Monday, October 12, 2009

New Snow, New Streets

The snow is finally upon us. We got a little appetizer Friday night/Saturday morning, but Monday morning shows the precipitation in full strength. I like it, I think it's lovely, but I have an associated dread as every Minnesotan does three things:
  1. reacts with shock and outrage at the snow, as though it has never happened here before;
  2. completely forgets how to operate their car in light-snow conditions; and
  3. can find no other topic to discuss for the next six months.
What's up with this? They act like they've been living in Reno or Tampa for the past half-a-year and were abruptly shuttled to Siberia. Surprise? Where does the surprise come from? Do Minnesotans not know where they've been living all their lives? Do they complain about how wet the shower drenches them every time they use it? And how about that ubiquitous, relentless force of gravity, huh? Good lord, it was never like this where we came from.

Today I was going to ride my bike to work, but I have some shopping to do tonight and it doesn't lend itself to bicyclical transport. Hopefully my goggles and half-face mask will turn up in the mail soon, to make this stunt all the easier. As it was, I rode the bus and had to listen to two disgruntled and disempowered men ranting in louder than conversational tones about how deluded everyone else is: "People be stupid, believin' in all sorts of fairy tales. Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Columbus Day." Oh my gosh, were they angry. They would quote the Bible, then deride Columbus for not knowing the Earth was round prior to his voyage, completely overlooking the fact that he thought it was flat because the church made it illegal to suppose it was round. And then the topic of college came up. You know, college: that den of misinformation and propaganda. The truly smart people are those who drop out of school and escape the programming.

Their volume was merely inconsiderate but their content was infuriating. Ambrose Bierce wrote in his Devil's Dictionary: "positive: mistaken at the top of one's voice." The only thing that kept me from leaping in and disabusing them of their most egregious notions was the fact that I would gain nothing useful from a conversation with them. It would have been completely futile, insulting, and the exact opposite of "helpful." I'm pretty sure nothing I could've brought to the table would have altered their minds.

I discovered with a little surprise that this weekend was when they converted Hennepin Ave downtown to two-lane oppositional traffic. It looks good! The new pavement, the new lines, it looks real good. And it's a good thing I didn't try to bike in this new context, what with the snow and the confused drivers and all. When I do cycle in to work, I'll have to remember to take First Avenue up. I wonder how that looks from 11th St?

The cars, of course, have taken to it without problem. There are nice additional turn lanes to access the one-way streets which are in abundance. A few cyclists still come up and down Hennepin, either unable to break old habits or it genuinely is more useful for them. I am curious to try out the new cycle lanes on 1st Ave, now that my head's all full of such cyclist-pertinent issues as "Portland rules," scramble lights, bike blocks, &c. None of these exist, of course, but I wonder how long they'll be in coming as long as there's someone in Minneapolis' planning structure who cares two hoots about cycling.

It's really a case of the same old two mindsets at war with each other: "don't change the System, patch it up to enable it to run" versus "we need a new System to correct the problem." The latter represents progress, but the former is more popular for maintaining the status quo, and is implemented throughout U.S. industry, on all levels. Einstein would not have approved, as he believed we could not use the same tools or thinking to fix a problem that had been created by those same tools/thoughts.

3 comments:

Shanna (Crabbit) said...

I try to avoid listening to conversations on the bus as much as possible for those reasons. I got earbuds for my MP3 player that also act as earplugs to help. It's wonderful.

I complain about the snow only because the other people on the road get stupid. And if I'm drawn into a conversation about said snow, I just say "the clouds are broken."

Christian said...

Same here: my only complaint about winter is having to deal with everyone else who can't deal with it. My only response is to advise people to move out of Minnesota; to date, no one has enacted this elegant solution to the same old problem that vexes and surprises them year after year.

Rebecca said...

I will always stand by my right to complain about (or delight in) the weather in Minnesota! It's the one advantage of living someplace that can be so hot or so cold. And one need never apologize for complaining about something they can't change.