Monday, June 8, 2009

They Tried To Save Me...It Didn't Work

Thirty years ago the Trans-Canada Highway (TCH) was a sidewinder. It snaked its way through the province, following the St. John River (SJR) from Edmundston to Jemseg before leaving the river to take you along Grand Lake's shores, followed by a seemingly endless forest passage. It was a gorgeous drive that was also frustrating as hell.

The TCH was a two lane highway with inadequate passing lanes. When you were unlucky enough to get stuck behind a rattling old RV or a road constricting 18-wheeler, you were toast (something that I can only dream of this morning...see Saturday, June 6's toast post).

I love the efficiency of the new four lane highway through the province, but my gosh (OMG) it's boring. The only thing that keeps me awake is the likelihood of seeing a thousand pound moose entering the trunk of my car by passing first through the windshield, then the front seat and finally the back seat. This would make me very upset, because I just cleaned the windshield of my car and recently replaced the wipers.

I used to drive the four lane highway between Jemseg and Oromocto twice a day for four years. This was back when I had a part-time job driving my son to school. During my 'time of pain' I saw twenty-eight moose, fourteen of them dead. Someone was hitting moose, likely 18-wheelers but I'm not sure. The highway is no place for Bullwinkle.

New Brunswick used to be known as the 'picture province', for me it still is because I take the road less traveled. For tourists in a hurry, New Brunswick must look like Northern Ontario (that's not a compliment). There are few pictures to be taken from the highway, unless you like documenting roadkill. I'm not much interested in photographing roadkill, I'd far rather pose.

When I was in high school in Fredericton (FHS), I once got a fine for jaywalking across Prospect Street. There was no crosswalk between McDonald's and Zeller's, two of my favourite lunchtime haunts (translation: I had no life, or at least no taste buds), so I took my life in my feet and crossed where I wanted. The fine was five dollars, a paltry sum now, but at the time Big Macs were selling for about a dollar, so it was BIG money. I was incensed by the fine. Today five dollars won't get you a Big Mac in Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Iceland or Denmark (reference: the Big Mac Index (BMI)).

Clearly the fine didn't work. Sure it kept me off Prospect Street for a couple of weeks but then I was back to my old habits. I just changed my strategy, watching for the cops before I crossed the road. It didn't teach me to stay off the road, it taught me to fear the police. Look at me now, I lay on my back in the middle of the road like a freezer-burned raccoon. The lesson was lost on me. I'd like to have my five bucks back too.

A lot of intelligent little kids ask their parents about roadkill. Some parents, the same ones who insist to their thirty-five year old, thumb-sucking sons, that Santa Claus is real , use the line that the flattened animal, or prostrate leisurologist, is just 'sleeping'. I never liked that line as I pictured legions of kids settling down for bedtime on the highways and byways of North America.

Kids shouldn't nap on the road but if teenagers want to jaywalk, let them! If they get hit by cars, then too bad (SOL). I'll often stand at crosswalks when they're isn't a car in sight, and I'll look at that no crossing sign with contempt. I'd like to see illuminated crosswalk signs changed to have three messages.

I think that we should be encouraged to use our brains to decide whether it's safe to cross or not. It prepares us for life. I'm going to start a grassroots movement to change the way people cross the road. Do you want to join me? We could change the world!

I'm not taking this one laying down...hopefully. Neither should you.

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