Twice a year our streets are taken over. In a few days a horde of young college students will gather on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, actually segregating, most acutely in Biloxi, on the roads and beaches, with a single purpose in mind – to relax and play. To socialize, catch up, and maybe make new friends. It’s spring break. It has come to be that as taxpaying citizens we must relinquish (do we have a choice?) the streets of our town once in the Spring to young adults arriving from various colleges, and once again in the Fall when aficionados of antique cars roll in from out of state, reveling in their shiny and refurbished old cars.
The latter, yet smaller group, are folks with disposable income out the kazoo, spending much more, we are told by city leaders, than the former group. But then again how much serious disposable income does a college student have? Maybe enough to spend on the Coast. The former group I believe has already arrived because I heard the hip hop, and rap, blaring at one intersection yesterday, and the weekend is yet two days away.
However, both groups share one thing in common – disruption of routine patterns of commerce and industry for the city’s working folks, including clogging the streets and grid-locking intersections, not infrequently refusing to let the taxpayer enter or pass when they have the green-light. So if you have business to conduct where the army-ant-invasion is trolling, then you may have to muster the virtue of patience and bide your time or leave two days early – assuming that particular business is open this weekend.
I remember well when the spring breakers first came to town. It happened the weekend when my elderly mother was in the ICU and I was returning from Gulfport on Highway 90. I took an unfortunate left onto Cowan Road, attempting to avoid the congested highway traffic ahead. My pupils dilated when I saw the Pass Road traffic, which wasn’t moving at all, cars bumper-to-bumper, and I merged molasses-like into the grid-locked intersection. It took me one hour to get to Debuys Road, a distance that typically takes at the most four minutes. (Days later a patient working at the Mall told me it took her six hours to get home to D’Iberville.) It was then I experienced something for the first time. An apoplectic fit.
I happened to be on call that weekend and realized if I were called by the hospital that I would not get there for several hours. And if my mother were to have a cardiac arrest I prayed her cardiologist was in the house. I said three Our Fathers and three Hail Mary’s and hoped for the best. The following Monday, in a cooler moment, I was moved to write a letter to the editor and one to my councilman and mayor, blah, blah, blah. I learned later that mine was one of many others he and the councilmen received about the municipal paralysis.
My wife and I may vacate our invaded streets this weekend. Not because we don’t want to participate in the gala but because the town for all practical purposes will be paralyzed and commerce, as we know it, for the most part, will come to a virtual halt. Or at least people’s customary patterns of doing business and moving around will be drastically altered. The city leaders, planning for the take-over, have done the best they can, with the manpower and resources they have. Someone thought of a very clever plan to address this army-ants-invasion-of-streets in order to prevent a locked-bowels situation, or more precisely, clogged arteries situation. The left lane of the east bound and west bound Highway 90 will be devoted for ambulance, law enforcement, and emergency vehicles. The invaders’ lane, the right lane, will be one way eastward and the other invaders’ lane will be one way westward.
In the same way New Orleanians vacate to Colorado and other places during Mardi Gras week, we’re thinking about heading up to a State Park. If we don’t, then we may just buy enough groceries to camp out at home from Friday through Sunday, grilling and watching the birds and squirrels. Maybe drink a beer, or two. Maybe watch some ballgames on television. Thought about inviting friends and family over but they probably wouldn’t arrive until two days later due to the streets being all constipated and such.
It’s nice to think our town is such an attraction to others who would travel to come and enjoy the sun, the beach, and all the amenities we have to offer. And for those who don’t like the sun, the beach, and amenities, they usually have a good time anyway just being with each other, if they don’t get close enough to shoot, fight, or argue.
Well, I do hope the weekend turns out to be a “good time had by all.” And if somehow, with all this visitors’ money flowing into our community, it contributes to our local taxes being lowered, or at least kept from being increased, then maybe it’s worth the inconvenience, the paralysis, and the imprisonment. Maybe. But I wouldn’t recommend we hold our breath.
No, we will be tolerant, as we should. (Do we have a choice?) It’s said that tolerance is the virtue that makes peace possible and contributes to the replacement of the culture of war by a culture of peace. In this way, hopefully, our blood pressures will all remain normal, our hemorrhoids will not prolapse, and if you possess the virtues of patience and gratitude, thankful that we live in such a desirable place as Biloxi, then your weekend just may be void of apoplectic fits.