WHEN young people complain about this winter's record snowfall, I find myself saying stuff like, "You call this a winter? This ain't no stinkin' winter! You shoulda seen the winter of '96! Now that was a winter."
When I catch myself speaking that way, I feel like one of those old guys who buy one cup of coffee for 99 cents, then spend the entire day in McDonald's talking crap about how bad things used to be. Yes, it's true that I drove up the East Coast during the three-foot snowstorm in '96. It's also true that I found myself ice skating on a slick Broad Street sidewalk that year. But to tell you the truth, there's one thing about this year's winter that's 10 times worse than anything I've seen in the past.
The craters that have appeared in the wake of this year's repeated snowfalls are like creatures from the god-awful horror flicks my wife watches on those old movie networks. Some of the potholes are so huge I feel like they should have names. And not regular names, either. No, they should have monster names, like Gigantor and Mothra, and they should get to star in their own B movies, too. The way I figure it, as long as our potholes are swallowing cars whole, the city might as well get paid for it. Who knows? If we make enough money, we might even be able to fill one or two of them.
So, in the interest of helping my city to fill its potholes, I've come up with a concept for a movie. I call it "The Pothole Wars." Cue husky, tough guy voice, and fade in on the opening scene.
EXT. DANGEROUS PHILADELPHIA STREET - DAY
VOICEOVER: In a world where the average pothole can swallow a skyscraper whole, street crews are too busy taking coffee breaks and ogling women to do anything about it. But one man has decided he's had enough, and even as his wife cries out that it's much too dangerous to try, SOLOMON JONES gets in his nondescript Toyota, buckles in tight, and prepares to face one of Philly's most notorious potholes.
The locals call it the HUMONGOUS ONE, and with good reason. It's so big, the Philadelphia Eagles are considering holding training camp there. It has so many sections there's been talk of redecorating it and naming it Downton Abbey. This monstrous pothole, with its evil, car-swallowing history, has not only destroyed automobiles, it also has taken men.
Just last week, an entire pothole-filling crew disappeared in its depths, while still clutching their coffee and doughnuts. Those men are still trapped in the Humongous One. And since the federal government has refused to send in troops, and the state has decided against mobilizing the National Guard, Solomon has chosen to go it alone, but he'll have to hurry.
With the clock still ticking and their doughnuts running out, those men have only 24 hours before they are forced to eat their cigarettes. As tempting as it is to let them, Solomon can't let that happen, so he starts up his car, and, with the mist rising over the Humongous One's cavernous opening, he drives into the belly of the beast.
INT. HUMONGOUS POTHOLE - DAY
"Hey, pothole crew. Are you in here?" Solomon yells, his voice echoing along the pothole's vast walls.
"We're over here! Just follow the scent of the chocolate glazed doughnuts and hazelnut coffee!"
Solomon looks over his shoulder at the car he destroyed in the 50-foot drop into the Humongous One. Suddenly, he's torn. Should he save the guys whose job it was to fill this and the thousands of other potholes that have made his city look like a crater-dotted war zone? Or should he go back from whence he came, and allow poetic justice to prevail?
Well, that's the concept. Today, as you zigzag along ice-covered roads while dodging giant potholes as if you're competing in the Giant Slalom, consider what you would do in the same situation.
Would you save the men who fill giant potholes with bits of asphalt that last for about five minutes?
Would you have pity on the guys who have allowed potholes to grow so large that they acquired their own zip codes?
Would you do the right thing and save them, knowing that they wouldn't even be charged with filling potholes if the roads had been soundly constructed in the first place?
Tune in next time for the second installment in "The Pothole Wars," a movie starring a regular Philadelphian, his torn up car and the potholes that made it that way.