There are 55 million potholes in the United States according to recent research. This time of year, as walkways emerge from beneath feet of snow, the problem of finding a smooth path via car increases.
The technical reasons for these suspension-wrecking hazards are easily researched on the web. Solutions are nonexistent. If we live here, these craters will share the same space with us. Moving south, they would not be an issue, but then there'd be alligators and the occasional python in Florida, or a wayward scorpion in Texas to contend with. That, and who wants to stare down a javelina when they're munching your tulips on an Arizona morning? So, we persist.
Late March to early April is the time of year when potholes proliferate. Living in Duluth creates a multitude of opportunities to develop adaptive driving skills or cheap thrill seeking. Consider the Grand (not to be confused with the street) Slalom.
When a car is driven down any of the steep hills and dodges the next bottomless maw, it is sure to sharpen even the most distracted driver's focus. Then throw in the intermittent "geeze" or "damnit" when a diving lurch is followed by a bone-crunching thud, and that thump gets attention.
Even standing on a corner obediently waiting for the light to change has consequences. A rushing delivery truck that transports an overnight delivery of fingernail polish from Amazon has little awareness of the hole halfway across the street that is full of muddy, salty water. As it careens on its way, it crashes through the tear in the road and sprays the new shoes; wrong place, wrong time!
Areas around construction sites this time of year can be of particular concern when they are aggravated by the spring thaw. Potholes get really big! No high-speed dash to the nearest fast-food stop for a burger. The leftover yellow marker stuffed under the front seat used for the favorite walleye spot will come in handy when it's time to traverse the unplumbed depths. At least the Sheriff's Department or DNR will know where to look for you. Play it smart and put on a life jacket on the way to the french fries.
Adopting a pothole this year shouldn't be a problem. Other places have come up with creative ideas for crater enhancement. Some plant flowers in them, others use Photoshop and combine movie images to illustrate a point, still others, maybe not the brightest bulbs, have some enterprising angler tossing a line into a puncture in the asphalt in the hopes they will catch a crappie or two. Even recent debates about legalizing marijuana have stimulated some entrepreneurs to suggest the potholes be used as spots for cannabis growing.
Edmonton, Alberta, has proclaimed itself the "Pothole Capital of the World." But we have our own issues here. If our fearless leaders at the legislature would just get on board and let us tax ourselves, maybe we'd have a fighting chance at containing our own crop of road craters.
Doug Lewandowski is a retired counselor, educator and licensed psychologist. Write to him at email@example.com.