It’s amazing how a couple of words can effect you. Like most folks, I had been reading about Hurricane Michael aiming straight for Panama City. But then I read that it had turned slightly and went right over Mexico Beach and that named jumped off the page at me. I lived in Mexico Beach for a few months in the late ’70s and moved from there to an island in St. Joseph’s Bay. I hadn’t thought about living in Mexico Beach for years, maybe decades, but the memories of those months came flooding back like I had opened a folder filled with old photos.
If the beach cottage we lived in was still there, I’m sure it’s gone now because there was no way it could have survived 150 mile an hour winds.
In snow, ice and hurricanes I try to stay off the main roads because it’s the other drivers that scare me, not the road conditions. But Friday afternoon shortly before 5 p.m., I had to drive on Friendly, Holden, Benjamin Parkway, Cornwallis and a few other streets. All of the traffic signals were out and I found that the other drivers were incredibly polite and thoughtful.
You are supposed to treat an intersection where the traffic signal is out as a four-way stop, which would have bottled up traffic forever. Instead, people drove as if the signal were working. Drivers on one street would go through slowly but without stopping and after a while drivers on that street would stop and let the cross street go through in the same fashion for a while and then the folks on the cross street would stop. Everyone even stopped as if there were a left turn signal.
It seemed to me that traffic was moving along not much differently than it does when the lights are working. We were, in fact, all breaking the law, but it worked, everywhere except Benjamin Parkway where most of the cars on Benjamin had stopped and the cars on Cornwallis had started edging out when a red pickup truck came blasting through on Benjamin without even slowing down. Everyone else slammed on brakes and nobody went anywhere for a few seconds.
I hope he (it was a he) was rushing to the hospital or had some other reason for risking the health and safety of the rest of us.
Speaking of traffic lights, currently Bellemeade between North Greene and North Eugene streets is closed while they are finishing construction on Carroll Bellemeade. But the traffic light at Bellemeade and Eugene appears to be operating on the same intervals as it was when Bellemeade was open and had traffic on it. What sense does that make.
I stop at that light several times a day and have yet to see a car on Bellemeade. The street doesn’t go anywhere right now and baseball season is over.
Back when the downtown was deserted after 5 p.m. and there were more vacant storefronts than occupied, it made a lot of sense to have festivals downtown. There was a lot of infrastructure, a lot of parking and the area wasn’t being used for much else.
That has changed and is changing.
If Greensboro wants to attract more residents and businesses downtown, it can’t expect businesses to suffer for a week for a festival. The streets, including Elm Street going south, were closed as much as a week before the North Carolina Folk Festival. It’s great to attract 150,000 people to Greensboro, but would it not benefit the city more to have the crowds at some other location, like the Battleground Park District – the Country Park, Guilford Battlefield, Lewis Recreation, Greensboro Jaycee Park, Greensboro Science Center area and then encourage people to enjoy the downtown after the festival.
I’ve been working downtown for 25 years and know my way around pretty well. However, before the folk festival it took me three tries to get to my office, and even on the first try I allowed for closed streets. If I had not been familiar with the downtown I would have given up and come back on another day. If I were a resident I would have called a city councilmember and demanded that I have access to my home like everyone else in Greensboro.
The city needs to recognize that it is not dealing with the downtown of the 1980s and 1990s.
The state calls it the rainy day fund, but when it was named I don’t think anyone expected it to actually be used for a couple of exceedingly rainy days. The Republicans in the legislature had socked away over $2 billion in the rainy day fund and this week decided to spend $800 million for hurricane damage, and most of that damage in North Carolina was caused by rain not wind.
Aren’t we fortunate they didn’t name it the earthquake fund?