Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," coming to you from a major metropolitan area smack in the middle of Eastern America's megalopolis! I'm your host, Anne Johnson, just another anonymous honeybee in the colony known as the Delaware Valley.
I've had a great weekend bonding with my daughters. On Saturday, The Spare and I took the El into Philadelphia and cruised the consignment shops on South Street. On Sunday I drove out to Valley Forge to see The Heir at her college. A wonderful time was had by all!
If you have never visited Philadelphia, the City of Buzzardly Love, let me acquaint you with the infrastructure. Why? Because it's essential for today's sermon.
Philadelphia has exactly one freeway running into it from the west. This roadway is the Schuykill Expressway ... lovingly known hereabouts as the Sure-kill Expressway. The Sure-kill has baffling lane-changes and is, in some cases, two lanes going one way, two the other, with a concrete barrier between the eastbound and the westbound lanes. The southern side of the Sure-kill is a cliff, and the northern side is the Schuykill River, down a steep bluff. In other words, there's no way to expand this nail-biter of a deathtrap highway.
The Sure-kill is always packed with traffic. Always. Three in the morning, it's jammed. Sunday afternoon (even when the teams are away), it's jammed. If the radio announcer calls the mess a "rolling backup," that's good news. At least we're rolling. The snail on the bank of the Schuykill River's gaining ground on us, but yo ... we're in motion.
Whenever I set out for Valley Forge from Snobville, I always check the traffic report before I get on the Sure-kill. Today's report was ominous. President Obama and Vice President Biden were going to be at a rally in Germantown.
The rally was already in progress when I set out for Valley Forge, so I took the Sure-kill and flowed out to the western suburbs like semi-warm molasses.
Heir and I spent a lovely afternoon together watching the steam rise from the cooling towers at the Limerick nuclear power plant. Good times, good times. Then I got her some groceries and toiletries, slipped her fifty bucks, and bid her adieu with a warm maternal hug.
Time to go back to New Jersey on the Sure-kill Expressway.
Except there was a problem. A snag, so to speak.
President Obama needed to use the Sure-kill Expressway and its north-south cousin, Interstate 95, to get to Philadelphia International Airport.
You know what they do in these cases, reader? They close down the friggin freeway to all traffic, so that the presidential motorcade can proceed without impediment.
Both of Philadelphia's major arteries, closed completely for 40 minutes. Wow, what a mess.
Luckily, I checked the traffic report before leaving Valley Forge and thus was given a heads-up on our Fearless Leader's freeway use.
I know a round-about route that takes me down 476 almost to Wilmington, crosses the Delaware on an obscure bridge, and winds back north through the wilds of Jersey to Snobville. It's miles and miles out of the way, but you know what? I'm home now. If I had tried to get from Point B to Point A the same time that President Obama wanted to get from Point C to Point D, I would still be sitting in traffic on the Sure-kill Expressway. How do I know? As I was closing in on Snobville I checked the traffic report again. Sure enough, the traffic was bumper to bumper from Valley Forge right into Center City. Snails, tortoises, and sloths were making quicker progress than automobiles.
So this is my question. Why do presidents get to shut down freeways?
Seems to me that presidents could have bullet-proof SUVs that would proceed anonymously through major metropolitan traffic. Windows you couldn't see through. A few companion vehicles just in case there's a fender-bender.
Why should our president go to some urban neighborhood and pretend to be just an ordinary joe, then snarl traffic in a major city so he can get to the airport to his big ol' jet? This does not compute. Especially since there are Air Force bases in the vicinity, and he could get to Philly in a helicopter if he wanted to.
I wasn't inconvenienced by Fearless Leader today, because I checked the traffic report. But what about the other travelers on the Sure-kill Expressway on Sunday afternoon at 6:00? What if there was a woman in labor, stuck in that shut-down? What about the day-tripper returning from the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire with not much gas in the tank?
Causing inconvenience to the American public is business as usual for our country's leadership. Obama is not the first to require sacrifices of ordinary commuters. Lots and lots of presidents have done it before him. I guess I just thought that he would be a little different. He said it was time for a change. Couldn't that have included the way he moves between Points A and B?