Take a little ride in my car with me this morning and you are going to have a soul-cleansing temper fit.
We’re driving down Amnicola toward town, going to Mt. Vernon for a lunch date with an old friend we haven’t seen in a long time. At the last traffic light before the Tennessee Aquarium, we run into a detour sign and a policeman. We don’t know what’s going on. It’s not Riverbend Festival when everyone knows the road is closed for a few days but we think, “No problem; we’ll just cut over to Second Street, turn right and go to Broad and we’ll have a straight shot at Mt. Vernon.”
We hit Broad and at the ML King intersection, there are more yellow barrels, a detour sign, and a policeman. Mildly annoyed now, we turn right
and think, “Still no problem; we’ll just shoot down to Riverfront, go left and straight to Broad.”
Wrong. At The Towers on MLK, there’s another barrier, a detour sign and a policemen. We roll down the window and ask the policeman, “How can we get to Mt. Vernon on Broad?” He answers, “You can’t, sir. Not until four o’clock.”
Shocked that the town seems to be in a traffic gridlock with cars backed up for blocks, all creeping along like confused turtles, and absolutely no idea
of what’s going on, we begin to suspect something real big in the works. Like maybe the president coming in to announce an end to the war, or a sheik from Saudia Arabia announcing that gas is being scaled back to a dollar a gallon.
So we ask the policeman, “What’s the big deal? Why has the town been frozen in place?” He answers, “It’s that Georgia bike race.”
Suddenly our mood shifts from confusion to anger. “A bike race!” we scream. “You mean the people of this town have been put to all this inconvenience and confusion for a #!*^# bike race?”
By now, a grim, angry determination has set in to defy all the yellow barrels and policemen and get to Mt. Vernon come heck or high water. We creep to the freeway thinking, “We’ll go down to the Brown’s Ferry exit and then come around the side of Lookout Mountain and take a left onto Broad.”
Feeling victorious, we call Mt. Vernon to tell our long lost friend we will be late and the lady at Mt. Vernon says, “Sorry, sir. We are closed until 4:00 due to that bike race.” I know Mt. Vernon is a long-established business but I can’t help wondering what this bike race is doing to all the little marginal businesses.
Breathing fire, we call the mayor, screaming so loud he can’t help but laugh. He tells us a staff person approved the closure of streets and worked it out with the city’s traffic department. He did add, “It won’t happen again.”
I am glad he said those last words because if I live to be two hundred, I will never vote for any man or woman for mayor who will allow any staff person to close our streets. Next time I may be bleeding to death or gasping with a heart attack in a long line of cars moving like snails.
I am sick of seeing streets closed for charitable races and walks. Streets are to move citizens from one place to another, not for do-gooders to make sure they are seen. Let them find a pasture like Willie did for Farm Aid. Let them write a check to their charity and drop it in the mail like the rest of us.
No one but the mayor and city council should have the authority to close down any street for any reason whatsoever.
One more thing: Has crime dropped so low we can assign half of our police force to detour traffic for a Georgia bike race?
Selected writings of Dalton Roberts have been compiled in a First Edition book-azine, “Long John Cardinal—and the Best of Dalton Roberts.” For details on getting your autographed copy, go to www.daltonroberts.com or www.ipspress.com/publishing.
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