(a suburb of New Orleans
) and on one of the busiest thoroughfares, there has been construction of all kinds going on right in front of my office. Veterans Memorial Boulevard, or Vets, as I call it. Running along the center of it is a canal framed by a wide neutral ground
. This canal serves as a water run-off
reservoir to stave off flooding during our usual, daily downpours in all seasons. Whenever it rains and rains
and looks like it will never stop, we in the office would end up looking across Vets to see the water
level in the canal
, to see if it had been breached.
Since this canal is there and needs to be, U-Turns and crowded intersections are more than common, they're standard. Everyone has to get to the other side of the street, just to get that morning hockey puck.
Sometime last year it was decided that Vets needed two new U-Turn options, both of which would run around the city block on which my office is located. In addition, they were also going to spruce up the one way crossover of Vets which heads right for the side street (Division Street, which is two-way) where the entrance to my body shop parking lot is located; this crossover also merges traffic making a U-Turn or a left. What's funny is that Division Street drivers cannot handle traffic coming towards them in addition to traffic merely making a U-Turn, and it appears no one can stay in his own lane.
In order to make these U-Turns out of thin air, part of the canal had to be filled in at certain points and layed with concrete. This narrowed a three lane street to two lanes going in both directions. Though I have no proof, I believe that this work being done simultaneously has to do with Mardi Gras. Since everything moves that much slower in the South and in New Orleans in particular, they knew they had to have everything done before the Mardi Gras season (which has only just begun recently), since parades run down Vets.
While this has been going on and further down the road, temporary stands are being erected to house parade revelers. They stand on what was once flat neutral ground and sidewalk. This has been going on for about a month, even though the parades won't start for another two weeks, and these stands will remain up for months after it is all over. The stands crowd in on me as I drive through, brushing my shoulders as I pass, making me feel like a lone traveler walking through a narrow and deep valley. The construction comes up close after this, like a swamp maze.
And now, this week, it is finished. Watching all this work being done and all the people in safety orange running around or shouting from dumptruck, reminds me of a louder version of watching a kitten grow into a full sized cat, since both take about the same amount of time. It happens so slowly that you barely realize anything's happening, and then one day BAM! you have your intersection back. When I took the finished left turn right to my lot instead of going around the construction as I had been doing for the last 6 months, I felt like I did when I walked on a foot for the first time that had had 30 stitches in it. Even though I knew the skin had healed, I was terrified that if I walked on this foot, all the meat would come bursting out like a poorly tied sausage. I crept around the stretch of road that had for months been covered only with dirt that had to be watered down to keep it from flying everywhere, and then, eventually, rocks and concrete. I kept expecting someone in safety orange to run over to my car and tell me I was not supposed to be there.
Change is hard, but getting readjusted to what was once common is almost as hard. And in all this frustration, I realized how amazing we humans can be with even commonplace things. I mean, no, the intersection wasn't stunning or artfully sculpted, but it was finished, which is more than most people would do. Even I seldom finish what I start, even when I'm being paid to do it. In addition, the old Schweggman's Grocery across the street on our side of Vets had long since been torn down and a Lowe's Hardware was to be put in its place. This was at least a year ago or more, and finally, we're seeing the Lowe's sign in its American tried and true blue. And I think of all those people, mostly immigrants by the look of them, who didn't quit when the conditions may have been much more stressful or frustrating than any day I've had.
And while it makes me feel very small, I'm also very thankful, and glad to have my intersection back.