give it another try.
I always try to be a Really Good Driver – when a cop is standing right in front of me. So I stop and wait for his instruction.
He raises his hand and twitches his fingers at me. I’m sorry, but this is not good enough for me. I need more than a finger twitch to send me into that chaos!
What I need is a cop who points at me, holds his arm out in the direction I want to go, blows a whistle, and moves his other arm in a full circle at high-speed – a Pete-Townsend-guitar swing.
This says to me: “Get your butt in gear, you jerk … get on your way as fast as you can.”
(This may protect me from speeding tickets in Carrying Place, since the cop clearly indicates he wants me to go really fast.)
I’m sure this kind of traffic control is right up there on the list with scrubbing down the station toilets, but still, you’ve got to put your heart into it.
Word on the Street says that sometimes the cop is Mean, and sometimes the cop is Friendly. It turns out that people know this because, apparently, they stop to chat with the traffic officers on the way through the hellish intersection. I think this can only happen in the County.
The good news is: The Company hopes to be through with construction by the start of Tourist Season, which was three weeks ago. So that’s promising.
On the other hand, they could have started the job in February, considering the ground never froze this winter. You could tear up all of Main Street in February, and all of the construction people could be naked (except for hard hats and bright yellow vests), and dancing to a Village People song, and no-one here would have noticed. But that’s not my call.
This will all be forgotten by July, when you realize you are still sitting at the same red lights, looking at lines of frozen traffic, wondering how many days you have ’til you’re time on this earth is done … even without the construction.
Because then it will be tourist season.

Filed Under: Steve Campbell


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