Harold Walters issues cautionary note about rough roads

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I’m too dependent on Mr. Google.

Harold N. Walters

This morning, after half-an-hour of intensive searching, I’ve failed to find the poem that’s on my mind. It might help if I knew the poem’s title or the author, I s’pose. I’m almost certain the author is Ogden Nash but I have only one squiggly line from the poem in my noggin — something about road signs.

The line from the poem has spawned an eponymous comedy group as well as an entire sub-genre of humour. That’s what I gather as a result of my diligent research at Mr. Google’s house.

The poem in question, by the poet in question, has some fun playing with the wording of road signs, especially — if I remember correctly — those that say things like SLOW CHILDREN CROSSING. The poet wonders, for instance, about the presence of FAST CHILDREN in the crosswalk.

Hold the thought.

If Dearest Duck wasn’t gone to the supermarket she’d surely question the by-road I’m about to take. Yet she’d trust me to find my way back to the main drag.

Veering off…

When I was a bay-boy living on my island home in a different bay, the local gravel roads were often rutted with potholes the size of millponds. After heavy rain, the potholes were deep and muddy. Automotive traffic was scarce in that Jurassic age so bay-boy sailors could safely launch fleets of roughly-hewn toy boats and sail away to Mandalay, or wherever, until their murky pothole mains ran dry.

Then Uncle Rube with his horse and his cart filled with gravel commenced his rounds. He shoveled clay from his cart box into the potholes until they were filled to the brim. He tamped down the clay with shovel blade, boots and cart wheels.

Kinda like Sisyphus, Uncle Rube struggled to stay ahead of his endless task. With Dobbin and cart he patrolled his section of the local road attempting to eliminate the possibility of potholes.

…and so on.

Pulling back onto the main road.

Recently, I was driving along a local thoroughfare with nary a poetic thought in my noggin. Knowing the condition of many of our paved roads, my eyes were peeled for potholes and asphalt gorges sufficient to compete with canyons grand.

Caution signs advised me to be … well, to be cautious: CAUTION POTHOLES AHEAD.

Cautiously, I geared down for rough terrain, and wheeled on down the canyon wall.

Driving safely from the pit, I steered around a bend and through an intersection only to see another highway sign: SLOW POTHOLES AHEAD.

Truly.

Although possibly he’s the wrong poet, Ogden Nash and his SLOW CHILDREN poem popped into my mind.

We never see the FAST POTHOLES because, I s’pose, they dash swiftly from curb to curb and hie-dee-ho into the alleyways and lanes less travelled.

“Harry, my sometimes inane love, you are about to wax ridiculous.”

Guess who’s returned from the supermarket, hopefully with herbal tea to compliment the frozen chocolate chip cookies hidden in the basement freezer.

“Keeping my hand in, my Duck. Employing metaphor and hyperbole remembered from a previous life.”

I press on, not necessarily proving Dearest Duck wrong.

P’raps the FAST POTHOLES play dodge ‘em with the traffic flow. P’raps at speeds too swift for human eyes to register, they hurl themselves from right-hand curbs, and faster than autos in a Madza advertisement, dash to left-hand curbs and take refuge in those aforementioned alleys and lanes.

P’raps, eh b’ys?

It’s the SLOW POTHOLES that cause so much trouble for motorists.

By nature, by definition, those potholes are slow. Therein lies the hazard.

Unlike their swifter kin, SLOW POTHOLES are not always able to cross the gap. They falter and fall, broken craters in the wheel ruts.

Most drivers manage to carefully negotiate the identified holes.

Just as the familiar MOOSE CROSSING signs don’t mean absolutely that moose will choose the marked spot to cross a highway — for greener browse, I s’pose — SLOW POTHOLES signs don’t mean definitely that potholes will appear immediately ahead.

Sometimes, a kilometre down the road at a place without signage, a SLOW POTHOLE will stumble into the roadway, fall belly-down and become an abyss, a chasm.

Those are the friggers that catch front-ends unaware and snap tie rods, crack control arms, fracture axles.

Highway crews with dump trucks filled with pebbled tar, like latter day Uncle Rubes, will never keep ahead of the perennial POTHOLE MIGRATION, eh b’ys?

Thank you for reading.

— Harold Walters lives Happily Ever After in Dunville, in the only Canadian province with its own time zone. How cool is that? Reach him at ghwalters663@gmail.com

Geographic location: Mandalay, Dunville

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  • Christine
    April 21, 2014 - 14:56

    Interesting story. I think the poem you are looking for is called "I'll Take the High Road Commission" by Ogden Nash. I found the words to it at http://badgermum.blogspot.ca/2013/08/ill-take-high-road-commission.html. I hope this is the one you were thinking about, and if not, enjoy this one.

    • Harold
      April 25, 2014 - 08:23

      This is the one! Thanks.