GREY MUTTER: It’s not good to get your timing wrong; when it happens to me I can agonise for weeks painting scenarios of what I could have done differently, writes Lance Fredericks.
SOMETIMES it just feels as if you are out of sync with the universe. It’s as if everything you attempt is doomed to failure. You feel like you’re trying to waltz but the band is playing a foxtrot.
A number of years ago there was a cartoon series – made up of a number of hilarious skits – being aired here in South Africa; one of those slots in the Animaniacs TV show was named ‘Good Idea, Bad Idea’.
In the skit you are introduced to a character called Mr Skullhead, an expressionless, bland skeleton that demonstrates the difference between good and bad choices.
For example, Mr Skullhead learns that it’s a Good Idea to take a deep breath before jumping into a pool, but a Bad Idea to do it after the fact. It becomes clear that it’s a Good Idea to buy ‘a pair o’ shoes’ on sale, and a Bad Idea – as he plummets to earth – to buy a parachute on sale.
But the one that really amused me for some reason is Mr Skullhead learning that it’s a Good Idea having breakfast served to you in bed, as his butler carries in a feast; but a bad idea – as he’s hit by a barrage of missiles – having tennis balls served to you in bed.
Poor Mr Skullhead; sometimes I know exactly how he feels. One example of this is how, a few weeks ago, I had to pick up a friend at the Kimberley airport. When I got there the pick up and drop off parking bays were occupied – and would you believe that one driver had intentionally parked his white VW Polo on the barrier line between two parking bays?
I then had the Good Idea to park in the paid parking area, reasoning that if the first 15 minutes of parking was free, that would give me more than enough time to park, run to the arrivals lounge, tell my pal where I was parked, have my parking validated at one of the pay station and be out in 10 minutes maximum.
It turned out to be a Bad Idea, because one of the pay stations was out of order, which meant that everyone who needed to pay for their parking was funnelled into one queue.
I wasn’t worried though, there was plenty of time.
However, after five people had paid and left without a hitch, the young man directly in front of me just happened to have a problem paying with his crumpled R20 bill. Over and over he tried – like the very definition of insanity – but it wasn’t going to work, not this day. Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, he slipped the note into his wallet and paid with his bank card.
And as I stepped up to the paystation – that very moment – the free 15 minutes had elapsed.
It’s not good to get your timing wrong; when it happens to me I can agonise for weeks painting scenarios of what I could have done differently. The “if onlys” and “what ifs” bounce around in my mind like popped kernels in a popcorn maker.
I say all this because I am very sympathetic towards the person or people who decided to build the four speed humps in Hercules Street last Friday.
Right off the bat, let me say that it was a very, very Good Idea. I have on occasion tried to enter Hercules Street from one of the side streets in Beaconsfield or Herlear, but with the trees on the sidewalk it’s difficult to see oncoming cars. The speed humps have now negated that problem, forcing cars in Hercules Street to slow down and giving drivers a better chance to enter the road safely.
However, drooping dollops of tar into a road and not marking them properly beforehand was a very, very Bad Idea. Here’s the problem, because of the trees, the speed humps were obscured by shade most of the time during the day. At night, the road is so dark that it is almost impossible to see the obstacles till you are right on top of them.
I saw a number of traffic cones one Friday afternoon as I used the road; by Saturday afternoon there were fewer cones and by Tuesday they were all but gone. If someone randomly tries to sell you a traffic cone this weekend, you’ll know where it came from.
There was a similar situation that ‘arose’ in Mac Dougall Street a few months back. Instead of erecting warning signs ahead of time, the speed humps were first built and then in hindsight young men had to be hired to stand at the speed hump waving a red flag to warn drivers of the obstacle in the road. I wonder, was this the best option?
Yes, the speed humps in both locations are painted now – that’s a Good Idea; but if the people responsible for erecting them do not keep them clearly marked it will be – you guessed it – a Bad Idea. There are dozens of unmaintained speed humps in our city, so my hopes for the Mac Dougall and Hercules Humps are not very high.
At the end of it all, it’s little things like these, these tiny irritations that actually should alert us to the larger issues at hand. Because increasingly it seems as if forethought and proper planning – which takes residents, visitors and ratepayers into consideration – has taken a back seat.
One time US president Abraham Lincoln hinted at the importance of planning, when he said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”