September 20, 2012
None of that is any good, but I've finally figured out why they're building the sidewalk: The real reason the City of Greensboro is doing this is because they are having a mad passionate love affair with sidewalks.
In fact, the city sidewalk people need to stop bothering citizens over their new romance; and they need to instead just have the sidewalk slip into something more comfortable and get a room.
You know, the City of Greensboro people love sidewalks so much it wouldn't surprise me one bit if they passed a law soon that outlawed walking on them.
Yost Column, June, 23, 2011
When I was a kid I always knew what I wanted to be when I grew up: I always dreamed of being the guy who holds the "Slow" sign when road crews are at work.
I always thought that would be a great job because you are helping protect the lives of your fellow road crewmembers, and you have a lot of power and authority because you're constantly telling drivers what to do. Also, it's about the least strenuous work I can think of, and you get to be outside enjoying the day all day long.
To me, growing up, I always thought the guy who got to hold the "Slow" sign had it much, much better than the sad pathetic road crew guy who had to hold the dreaded "Stop" sign – because that poor guy, on the other hand, has nothing but people mad at him all day long.
Unlike the "Slow" guy, who motions happily for traffic to proceed, the guy stuck with the "Stop" sign gets nothing but angry stares from hurried drivers from morning until night. People stay really mad at him, and the drivers honk at him and complain and are constantly giving him the evil eye.
So I always wanted to grow up to be the guy who held the slow sign.
But then, one day, sitting in the back of my parents' car observing things carefully as I always did, my dreams of growing up to become that guy came crashing down
around me when I saw, my idol, the slow sign guy, suddenly turn his sign around to reveal to my horrified amazement that – in addition to being the slow sign guy – he was the stop sign guy as well.
They were one and the same.
It was like a betrayal, a dagger through my heart, that the slow sign guy and the stop sign guy were simply two sides of the same coin. Good and evil. Darkness and light. Yin and yang. Chang and Eng. Luke, I'm your father.
So, after my childhood dreams were crushed, I settled for being a writer – a job where you don't get to be outside all day, and you don't get to tell people what to do, and you aren't protecting anyone's life – and, to boot, large groups of people stay mad at you all the time just as though you were the guy holding the sign that says "Stop."
The reason I've been thinking a lot lately about my childhood dreams is because the man with the sign has been right outside my house for days now, and I watch him from my window as he turns his sign relentlessly from slow to stop and back to slow again.
He's there because the city sidewalk people have finally begun putting a sidewalk in front of my house. (You are next by the way; ask not for whom the sidewalk man tolls …)
It all started about four years ago. I got a letter from the city people that said they would be putting a sidewalk in front of my house. That was right around the time when the city people were falling madly in love with sidewalks and they began having a mad passionate love affair with them.
And, ever since then, if you didn't know, the City of Greensboro has been attempting to get Greensboro in the Guinness Book of World Records as the city with the world's most sidewalks per capita.
So that's why they're putting down so many sidewalks. And the reason I, in particular, am getting a sidewalk against my loud objections is because the city and the county both have it out for me.
This is the same city that a few years back, no kidding, with police who took me downtown in handcuffs to blow a 0.00, and it's in the same county where they, also no kidding, recently began the process of garnishing my wages for a $30 tax bill that was seven weeks past due.
So there's no question that both city and county hall have it out for me – which brings us to the sidewalk people, who work for the city.
Now, the sidewalk people sent me that letter years ago saying that they would put in the sidewalk any time now, but over the years, they have, until now, never put in a sidewalk.
You know, after they sent me notification four years ago, I would never see them, but I would see evidence of their visitation. I would come home from work and see that someone had drawn some strange chalk marks in the grass, like an alien crop
circle event. Or there would be wooden stakes in the ground in a weird pattern or something else like that.
Then, finally, I saw one of the sidewalk people working on another part of the street, and I said, you know, you don't need to build a sidewalk in front of my house because no one ever walks in front of my house and the guy said, "Oh, you just wait."
He said, "Once that sidewalk is there then, buddy, you'll have plenty of people strolling up and down that street."
Then, about nine months ago, there were sidewalk people working on the street right out in front of my house and, I said to myself: That's it, Yost, reprieve over – your time has come. Say hello to your new sidewalk.
But to my happy amazement, I realized that the sidewalk people were working on the other side of the street, which I don't care about and, after they finished there they just packed up and moved on.
So I figured, well, maybe the sidewalk people have decided they don't need one on my side – because why in the world would you need a sidewalk on both sides of the street?
There's an answer to that question, but it's not a pretty one. The reason they always put sidewalks on both sides of the street at a cost to taxpayers of millions of extra dollars – even though they don't need sidewalks on both sides of the street (or even on one side in most cases for that matter) – is because no one wants a sidewalk in front of their house, and, if you put them there and you don't put one across the street, then the people unlucky enough to have the sidewalk on their side of the street get mad, because it's not fair that all the riffraff sauntering loudly and threateningly up and down the street are on their side and not on your side.
And the city sidewalk people don't care at all about doubling the cost: Hey, it's not their money – so why not build a sidewalk everywhere the mood hits them. Then, last year they sent me another letter to toy with me further.
"This letter," it said, "is to inform you that the City of Greensboro will begin construction of a sidewalk in front of the property that you occupy in the next few weeks, with the clearing of the larger trees taking place possibly next week. The sidewalk will be constructed at no cost to you …"
I stopped weeding and planting and fixing up the lawn near the road because a sidewalk was coming in any day now, but the sidewalk never came....continued on page 2