Give ‘Em A Brake

closePlease note: This post was published over a year ago, so please be aware that its content may not be quite so accurate anymore. Also, the format of the site has changed since it was published, so please excuse any formatting issues.

I can’t believe the road construction here in Spokane. It took me about ten minutes just to get past the construction today. Normally I just zip through a parking lot to get from one road (Regal St.) to the road that I need to be on (37th St.) to get to the road I take to get off the South Hill (Ray St.). Regal is under very heavy construction and has been for over a month. Today, however, I couldn’t drive through the parking lot to get to 37th because a flag person was directing traffic “around” the construction. I put the word “around” in little quotes because, as I soon found out, it’s almost impossible to get around. I thought I could drive down a side street to 29th (a main drag that would take me directly to Ray), but the side streets only seemed to go as far down as 35th street before reaching a dead end. So I took 35th, but it was clear that I was going to have to turn back the way I came because the road was blocked due to construction. Just as I was about to turn around, I noticed a couple of cars coming out of a small parking lot for an apartment building. The parking lot had large iron gates, but those gates were wide open on both sides. So, thinking I was clever, I drove through the parking lot and headed toward Ray via 34th St. I came to an intersection and was forced to turn to the right, which was the direction I had just come from. Just when I thought I’d have to start from the beginning, the SUV in front of me turned off the road and onto a side street. The side street was blocked with cones and I expected the guy driving the SUV to simply run them over, but he didn’t. Instead, his reverse lights came on (forcing me to back up as well) and he turned around and headed back for the beginning of the mess. I sat in front of those cones for about a minute thinking about the situation and trying to decide whether I should resign myself to starting over or whether I should just run the stupid cones over. I actually thought about getting out, moving the cones, driving forward a little, getting out again and moving the cones back, but I wimped out and decided to turn around as well. Just before turning to head South (back to the beginning of the “detour”) a van on an opposing side street turned North and started to drive toward 29th. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about motorists in an uncertain situation, they’ll all play follow the leader. So I followed this van because, quite frankly, the van was heading the direction I wanted to go and at least if we got in trouble, I wouldn’t be the instigator. Now, I’m not sure where the van was going, but the driver ended up getting stopped by a flag person who was quite irate. After she finished chewing them out and sending them on their way, she came running over to me to give me a good what-for. But I was ready for her.

“You shouldn’t be here!” she told me.

“Well, how am I supposed to get down there?” I asked, motioning toward 29th St.

“I don’t know,” she replied, “But you’re not allowed to be driving here.”

“Well, I have to get down there and I tried to go around, but I ended up being forced back up that way, ” I replied jerking a thumb over my shoulder to indicate the way I came. “I don’t understand how I’m supposed to get down there with all this going on. Can you tell me?”

She looked dumbfounded. Perhaps it was the slightly accusatory tone of voice I used, or perhaps it was merely that I had talked back at all. I know these people have to go to school to learn how to stand in the road and hold a sign, and for a brief moment I wondered if this was in their training. After a moment’s hesitation, the woman stopped staring at me and looked around.

“Well, just go down there and she’ll direct you,” the woman said, indicating another flag person and trying not to make direct eye contact.

“Thank you,” I replied in a tone of voice that made all this seem quite unnecessary. Which it was. It seems to me that if they’re going to block off the roads, they should have signs indicating where you can go to resume normal travel. The only other route that I know of would have taken me at least an extra twenty minutes to get home.

I have a new plan to avoid this in the future. From now on, I’m going to keep empty cardboard boxes in the back of my car and if any flag people are blocking the parking lot that I normally drive through, I’ll just tell them that I have to deliver some packages to KSPS (which is the building the parking lot is for) and try and convince them to let me drive into the lot. Of course, this may only work once or twice. After that I figure I’ll just call the flag person over to the side of my car and when they step out from in front of my vehicle, I’ll floor it past them. I’ll be sure to let you know what works in the future.

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