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Tomorrow morning, unless a magical window of escape beckons before me otherwise, I am slated to appear in Pittsburgh, PA for a dentist appointment.
Along with its many and varied cultural offerings, Pittsburgh houses the national president of holistic dentistry. And, I have a hot root canal, poised to wreak its systemic havoc via the lymphatic channels of my unsuspecting body.
But, there is no havoc wreaked on the mind or body greater in breadth or scope than a trip to Pittsburgh.
The rest of the Commonwealth, at least at the northwest end, is easily accessible. The city where I live was laid out, port to its companion Great Lake, in a logical, “Philadelphia” style grid; everywhere we want or need to go is well within a solid ten minutes of commute in any direction. And, this is all accomplished simply by turning either right, or left, and proceeding in a straight line.
One wonders if the developers, who transformed Pittsburgh a couple decades ago from a smelly steel town into a hip and swanky hang for the wealthy and sophisticated, even cared if anybody ever came to visit.
The freeway lay as a driver approaches the metropolitan area is, simply put, foreboding. In an effort to escape the narrow streets and steep hills of its established neighborhoods, multiple steel reinforced layers of looping concrete envelope the entire landscape. Add to this an equal number of routes marked One Way, and you have a recipe for the Race to No Place. And, you get there in a far bigger hurry than you could possibly anticipate.
A couple years ago, I went my way down into that pit to search out a Steinway piano sale. The shop was situated on a narrow side avenue, across a bridge and between two hills that curved and diverged into infinity. The proprietor, a surgeon, was dispensing with all of his high end pianos because, he said, the location of the sales room drew few potential buyers and made deliveries difficult. Well, hello.
When I finally found the place, he was standing on the corner with his cell phone, directing me into the appropriate parking lot. Had the weather been pouring rain I would still be circling that block, two full years hence.
Historically, were the freight routes, bearing their loads of steel on large flatbeds, capable of being negotiated to and from the mills and refineries? If so, why are mere automated vehicles forced into this maze of intimidating, multi-lane, endlessly branching, suddenly exiting ramps and roller coasters?
There’s a trend in American civil engineering. Perhaps it receives its cue from the cardiac surgery industry. Take an existing ghetto, populated by the intractably impoverished, and build a cement bypass around it; take multiple slums, and build a whole tree of these. Get everybody to camp out at full speed for twenty nine minutes, just to be sure they never see how the other half lives, and hope they all arrive at your destination station without collateral damage.
I know one thing. No dental diversion will force me into a street marked Wrong Way, coasting to a stop just to stare balefully at the place where I am trying to go, its building fully visible from across the river. If the computerized voice on my GPS tracker can’t get me there, I’m not going.
And, Pittsburgh, you can bet that, next time, I’ll be inviting that dentist to move to Erie.
© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 12/12/16 All rights those of the insulated resident of Northwestern PA content to live where there are eleven public beaches and total access to everything a human wants or needs, the author. Thank you for coming.