Sunday, October 10, 2021

give my regards to broad street

I have been driving for 44 years and I have never enjoyed a single minute of it. Admittedly, I am not a particularly good driver. I'm an average driver. I try to avoid driving when at all possible. I have driven to work as a necessity. For nearly ten years, I took the train to work and that was a pleasure. (Well, the public transportation in the Greater Philadelphia area leaves a lot to be desired, but it was a pleasure in that I didn't have to drive on a daily basis for a decade.) Currently, my commute to work is about 40 minutes and comes at a time when I am actually ahead of the common "rush hour" on my route. I also get to leave work everyday a half-hour before the crush of homecoming traffic.

When we go out — anywhere — Mrs. Pincus is behind the wheel. We have a great marriage in so many ways, one of them being her love of driving and my dislike of the same activity. I happily occupy the passenger seat* while Mrs. P navigates the car on short jaunts to the supermarket or long journeys to Florida — both of which we have tackled often, much to her delight.

Dead end.
Our adult son lives approximately 16 miles away in the congested bustle of South Philadelphia. Due to ongoing construction in our fair city (which I'm pretty sure began just after the last cobblestone was put into place outside of Independence Hall), our choices of routes to his house often change based on whim-driven road closures or the placement of poorly-parked dormant construction vehicles. The nearest entrance to I-76 (the quickest access to South Philly from our suburban home) has been closed since Benjamin Franklin flew a kite in a thunder storm. Our choices to enter the Schuylkill Expressway (I-76's name as it passes through the city) is a roundabout course through small neighborhoods whose streets are — SURPRISE! — also under construction. Our alternative is PA-611, which runs a block from our house and becomes Philadelphia's notorious Broad Street once it crosses the city limits. Beginning at Cheltenham Avenue, Broad Street substitutes for 14th Street for its entire 13-mile length until it morphs to join I-95 just behind Lincoln Financial Field. We have opted to drive Broad Street, purely out of convenience.

The cat in question.
A little while ago, my son went on vacation for a week and my wife and I were asked if we could feed his cat while he was gone. We happily obliged, having been cat owners for years, although our house has been "cat free" for almost twenty years. Our son's cat is a beautiful — if not a bit quirky — little guy whose eating regimen is as idiosyncratic as his personality. Because of health issues, he needs to be fed twice a day — early in the morning and later in the evening. During the week, Mrs. Pincus took the task solo is the morning and I would join her for the evening trip and both times on Saturday and Sunday. Feeding a cat for a friend or, in this case, family member is fine if you live around the corner, but when you live 45 minutes away, it can be.... um..... dicey. Especially if the route to said cat is Broad Street. Don't get me wrong! We enjoy taking care of the cat. He's sweet and playful... until he's not. It's pretty obvious when he's had enough (usually of me). When he takes a "claws out" swat at my hand, that usually signifies that it's time to go. 

Prepare to qualify!
Every evening, after we finished our dinner, Mrs. P and I ventured down to South Philadelphia to give our son's cat his dinner. I have driven down Broad Street for years, but it's only recently I noticed a pattern in the other drivers that I never noticed before. Perhaps from my perspective as a passenger I got to observe... or witness... things I never noticed before. It appears that drivers have taken a page from the current crop of concert-goers playback with the "I'm the only one in the world" attitude.

Once we crossed into the official realm of Broad Street in Philadelphia from the pastoral quiet of suburbia, all hell broke loose. Drivers straddled lanes with their cars, the painted white dashes exiting the dead center point between their rear wheels as though they were being dropped at regular intervals from a secret hatch under the trunk. Other drivers barreled out of curbside parking spaces with nary a glance at a rear-view mirror. Still other drivers just stopped — stopped! — in an active lane of traffic, click on their four-way hazard lights with the understanding that those illuminated flashers grant them full permission to stop wherever the heck they wish. Holding up a line of cars behind me? Hey! I got my flashers on, so its okay! There are those that stop their cars for no apparent reason. Some take an incredibly long time to make a turn, either at an intersection or to enter a driveway (like a gas station, shopping center or even their own at their house), leaving the rear portion of their car blocking the lane an not allowing any cars past until the turn is fully completed. Others change lanes from the far left to the far right with no indication of their proposed maneuver. If you don't want to get hit, your spider sense better be tingling. Then there are the texters. In Philadelphia, one does not need to use a "hands-free" device. Although "hands-free" is infinitely safer, Philadelphians still insist on having conversations by holding their phone two feet from their faces and screaming. As long as you're making a call, you might as well text while you're driving, too! There is no reason to adjust your habits just because you are operating of a two-ton death machine that requires your full attention. In addition, a recent phenomenon has entered the equation. Groups of young men driving unlicensed, off-road, non-street-legal vehicles (mini bikes, dirt bikes and ATVs) travel up and down Broad Street in packs numbering from two or three into the dozens. These guys prefer the late night hours to cruise the blacktop, often popping wheelies for most of their journey as well as blowing off traffic lights and other posted road regulations. (Their vehicles are not licensed, so why should they abide?) For reasons only known to them, the police turn a blind eye to this activity. Come to think of it, the police turn a blind eye to most law-violating activity I have seen on Broad Street. It has become like driving through a real-life video game. Prepare to qualify! Avoid the hazards and score points!

Well, I don't want to score any more points. I just want to get where I'm going. Actually, I just want someone else to drive me to get me where I'm going.

*One of my ex-sisters-in-law used to call it the "pussinger's seat" when the husband sat in it as the wife drove.

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