I may not be a Rhodes Scholar, because I always thought it was spelled r-o-a-d-s, but I have been told to hit the road so many times that I know a true roads scholar when I see one. And recently, I saw two.
It happened when a road (of course) crew was repaving the road (ditto) in front of my house to prepare for the long, hard road (stop!) of winter.
“I’m happy to see you,” I told Chris Vecchia, president of the company that was doing the job. “This road has more holes than I have in my head.”
“We can fill the holes in your head when we’re finished with the road, but it may take a lot more asphalt,” said Chris, who’s 34. He thanked me for the neighborly welcome but noted that not everybody is happy to see road crews.
“People complain that their roads are in rough shape, but when we show up to fill in potholes or repave the street, they complain that we are inconveniencing them,” said Chris, adding that the worst offenders are drivers who don’t obey detour signs.
“One time this old lady drove right into a trench we were filling in,” Chris recalled. “We had the whole trench barricaded off and were directing one-way traffic when this Honda Accord went around us and landed in the trench. The car was driven by a woman who had to be in her late 70s. She had a cast on her arm and a leg brace from the knee down.”
“Did she tell you what happened to her?” I asked.
“No, but I’m guessing it was a car accident,” Chris replied. “We asked her why she disobeyed the detour and she said she was on her way to the doctor’s office and this was the only way she knew how to get there.”
“Did you get her car out of the trench?” I inquired.
“Yes, but it took a lot of effort,” said Chris. “The front was about a foot down with the back sticking up. We got the lady out. Then we got a bunch of guys, including Big Sal, and they lifted the car out. She got back in and drove off without even saying thank you.”
“You must have been pretty steamed,” I said.
But not as much as Chris’ esteemed colleague, Donna Bubla, also known as Mama Donna, who operates a steamroller.
“There aren’t many women in this job,” said Donna, who’s 59 and has been doing it for 30 years. “But it’s fun.”
“We were repaving a road when this woman came out of her house and said she didn’t want us to do it, so she sat down in the street,” Donna recalled.
“What did you do?” I asked.
“We went around her,” said Donna.
“Good thing,” I noted. “Otherwise, you would have left her flat.”
“Another time,” Donna related, “a guy who was going through a bitter divorce had this ugly pewter statue that his wife was supposed to get.
“He asked me to run it over. I couldn’t do it, but somebody else did. We gave him the pieces. I’m sure his wife was thrilled.”
I was thrilled with the great job that Chris, Donna and the rest of the crew did.
“Now that you see what we do, you really are a roads scholar,” said Chris, adding that they’d be back to do other streets in the neighborhood. “We’ll bring extra asphalt for the holes in your head,” he promised. “Looks like it’ll be a big job.”
— Jerry Zezima