A Mystery in Concrete

Concrete has a special reputation in films and crime novels. But in real life, not all concrete has the Mob’s fingerprints on it. Concrete firms are an innocent part of the construction business. At least that’s what I thought until my city recently decided to lay blobs of it everywhere. Traffic calming is what the city calls the ubiquitous creations.

The tear-shaped wedges at corners. The set of triangles that jut out at pedestrian crosswalks. The large, solid circles where narrow streets intersect. Some have signs on them. Others have inlays of fake stone. Some have withered plantings. One particularly bizarre circle has a row of stunted biomorphic sculptures that look like they were cut from tin cans. These attempts at decoration are as dispiriting as they are futile.

Mostly, what these concretions accomplish is to obstruct a driver’s view. They also cause cars to veer into oncoming traffic to avoid hitting the pedestrian walkways. If you can’t park on one side of the street and want to make a U-turn to park on the other side, forget it. The lump is in the way. The answer? I was blithely told by a traffic dept. employee to make my turns in the intersection. An intersection that hasn’t been taken up by a lump of concrete, ostensibly. Did it ever occur to them that there might be more accidents from cars making U-turns that way than there were before the drivers had their driving calmed?

So as I write this, they’re hard at work on my street, creating a tear-shaped chunk near the corner. They’re pouring the concrete right now. I’m itching to go over and see if someone’s cousin Luigi is lying inside the wooden pour forms. Not that I really believe anything that insidious is at work here. But with the city budget so tight they’ve closed down fire stations, you’d think the city would spend money on more important things than traffic control on a side street. Especially a street in a somewhat downtrodden, downtown area. (If we had a councilman living on the block, maybe…) But, somehow, there exists a public safety need for this new concrete! More urgent than a fire station! Scarier than a house on fire! And, apparently, for rabid northern California drivers, mere stop signs and traffic lights aren’t good enough

When I first learned of the planned incursion on my corner, I couldn’t understand it. Maybe I’d missed something? So I called the city and asked a friendly bureaucrat how many traffic accidents have been logged at my corner—the one that’s being endowed today. There was a long silence, so I repeated the question. Then after some keyboard clicking the answer came. “None.” The rest of the conversation went along the same fruitful lines. Sadly, the transcript isn’t available. It was recorded and has been filed in the Division of Illogical Decision Making on a top secret shelf.

So I leave you to draw your own conclusions. Why the burst of activity requiring all the man-hours and expensive equipment? The only answer I’ve got is that someone high up in the city government is related to someone else who runs a concrete business. Maybe not a mob relationship, but that is heinous enough in my book.

Mickey Hoffman is the author of the mystery novel School of Lies and the upcoming Deadly Traffic. Visit her at http://www.mickeyhoffman.com

~ by mickeyhoffman on October 25, 2011.

3 Responses to “A Mystery in Concrete”

  1. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Mostly I’m laughing because of the tie in to your book — Deadly Traffic.

  2. I also got the irony of it.

  3. […] https://mickeyhoffman.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/a-mystery-in-concrete/ […]

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