April 25, 2005
Some people say we have two seasons in Michigan: winter and road construction. This morning it was both. Friday afternoon the National Weather Service announced a winter storm watch, and Sunday I watched snow-covered squirrels, their wet fur matted together in clumps, scavenging for birdseed on my patio. The snow was mostly melted by this morning, though I really wished I’d worn boots when I had to get out of my car here at the office–the only parking spaces left by the time I got here were the ones in the shade, and the white stuff on them was still deeper than my loafers are tall. Cold, wet, feet–welcome to Monday.
Until I stepped out of my car, though, it was a pretty decent commute in. I even had fresh flowers–two pink hyacinth stems snapped under the weight of the snow, so I brought them in to enjoy; they’ve only got a little dirt on their blossoms from having their faces fall into the dirt. A major exit I’d normally take is under construction, so I’ve been exploring various alternate routes. One of them takes me past two gas stations that are consistently cheaper than anywhere else I frequent–this morning I fueled up for 7 cents less a gallon than I could have at the corner near my house. I bet that savings more than offsets the extra miles I’m driving to avoid the construction. Last time I checked, there was no alternative but to avoid it–the exit is really and truly closed, unlike the weeks when the sign said “ramp closed” but what it meant was “exit open but traffic flow so screwed up you’ll wish you’d taken a different route”.
Since I’ve got a meeting at a customer site this afternoon, I won’t have to deal with the road repair project that’s been bollixing up my commutes home (this is completely different than the one that’s made my drives to the office more interesting). This one’s long term–they started by tearing up all the pavement to reveal the bare dirt and stripping the bridge down to the girders. It also overlaps another project that started earlier–seeing the “Begin Construction Zone” sign when I haven’t yet left the previous construction zone strikes me as funny every time decide it’s just as fast to head right through it rather than take one of the far less direct alternate routes.
Even though I’ll miss that project today, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of other opportunities to ponder this season’s blooming crop of orange and white construction barrels. Once in a while I’ll see one barrel, all alone, and wonder if it’s an advance scout preparing the way for more to come or an independent agent, trusted to mark a trouble spot all by itself, or a reject, left behind when its peers got picked up for their next assignment. Sometimes the barrels are new, their stripes still gleaming, their bodies upright and clean-lined, but most are quite experienced and show it in their scars–stripes scuffed and scratched and peeling, bodies dented. There is no workers compensation for construction barrels. Injured on the job? You keep working if you’re a construction barrel. Even if you’re so misshapen that your weighted base rings can no longer fall to the ground to secure you but instead stop halfway down so you look like you’re wearing Jane Jetson’s skirt, you’re out there on the job site if you’re a construction barrel. Yeah, maybe I spend too much time pondering the barrels, but it’s better than spending that time fuming at the inconvenience and delays surrounding their appearance.