Potholes and bellies

By Carolyn Marsh | Oct 02, 2009

I don’t know about you, but every time I see a photo in the newspaper accompanying a story about members of Congress debating an issue — right now, health care in particular — the subjects are middle- to advanced-aged white men wearing nice clothes and with good manicures. Most of the time they have solemn/tortured/contemplative looks on their faces, probably wondering how to vote so they can be reelected, or perhaps where to go on their next vacation.

Having seen what mawmen have done to the world so far, it is not an encouraging sight. Particularly because there is so little sign of adversity in their demeanors. If they came up the hard way, they have forgotten it — in fact, the only creative thing about them may be their memory. I have been mightily struck by learning about their own health care plans — the stricken part comes from comparing them to the one they seem intent on foisting off on the rest of the country. Perhaps if Big Pharma and Big Inch (that’s short for insurance, in case you are wondering) made periodic contributions to my campaign (if I had a campaign), I would feel otherwise. But I don’t, and I don’t.

I do love the New Jersey congressmen (not congresswomen) saying that the donations to their campaigns by ReGen, a New Jersey medical device company (shouldn’t there be a better word for whatever a medical device is?) had nothing — absolutely nothing! — to do with the donations ReGen had made to all their campaigns. Perish the thought! What has perished is not the ability of the American public to see through this persiflage but to be offended and energized by it. Whatever.

Let us now consider potholes. Or pot holes, if that’s easier for you. By this point, most of us have become expert at avoiding the ones on Main and Elm streets, and laughed ourselves silly over the motorists who don’t (or can’t) see them and find their teeth loose after they’ve driven through them. I have always considered roads in Maine a puzzlement. Of course street repair has to wait until summer, when the weather is now and then somewhat good and the tourists are middling to fair. But if the state’s highway department is going to inconvenience everyone, why don’t they perform a higher grade of repair than the pathetic cold patch, which never lasts a season? I don’t know if it is the town or state that maintains the streets, but looking out of the window from which I See All, I can spot some real winners. The one in the 15-minute space in front of French & Brawn, which someone made a half-hearted attempt to remediate by installing a couple of traffic cones a while ago that are now gone, is again ready to swallow up anything less than a tank that tries to park there. The one at the top of Bay View Street is quite special too, and definitely a deterrent to accelerating out of Bay View onto Main or Elm or whatever direction you choose to travel. There is also one I know well, because I always forget to make a wide turn around it and bottom out, but I can’t right this moment recollect where it is.

At New York magazine we had weekly meetings to come up with cover lines — lines that go on the cover and refer to the articles inside, in case your understanding of English is defective. Once there was an article on the potholes that seemed to spring up down on the city’s streets like dragons’ teeth. The deal was that if you totaled your car driving through a pothole that had been reported and was on the Pothole Watch List, you could recover the cost of repairs. If it hadn’t been reported, you got zilch, though you did have the satisfaction of knowing that the next victim would be recompensed. My suggestion that we call it The Pothole Plot was very popular until the magazine’s attorneys decided that accusing the city of a conspiracy was not in our best interests.

I wonder if there is any way to keep tourists — and, frankly, some residents who should know better — inside the pedestrian crosswalks, short of reward therapy. I don’t stop for people who are transgressing, though I do usually point out to them that there is a crosswalk not too far, like a foot, from where they have chosen to cross. Sometimes I do it in a friendly fashion and sometimes I’m not so friendly. I’ve also noticed that the ones who choose to cross exactly where they have come out of a store are the ones who could use a little — frankly, a lot — of extra exercise, though I don’t point that out along with the crosswalk. I did once tell a young lady toting considerable embonpoint that the shorts she was wearing were tacky as well as several sizes too small. I thought she’d be grateful for the advice, but she only looked mulish. I think it’s so nice that our society has developed such a free and easy flow of communication — sometimes with perfect strangers! — though I am of one mind with the people who say that if the airlines allow cell phone use aboard planes they will start packing heat.
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