Bumps in the Road
And other maladies
Jason Raish illustration
I have lived in New Orleans for 32 years now and as long as I can remember, everyone – and I mean everyone – has said the same thing over and over again: Fix these streets! Somebody please, fix these @&$% streets!
Well, isn’t there some sort of Chinese proverb that addresses the situation we face today? In other words, while we’ve been screaming “Fix the streets!” for 30 years, I think I speak for many when I suggest: Not all of them at once!
I mean, seriously. Have you driven anywhere in the city lately? New Orleans has become the best advertisement for self-driving cars that could ever exist.
Because driving isn’t what we do anymore. We pause. We wait. And we figure out how to get where it is we were going in the first place.
That is, if we can remember where it was we were headed to in the first place.
Uptown in particular has become some bizarre sort of automotive Escher print where the more you drive, the shorter the distance you actually go.
Every main artery is either shut down or rearranged, or some way or another rendered completely impassable.
I guess this is what politicians mean when they talk about building a better future for our children. Because certainly none of us are going to live to see the benefits of whatever the hell it is they’re doing on Nashville and Jefferson and Napoleon and Rampart and St. Claude and God knows wherever the next sinkhole occurs.
I thought that was something that only happens to poorly planned gated communities near the Florida Everglades. Since when did New Orleans start crashing into the earth?
For that matter, who knew there was any earth under New Orleans; haven’t we been told all this time that if you dig down three feet all you have is water? And yet now, the most ubiquitous site in the city is an orange cone.
You know that color I’m talking about: International safety orange, I believe is its official name. And if it’s not, it should be. Which is weird, because wherever you see that color, you can be pretty sure something unsafe is around.
Look, don’t get me wrong, I’m as happy as anyone to see progress being made in our city. New streets, new sidewalks, new streetcar lines, new drainage, etc. But seriously – all at one time?
Meanwhile, our children grow up to think this is what a city looks like. Cranes and ditches and muddy puddles. And orange cones. Orange cones, everywhere.
Everywhere you’re trying to get is blocked off. And if you should happen to get where you’re going, you soon discover that you can’t get out.
Whose idea was it to dig up every single major road in the city of New Orleans all at one time for a massive construction overhaul?
Did we vote on this? I can’t remember. We vote so often around here that I generally cannot remember what the most recent election was about and what it was I voted.
If there was a button that said “fix our streets” then I’m guessing I must plead guilty. I am sure I would’ve voted for that. I mean, it seemed like a good idea at the time, right?
Did you ever in your life believe that you would wish that the city’s streets would return to the way they were in 1990? I mean, let’s put it this way: at least we had streets in ’90. They may have been covered in pockmarked pothole-ridden sinkholes, but at least they were streets.
Where did our streets go? And how do we get them back?
I am pleasantly surprised by the lack of reported road rage incidents over the past year or two. The condition of our infrastructure is a blueprint for insanity and violence. But it just goes to show – much as we did after Hurricane Katrina – that when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
Going where? I am not so sure. There doesn’t seem to be any way out of here right now.
The streets with names but no streets are filled with cones directing you to the next detour, which lead you to the next construction site that point you in the direction of some other orange cones.
New Orleans used to be the city of no left turns. Now it’s simply the city of no turns. Or more precisely applied: Two wrongs don’t make a right, but three left turns do.
Learn that. Live by it. It may be the only way out of where you’re stuck right now.