Not even light could escape the infinite nothing and its unrelenting gravitational pull. In its yawning maw, I could see only darkness as I pushed hard left to avoid a fork-bending careen into the bleak chasm of oblivion. Feeling cheated, the cosmic abyss could only lie in wait to ambush an unsuspecting victim.
Was I scooting by the accretion disk of Cygus-1 today? Nope — just down Delaware Avenue — where I had to dodge the event horizons of countless potholes, lest my scooter and I be catapulted into wreckage.
Some cities honor the quant notion that roads should be smooth, well-maintained thoroughfares that permit safe and expeditious travel.
Not my town.
My city recognizes that overcoming hardship strengthens character — and that conquering adversity builds self-esteem. (The more adversity, the better.) And to help ensure that no citizen suffers from a dearth of personal-growth opportunities, my city provides a broad array of potholes, depressions, and miscellaneous road voids. To be sure, filling potholes would be a paternalistic over-reach by city government run amok. There’s no telling where such behavior could lead. Drunk on power, a pot-hole-filling municipality might further oppress its citizenry by plowing snow or providing good schools. Thus, our unfilled asphalt singularities stand as symbols of our individual liberty and a staunch reminder than freedom has not perished from this earth.
(Glory, glory, hallelujah, etc., etc., blah, blah.)
Nonetheless, with all the opportunities for personal growth, redemption, and enlightenment that I get from other areas of my strife — I mean, life — it would be OK for illumination to relent when I’m trying to scoot home with at least most of a dozen eggs.
A particularly remarkable aspect of potholes around here is their tremendous diversity. Like black holes, potholes come in a range of sizes. Scientists classify black holes as stellar, intermediate, and super-massive. I classify potholes as: Shit, Oh, Shit!, and Holy Shit!! While black holes are borne of collapsed stars, potholes are borne of collapsed infrastructure. Since our infrastructure was put in place at the same time as the transcontinental railroad, it collapses a lot. (Horace Greeley probably told people to “Go west,” in order to get away from all our water main breaks — which erupt throughout the city like the fountains at the Bellagio. If I had more time, I’d figure out how to synchronize our water main breaks with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture or something.)
Not satisfied with having “regular” potholes, Philadelphia pioneered the notion of the Manhole-Pothole hybrid. This chimera results when an attempt to repave a street somehow manages to leave manhole covers that are six inches below the surface of the roadway. These beasts can never be filled in (lest the manhole be blocked) — with the result being a shiny, new street that is littered with a series of scooter-eating death traps at periodic intervals. (We can hardly blame the city for these — it’s not like the city already knew where all these manholes were or anything. Most likely the manholes spontaneously generated and tunneled into the road like bot flies.)
Coveting Yellowstone’s infamous Death Gulch, Philadelphia has also innovated its own take on that concept (i.e., the potgulch). When ravines are carved into a road to repair some something-or-other that lives underneath, we leave the channel in the middle of the street. Because, well, why not.
The Milky Way is believed to contain a few hundred million black holes. I estimate that Philadelphia contains about that many potholes, probably a few more.
OK, OK, a lot more.