Sunday, October 10, 2010

Prresidential Motorcade

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?


sott'Eos said...

> coming to you from a major metropolitan area smack in the middle of Eastern America's megalopolis!

In some of his books, William Gibson called it BAMA (the Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Area) aka "The Sprawl".

Lori F - MN said...

It's not HIS fault there's only one artery in and out of Philly.
And with the description of the road I'm surprised the pres actually took it. I mean, if someone had wanted to attack him, that road would have been perfect.

Intense Guy said...

Absolutely not, they NEED to understand that they are ONE of the PEOPLE and sit in line of traffic like the rest of us. They are NOT ElITE - they are HIRED HANDS.

And the Sure-kill just plain sucks - and demontrates the inability of people elected to short-terms to address longer term things like "capacity planning".

Obama could of just stayed home and did his rant on a TV camera and saved us all millions of dollars.

Maebius said...

Oh dear, having lived in Philly and knowing first-hand the chaos that a flat tire causes along the sure-kill... I can not even begin to fathom the hassle that actually cutting off that artery would do.

Hmm, it would be like cutting off an artery wouldn't it?!

Helicopters would be more efficient, yes, but than it would impact the Philadelphia airport commuters, to close off air-space around the city.

So, I agree: why should the head guy in charge of a government OF the people, FOR the people, and BY the people, be not treated like THE people? Dunno the answer to that. A little special treatment, sure, but not the sort of over-the-top stop the world "here come the chief" stuff that passes for normal protocol lately.

Pitch313 said...

I guess that I look at the Presidential traveling road show as one of the many executive privileges that come with the office. To the extent that it helps the officholder govern the nation, I don't mind the inconvenience.

Sadly and troublingly, history demonstrates that Presidents who get too close to the people become easier targets for those who try to solve political problems with guns and bombs and such. So I accept that various inconveniences follow from security around the President.

But, yes, in such circumstances, it helps to know the backroads and use them to get where you wanta go!

Hecate said...

Heh, welcome to my world.

Gruvkitty said...

Having lived for a couple of years within a stone's throw of the Sure-Kill, let me just add that my fav feature was the 5 foot on ramp that was like being shot out of a cannon into the Death Race 2000 (I lived there in 2000). Why was there always one A-hole who would decide he could go 125 MPH weaving in and out of already crazy nail biting traffic? *shudder*

Now I live in LA where I participate in Death Race 2010 every day...sometimes 3 or 4 times per day.

Pom said...

My husband has been held up in traffic and in the field while he's working by every president since the first Bush.

This entry made me think of Europe - specifically - American film makers in Europe trying to make a movie. They are in a constant state of frustration because the government will let them film but refuses to halt the people's daily lives for the sake for their films. This is the exact opposite in the US. Presidents and film makers are more than welcome to bring our lives to a screeching halt at their whim.

I suppose this means we're in the wrong business...

kimc said...

I think the reasons they get to halt everything include:
1) Security (very necessary in this day and age.) and
2) Lack of imagination. Others did it this way, we have to do it this way. etc.