April 23, 2024
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April 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

It’s finally summer—time to get out and hit the open road, and find out that the open road is closed.

Because unfortunately, road crews also hit the road in the summer. That’s the easiest time to get those potholes fixed. Also, I guess the heat helps them work. They don’t have to turn the steam roller on as high.

We all want them to get rid of the potholes, but we don’t want to see them working.

Though actually, we don’t see them working. Mostly we see them taking breaks. We just come across a huge sign that says something like, “Lane closed for no reason,” and we see machines everywhere and guys in hard hats drinking coffee.

And cones. And if there are cones, we’ll use other lanes. We always believe the cones, even if we don’t see the workers. We never call them on it.

I recently passed some road construction, by which I mean one person standing next to a bunch of construction equipment, and he was holding a huge sign that said, “SLOW.” And my son asked me, “Is that his whole job?” And I was like, “Yeah, maybe.”

I don’t know. But as a parent, I get to make things up.

So my son asked, “How come he has to do the boring job?”

And I said, “Because he didn’t pay attention in school.” In construction class. Because I don’t actually know if the sign means that we should drive slow or that the guy is slow and that we should be aware of that and not make any sudden moves to confuse him.

And it’s not like they have to fix the roads. There’s a cheaper option. Instead of construction, they could just label all the potholed roads, “historic routes.”

“Why are you late?”

“We took the historic route. Then we got ambushed by Native Americans, somebody claimed us in the name of Spain and our horse died of chicken pox.”

We have lots of historic roads in Passaic—it’s a very historic community. Case in point, one Sunday, a few months back, I noticed on the way to taking my kids to yeshiva that there was a pothole about a block from the school. This was under a train bridge, in the dark, so it was hard to see in the first place. I only noticed it myself when the car in front of me suddenly swerved, and I saw, at the very last second, the top half of a traffic cone sticking out of a pothole. There were also a few hubcaps lying around that should have given it away.

It wasn’t very visible. I know this because my wife mentioned that she barely saw it later when she was taking our younger son to school, and that the car behind her actually hit it and got a flat tire.

So I said, “What about the traffic cone?”

And she said, “What traffic cone?”

The cone had mysteriously disappeared. Well, not mysteriously. It was down the road, in pieces.

So my wife called the police, who were like, “But it’s a Sunday!”

Okay, they didn’t say that. But they didn’t immediately turn on their sirens either.

So the dispatch officer said, “Okay, maybe we’ll send someone out there to see if he can do some kind of temporary fix.”

And when my wife and I came by later, on the way to parent-teacher conferences, we saw that someone had indeed been by. There was a new cone! Halfway in the hole. And lest you say that a second orange cone would be just as invisible as the first, to this one someone had tied a bouquet of balloons. Like “Surprise! It’s a pothole!”

They were just regular balloons, I think. They didn’t say, “It’s a boy!” Or “Mazel Tov!” Or “Get well soon!”

My thought was that someone from the school probably did it. My wife thought it was definitely some police officer who came by and said, “These should hold until tomorrow!”

They didn’t.

Point is, tying up roads and pretending to work is 100% better than balloons, because if we’re not using that road for the six or seven weeks it’s blocked off, that’s six or seven weeks we’re not hitting that pothole.

And the truth is that most of the time, we’re not really upset at the road crews, we’re upset at the other drivers. The road crews are working. This is their job. No one is ever upset to see people showing up to do their job, except for students. And we can’t really be upset when the crews aren’t working either. You know how it is when you’re working and you stop for a second to do something, and just then someone important happens to walk by? Well, road crews are the same way—just as people drive by, they’re not working. It just happens to be that people are driving by all day.

In fact, the workers are annoyed by us. Their whole lives are trying to work where people want to drive. And imagine you were at your desk, trying to pretend to work, and people kept coming by to slow down and look over your shoulder to make comments, like, “You can put the six on the seven.” Because everyone slows down. Everyone in front of you, at least.

I personally think they should never bring a highway down to one lane. It should be two lanes—the “I want to see” lane, and the “I just want to go, because I’ve seen construction workers before” lane. And if you stop to look in the “I just want to go” lane, you should be forced to get out of the car and help. Perhaps by holding up the sign that says “SLOW.”

By Mordechai Schmutter


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He also has six books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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