A guy I know suggested recently on Facebook that if you figured up your taxes and needed to write a check to the city of Pittsburgh, it would be cool if you could designate that money to fill a pothole.
The only thing wrong with that, from my point of view, is that this guy’s city taxes, and my taxes, and probably your taxes unless you’re the president of a bank or health network, are clearly woefully inadequate to seal up all the gaping chasms in the alleged streets, even if we got the money in one-dollar bills and physically stuffed them into the holes.
The potholes are always bad this time of year. If you zigzag around them, you risk getting pulled over for driving erratically. If you don’t — I blew a tire a couple of springs ago. BANG! I swear the pothole had a gun.
If you think about it, it’s kind of astounding that in this day and age, when we have devices in our pockets that talk to satellites, prosthetic legs that win races, Google glass and gluten-free bakeries, we still can’t create a road surface that doesn’t shatter into buckshot when subjected to … winter.
It makes me glad the crowns on my back teeth are robust enough to withstand hot coffee, ice cream and peanuts — sometimes within the same sporting event, let alone the same season — without cracking into huge rifts that might possibly swallow an entire missing airliner (don’t laugh, I believe this theory was entertained on CNN last week for a full minute).
It’s not just Pittsburgh suffering this massive pocking of pavement. In fact, in an epic commentary on the existential futility of road work, a patching crew in East Lansing, Mich., was thwarted in an attempt to patch a pothole on Harrison Road when the patching truck fell partially through the road surface.
The tax base is obviously inadequate to solve this problem, and I’m tired of fixing all the damage it does to my car out of my own pocket. If I had a million dollars, I wouldn’t spend any of it on a super sweet ride, because I live in a city that chews cars up and spits them out. Quite literally, we can’t have nice things.
No, if I had a million dollars, I would spend it on fixing the roads. It would be a gift to the city that would be arguably much more appreciated than a weird, blocky sculpture in a reclaimed alley with some random plants in it, pretending to be a parklet.
But of course, as a wealthy benefactress, I would want naming rights. I would insist.
Can you imagine? A little sign by the road that says, “Next 0.5 mi.: Samantha Bennett Smooth Surface Zone. Drive comfortably.”
Maybe groups of individuals who don’t have a million dollars — people in the neighborhood of the pothole, who have to pull themselves out of it every day — could chip in together to pay for patching and a tasteful inset brick with their names or a message carved in it.
“This tire-safe intersection donated by the North Crater Street Neighborhood Spiffiness Coalition. RIP Arlington Spangler, former block watch captain.”
But why stop with citizens and their groups? We have a huge foundation community here, and some generous, involved corporations. Stretches of road could be the “UPMC Anti-Spinal-Injury Boulevard” or the “Smooth as Silk Soy Milk Intersection.” Organizations “adopt” highways, but all they do is pick up trash. They should also be packing it into potholes and branding their brands into the hot sealant.
Of course, the real problem with the streets is that patching is just a patch. To rebuild them, we need to first tear them up completely, maybe with a focused program of carpet bombing.
I suspect that may already have started.
Samantha Bennett, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.