Dear MDOT (also known as Michigan Department of Transportation—or, in some (many) circles, Michigan Department of Torture),
On any given day, my feelings for you are little more than a basic dislike. Sort of like the way I feel about that first mosquito of the evening in the summer, the one that’s warning me that I’ve got about ten seconds to take cover, because I’m about to be eaten alive by its brethren. What’s really annoying about that damn mosquito is that gorgeous summer nights in Michigan are rare, and we are reluctant to give them up, even for blood-sucking mosquitoes. Bring on the DEET.
If only there was MDOT DEET.
You see, right about late April, that general annoyance turns into hardcore, absolute loathing. As the orange construction barrels come out and my commute grows longer and longer and LONGER, I run out of ways to occupy my time while I SIT IN TRAFFIC. And since it’s frowned upon to scroll Facebook while you’re on the road, even when you’re practically parked in the middle of the street, I tend to start daydreaming. And since you are first and foremost in my thoughts these days, I’ve begun to imagine what MDOT employees’ lives are like.
I imagine what it’s like to work for a state-funded road construction company in January, in the Midwest. On a frigid day where the sky is a gorgeous shade of blue, unobstructed by a single cloud. It hasn’t snowed in a few, so the roads are clear, dry even. And there’s no precipitation in the forecast for at least thirty-six hours. No need to call in the salt truck and snowplow drivers, no need to replenish the supplies. So you have nothing but time on your hands…
“Hey, Joe, let’s play that Game of Thrones game.”
Joe jerks out of his snooze, the front legs of his chair hitting the linoleum floor with a thwack. “What the hell you talking about, Frank?” he demands while rubbing sleep out of his eyes.
“You know, where we look at the map and decide where to set up construction next spring. And our goal is to fuck up as many commuters as humanly possible. Remember when we came up with that seventeen-year I-75 project?” Frank’s bobbing his head, practically panting like an eager puppy, ready to play fetch.
“Yeah, that was pretty genius,” Joe says with a chuckle, as he recalls last winter, when they played this same game. “Okay, okay, let’s play. Who gets to go first?”
“Here’s a piece of paper. Whoever can draw the most convoluted detour route wins. Ready? Go!”
“Shit, I always suck at this part.” Joe shakes his head as he stares at his drawing. “Look, I took drivers a really direct way around the construction. No closed roads or anything. Man, I need more training.”
“Let’s see if we can fix that. Here, take these darts. Now, let me set up this dartboard. What’s that look like to you?”
Joe lifts his hand and points at his palm, at the base of his thumb. “Southeast Michigan.”
“Yep. And see this road?” Frank waves his finger up and down, indicating north-to-south.
“Yeah. That’s M5. Isn’t that a fairly new road? We aren’t planning construction already, are we?”
“Oh, hell yes we are. Not just construction, but we’re closing the fucking road. Those commuters are getting way too comfortable. We need to shake things up a bit. Now, how good a dart player are you?”
Joe grins and smacks his chest. “Pretty decent, actually. I’ve won my family’s annual tournament seven years’ running now.”
“Excellent. Here. See how many roads near M5 you can hit. For every one you get, we’ll shut it down for approximately the same time we expect the construction on M5 to take. Bonus if they’re north-south routes, like M5.”
Joe whistles. “Damn, you’re cold-hearted, Frank.”
With a wicked grin, Frank says, “That’s why I work for MDOT, Joe.”
Disclaimer: I’m sure MDOT employees are lovely people who do not throw darts to determine which roads they should close or repave. Heck, they may even read romance novels. This is simply the mental meanderings of an author stuck in rush hour traffic…again.
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