Sat, Oct. 19

Natespeak: Summer construction depicts American society

Norman Rockwell couldn't paint it better himself; men and women in orange and yellow fluorescent vests working along America's highways and Interstates. Ah, yes, blessed be the Department of Transportation and all of their contracted underlings. This is the picture perfect example of Americana.

Picture yourself, if you will, parked idly behind a Dodge Ram® V-10 Diesel truck pulling a fifth wheel on one of the United States' several scenic highways. Neil Diamond's "Forever in Blue Jeans" is playing on the radio, and you're impatience makes you tap your foot out of beat with the song as if you're rushing it. You clench your jaw, curse to yourself a bit, squeeze the steering wheel and check your watch multiple times even though life is not going to end. On the contrary, little do you know it but you're about to witness it all, shortly.

Hating Neil Diamond and his dark suits, you switch channels to hear National Public Radio announce average gasoline prices expect to rise from $3.68 per gallon to $4.05 per gallon nationwide by the weekend. You take a mental note and decide the best way to save money is skip eating out a couple nights, although the cost of food has risen since the breadbasket of the country is trying to produce alternate forms of fuel with usual side courses. Wendy's it is!

Though the noonday sun is refreshing, you decide to roll the windows up and blast the air-conditioner. Yes, it's wearing on your sensible foreign import, but you'd rather risk a trip to the mechanic than exposure to toxic diesel exhaust.

Ahead of the recreational parade stands a woman holding a stop sign. Her once beautiful and supple skin looks like tanned leather and creases from frowns are evident beneath reflective sunglasses. Beside her is a small cooler packed full of plastic liter bottles of "artesian spring" water and cold-cut sandwiches.

Soon, another line of cars passes heading in the opposite direction led by a young man driving a truck with a huge sign "Pilot Car" affixed. He pulls off to the side of the road, permitting followers to continue on their way then spins around and drives in the opposite direction signaling the woman, in turn, to spin her sign around to "Slow." She motions the lead driver to follow the pilot car and so begins a snail's pace through an America analogy.

To the left is a group of men laboring away intensely. Sweat pours from under white hardhats down over their dirt-covered faces and cakes along the neckline of orange DOT shirts. Their jeans are worn and torn at the knees, also caked brown matching the color of their steel-toed boots. Most of these men appear to be of Mexican descent, although there are quite a few young Caucasian men, like the one driving the pilot car, working side by side.

Further ahead, a backhoe tears apart old concrete as a 12-ton payloader scoops up the chunks and deposits them into the back of an awaiting truck trailer. Less than a mile away, a machine that lays asphalt is followed by a steamroller. Out with the old, in with the new.

Along the drive, you never notice the winding green valley roads of Iowa's Old Hwy. 141, the red rock splendor of Arizona's Hwy. 179, or the coastal serenity of California's Pacific Coast Highway 1. You do notice the entourage of overweight white men in pristine white helmets, pressed shirts and immaculate Carharts® standing about talking; some gazing over holes being dug by ethnic men resentful their white co-workers will make foreman well before they are let go, some leaning against more V-10 trucks equipped with tow packages, lights, and bells and whistles that serve no other purpose than more tax payer waste.

And then, the speed picks up. The trailer ahead of you pulls off to the slower lane and you speed by bidding farewell to what you least expected to be the perfect representation of American society and how our country's demographics work in conjunction with one another.

There are the working men and women, slaving away for peanuts under the mighty thumb of people, "the man," watching over them. There are things to do, but it's becoming more and more tedious, miniscule.

Time and time again, revisiting those construction sites it appears much of it is all for naught. Build something to tear it down to build it again. Soon, more machines will replace more laborers; it's sad, it's true and it's happening everywhere - not just road construction.

There are the men standing by as idly as you parked at either end of the segmented roads. We all wish to hear their conversations to see how they lead, yet secretly bet one another the topics they discuss are concerned more about how poorly the favorite NBA team played than how to better divert traffic. They collect far fatter checks than those who operate the millions of dollars worth of equipment and exhaust themselves getting into air-conditioned cabs of company vehicles. All in a day's work, right.

The women, you ask ... what do the women holding the flags represent? Well, maybe it's just my life that makes me interpret things this way, but their position says, "You aren't going anywhere without my permission [finger snap, head sway]. And if you do, you're doing it my way." In short, this is where the true control lies.

And lastly, the traffic ... what does the traffic represent? You decide.

Is the traffic our way of showing acceptance for change? Driving along, either taking part in the improvement of our country or respectively taking a detour and allowing the change to occur without interruption. Or is the traffic apathy? Is it showing little concern for new agendas pushed upon us as a country? Is it passive acceptance?

Or do I simply have waaaaay too much time on my hands while driving?

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