Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Pit is Opened

Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. So the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit.
The Pit was re-opened last week.  The 8 ft x 10 ft. chasm that totalled at least one car last winter.  The DPW machines came and tore it open again.

One calm below-zero night last January The Night Watchman noticed a natural gas smell in the road, and after a night of jackhammers and flashing yellow lights, there was left the gaping 8X10 ft chasm, covered by a few pieces of plywood, and surrounded by barricade flashers and barrels.

Of course, in our neighborhood, arrival of road barrels signals the beginning of a round of Bar-Time Bowling.  The sight of an upright barricade, especially with a flashing yellow light on top, stirs up the primal machismo in a homeward-bound bar-room patron.  By morning all the barricades are down.   Only the plywood remained.

Plywood is no match for the gravity we have here in Milwaukee. You ever notice that traffic bridges are not made out of spans of 3/4 CDX plywood? There's a reason for that.

While waiting at the bus stop, I saw a car going across the unprotected plywood.  The plywood popped down into the hole, and the car, deprived forever after of the use of both right wheels, barely coasted into Steve's parking lot; a plaintive little whistling sound came from one of the deflating tires, and later in the day, the car was pronounced TOTALLED and hauled away to the bone yard.  Shortly after this incident, the hole was stopped with asphalt, and there was once again peace in the valley.

But then came the pink paints of spring, as it was written on the road, so shall it be. Two days later, the entire block was covered with an assortment of cones, barricades, and flashing barrels. In a dangerous-looking configuration of traffic, the pit was re-opened on one side of the road, taking out the parking lane, bicycle lane and the southbound lane.  The remainder of the road had the southbound traffic barely 18 inches away from the northbound traffic, separated by skinny traffic cones, was the southbound lane, which used to be the southbound parking and bicycle lane.  This close proximity did not promote camaraderie among the neighbors, who still insisted on maintaining their accustomed 30 mph speed limit in both directions.

So where did the bicyclists go?  Through the stop signs, like they always do.

And the pedestrians accustomed to starting their jay-walking waiting in the parking lane?  Well, I haven't seen Dennis for a few days, hope he's all right.

So, one would think that such a precarious traffic arrangement would inspire drivers to caution.  They were inspired all right - IT'S TIME FOR SATURDAY NIGHT - BAR-TIME BOWLING - EXXTREME VERSION!  Sunday morning, the street looked as though there had been a massive aerial drop of traffic barrels.  Knocked-over barrels surrounded the Pit, affording some protection to the sober. The barrels on the ends of the block were knocked over, the barricades surrounding the Pit were flattened, and the median cones were mostly missing, or lying on their side.  One cone came loose from its foot, and seemed to point the traffic into various head-on collision patterns, depending on how the wind blew. Reminiscence of the Spielberg picture, Gremlins.

So, now, the pit is once again closed, but the barrels remain - for the entertainment of bar patrons, I presume.

And that's how we do it in Milwaukee.


Leslie Hanna said...

Solution: fill the dividers with cement (that's ceMENT, not CEment). that'll stop one or two.

Samantha Mozart said...

It's not only a Milwaukee phenomenon, Gary. Whatever happened to reading a good book? Oh, wait ... rutabagas can't read, especially inebriated rutabagas.

Thanks for the recommended reading shoutout in your sidebar. I intend to update my blog site soon, and you will be listed.