Have you ever been driving along, seen or thought of something, and suddenly realized just how stupid it really was?
Take, for example (I hope you knew I was comin' at this one with examples), the billboard I saw on my way in to work this morning. At first, all I saw was a great big mostly-blackened banana. Now, the first thing I used to think of when I saw bananas at that stage of their life cycle was "banana bread!" I've had a lot of banana bread over the years, though, and it no longer excites me any more than fruitcake does, and so now all I really think of when I see said banana is "Eww. Eww, throw it out. Toss it out, and then take out the trash. Then call the trash people to come by early to get. That. Thing. Out. Of. My. Life.
Once I got closer, I was able to read the text: "Everything gets old, including your shocks." Say what? It's a shock absorber ad? Now, granted, I don't often think of yummies when I think of my shocks, but I doubt a marketer wants me thinking of the opposite at that time either. "Hey, I need to go to your business and--eww, gross--bad bananas--get my shocks replaced."
At the same time I was cruising--if you'll let me use that word to describe the act of driving very slowly on the Interstate entertained by my neighbor's radio and the brake lights of the cars ahead blinking on and off seemingly to the rhythm of the very loud rap song--okay, now, where was I?
Oh, right, cruising. Ish.
It was the morning rush hour, and the mix of cars and semi trailers on the road where I-40 and I-240 meet always causes a bit of a slowdown. As I considered it, though, I began to wonder who designed that interchange in the first place. I mean, typically when Interstates meet, especially when one is a major national artery and another is a local city bypass, they do so following some fairly standard practices so that the non-locals on the road have a chance of not looking stupid and/or slowing traffic to a crawl. This one, though, has a major on-ramp with two lanes of traffic merging onto the Interstate, both of which narrow down to one, and that one merges, has an "Exit Only" sign on it, and then ends (without an exit, as it happens). Rifht after the merge, one highway heads to the south (left) and swings by most of the businesses, Graceland, and the airport. Of course, it breaks off to the right, not the left. The highway that continues through to the right? No, it doesn't break left. What goes left is an exit to a regular road.
What that exchange brings every morning is a flood of commuters coming in from the left-side high occupancy vehicle lanes way back before (the designations of which disappear well before this mess) merging right, the folks entering the Interstate merging left, the through semis who've been restricted to the right lanes now trying desperately to claw their way to the left lanes, and all the while everybody else is just dazed and confused.
Who designed that crap?
Memphis certainly isn't alone in such strange designs. I heard all about how wonderful "The Fan" area of Richmond was--it was old, you see, and it was, um, stuff. Why's it called "The Fan?" Because it's proof that early Virginians couldn't make a road go straight for more than a mile or so. And then there was the area of town my favorite bookstore was in, the "we don't have any on-street parking, but we have cool cobblestones." Yeah, great. I'll wave as I drive by on the cool cobblestones.
And because that bit isn't enough, there was the coaching I received on getting home most efficiently when I was a newbie to Richmond roads:
"Go down to Cary Street and take a right."
"But Cary Street doesn't go to my part of town."
"It runs around and through for a while and then becomes River Road, though."
"But River Road doesn't go to my part of town, either."
"But after it crosses the river and runs through a couple of parks and then changes names again, it does."
"So, over the river and through the woods, to Midlothian we go? It ain't grandmother's house, but it's close enough."
No, I didn't make that up. The road really does that crap.
Phoenix, Arizona, on the other hand, is laid out just about as intelligently as a city can be, I'd say. Most streets run either north-south or east-west, and generally the only reason a major arterial road ends is a "terrain feature" like a big frickin' hill. So, it's nice, and it makes sense.
Except for the Pima bridge.
When I arrived in 1992, fresh out of active duty, I got a job in north Scottsdale. I lived in Mesa (the cheap area). That meant I drove a long way north every morning, and a long way south every evening. Given the generally north-south run of the roads there, I had a lot of great options for the commute path. One, in particular, was special, though. It seems that they were already planning for the mammoth highway 101 loop around the city (which now exists in all of its backed-up glory), to the point where they'd actually started it. With an overpass. In the middle of a field. That I could see from the Pima Road as I drove to work.
"Why is there a bridge in the middle of that field?" I asked some co-workers one day. It's the coming highway, you see.... Okay, but shouldn't they build the highway first, and then connect it over--um, whatever that bridge is built over? Looks like a cow path to me, but hey, whatever heats your asphalt.
And then there was the driveway at the Arizona Department of Transportation building that sported a "One Way" sign at each end of the driveway. Of course, the signs were opposite each other. Once I'd been in Phoenix a while and realized what that degree of sunshine did to peoples' minds, though, I assumed they'd done that on purpose.
Ya gotta love it....