Al Batt: All roads, like Rome, were not built in a day

Published 8:30 pm Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt


Confound it! Cotton-picking signs! Consarn it!

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Those were just a few of the things I didn’t say, but may have thought.

I apologized to Alfred, Lord Tennyson, whose words I’d altered to, “Road work to right of me, road work to left of me, road work in front of me, road work behind me.”

I had an early morning appointment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. I wished I’d had the time to stop and admire the colorful leaves of our autumnal trees. They were October lovely — glorious reds, oranges and yellows near the road.

Everyone drove faster than needed. There is little shiftlessness on display by those seated behind steering wheels.

Then traffic slowed to a crawl like a slow-moving convoy following a visiting world leader. I’ve no doubt some drivers were on the verge of despair as traffic plodded along. I’m sure drivers mumbled about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some might have uttered the words “confound it,” “cotton-picking” or “consarn it.”

There was everything and there was nothing. Everything the road needed, but nothing anyone wanted to drive through. The road work was as welcome as fog at an airport, yet it was all good. Who doesn’t want good roads?

QuoteWizard ranked states using a composite score based on the percentage of roads in poor condition, annual cost per motorist for road repair and the percentage of structurally deficient bridges. The Federal Highway Administration report showed 61% of the country’s highways are in fair to poor condition. Rhode Island, Oklahoma and West Virginia topped the nation for worst road infrastructure. Tennessee, Georgia and Florida were the best states for road infrastructure. Minnesota was 27th best with 15% of its roads in poor condition.

There are potholes that produce echoes. The Discovery Channel hasn’t discovered them all. Explorers for the National Geographic Society haven’t found them all. MnDOT is working hard to locate all those in the Gopher State.

An insurance guy told me 4.5% of drivers have no insurance. I’d hoped the minivan following so close behind me that if it were any closer, it’d be ahead of me had insurance.

The speed at which traffic generally moves on the road I traveled upon would have scared my grandmother out of 10 years of growth had she been able to return to earth for a ride. The reduced speed would have suited her, but she’d have found the number of vehicles intimidating.

I was sure the roads were better than they looked. They had to be. Signs had been planted and showed no indication of being ripe enough to harvest. There were more signs than drivable roads. Detour, reduced speed, road work ahead, merge, be prepared to stop and expect delays signs were interspersed amongst orange barrels spread out like a grazing herd on the Serengeti. Orange barrels aren’t amiable and welcoming. Anyone who has lived in Minnesota for at least 37 hours realizes the state has two seasons: road work and winter. Our roads are capable of going uphill both ways.

I drove along at a snail’s pace, feeling more out of step than the participants in a remedial line dance class. I was a bit tired as the sandman hadn’t had enough sand to go around last night.

I came to a complete stop. A couple of accidents near a small town had brought out every kind of helpful vehicle carrying emergency lights — police, sheriff, state patrol, fire department, first responder, ambulance and tow truck.

I thought of a young woman driving a minivan a few days earlier, who I’d hoped wasn’t driving the minivan behind me, which had been so close to my bumper, you couldn’t tell our cars apart. Her car hit one of those orange posts. Are they immature orange barrels? That barely slowed her pace. She wasn’t good at waiting. Perhaps she was on an emergency mission or hustling to get to a demolition derby. “Have a heart get an early start,” I pretended to say to her.

There is a French proverb that says, “Little by little, the bird makes its nest.” I was patient. I’d wished I had the time to stop and admire the colorful leaves of our autumnal trees. My wish came true. As I marveled at the vivid leaves, I wished the accident victims would be OK and hoped that my latest wish would come true, too.

All roads lead to Rome, but the roads, like Rome, were not built in a day, so expect delays.

Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Saturday.