Unfunny, but true

Well, it’s been a bizarre and roundly disagreeable week here at Killing Batteries, Minneapolis Edition. To start on a lighter note, I was finally forced to address a, erm, ‘condition’, that presented itself virtually the day after I arrived in the US. Since the US is the only country in the world where I don’t have health insurance at the moment, because pharmaceutical companies have more power than our president, a home remedy was invoked – which seems to be working thankfully – to avoid a gigantic medical bill or a full day in a dodgy free clinic. Unfortunately, the remedy temporarily required me to go cold turkey off caffeine and alcohol. Being a former Hypochondria All Star, I don’t want to go into detail about my condition here in case it all turns out to be psychosomatic, but I’ll tell you that a possible diagnosis of my symptoms rhymes with Benlarged Brostate. The painful irony was going off caffeine was infinitely worse than feeling like I have to pee 24 hours a day.

Enthusiastic coffee drinkers who have been forced to stop drinking overnight will know the singular, mind-boggling distress I went through during this ordeal. In fact, I’m ashamed to admit that I only lasted three pitiful days, where I hardly left the house, before the pounding headaches and dwindling will to live prevailed and I wretchedly made myself a coffee. And, oh, the joy. My energy increased instantaneously, my neural functions tripled and I think I saw Jesus’ face in the coffee grounds.

In the end, it seems caffeine, or at least coffee, wasn’t the culprit. A lot of rest and drinking all the cranberry juice in South Minneapolis seems to have done the trick. In your face medical industry!

On to more unpleasant topics. I don’t even know where to begin with this subject. It’s still much too fresh to be joking about it, but it needs addressing.

What is arguably the most important bridge in my city fell down with no warning last week. When something so physically huge that is such a large part of your every day life suddenly vanishes, your brain does this weird thing, possibly to keep us from going insane, where it doesn’t let you process everything all at once. I saw the first images of the disaster when I walked in the door from errands about 25 minutes after the collapse. I simply could not take it all in. My brain whipped up this giant filter and even though my eyes and ears were transmitting information about a destroyed bridge that I’d crossed about 204,956 times in my lifetime, I still could not absorb the enormity of it for a good hour. The same thing happened on 9/11, when it literally took me days of watching TV for everything to totally sink in.

They keep changing the statistics, but now they’re saying that about 140,000 cars crossed that bridge each day, though if you made me guess, I would have said something like 300,000 cars per day. It was the main north/south artery for Minneapolis. We drove over it several times a week, if not several times a day in many cases, a fact underscored by the countless people I’ve spoken to since the disaster who told tales of how they had just crossed the bridge 15 minutes before it collapsed, or were 15 minutes away from crossing it. We used that thing a lot.

And really, you don’t expect stuff like this to happen in the safe and sound environs of the Midwest after you’ve dared to drive across bridges in places like Romania, Myanmar and France (sorry, I couldn’t resist that one). In fact, after one has notched up a rather admirable list of questionable adventure and risk around the world, the very last place one expects to witness a man-made disaster is Minnesota, right?

While deaths caused by something like this are always a shock, what’s really unbelievable is the low number of deaths. At least 50 cars fell, including a full school bus, and as of this moment only five fatalities have been confirmed with eight more listed as missing. Some of those people fell 60 feet and walked away. Even in the best bucket seat, what are the odds? I have a buddy that’s a firefighter, he says he’s never cut a dead body out of a seatbelt. Wear your seatbelts folks.

Meanwhile, there’s the practical matter of how those 140,000 cars per day are going to cross the river and get across town with reasonable efficiency. They’re estimating that they can throw up a new bridge by the end of 2008. That’s a long time to do without your city’s primary north/south route. Furthermore, I rode my bike downtown on Friday and even with many people staying home from work that day, the gridlock in the area was pretty nasty. This week is going to be a harsh one as everyone figures out how they are gonna get to and from work and across town. Somewhat serviceable detours have been put in place, but they’ll add 10-30 minutes to the drive and that’s if traffic is good, which it won’t be because everyone else will be scampering to get through the same detours. Moreover, formerly quiet residential streets in the area are likely to become main drags as legions of savvy drivers develop creative work-arounds for the impasse.

It’s gonna be a rough 18 months.

Finally, Killing Batteries’ first guest blogger, Marge Knockerson-McLarge (not her real name, though she wishes), has weighed in with a local’s point of view of the bridge collapse aftermath and how Minnesota’s politicians all rushed in to make themselves useless:

During the aftermath of the 35W bridge collapse, both local and Federal politicians showed us again what ineffective, pandering morons they are. The best example of this was MN Senator Amy Klobuchar. Her remarks, which were pointless, smacked of ethnocentric rhetoric that grated on my nerves like a secretary loudly popping her gum. She said multiple times, “Bridges in America shouldn’t fall down.” Sigh. But really, a bridge collapsing anywhere is a tragedy, right Amy? Not just here in the U.S.

She began her little speeches by gushing about how proud she was to be a Minnesotan today because the state had responded quickly to the collapse (forgetting, apparently, that they should’ve PREVENTED the collapse). And she babbled about the citizens who jumped in to help those on the bridge, implying that kind of heroism would only occur in MN. Hmmm, I wonder what the people of NY, New Orleans, VA Tech, and everywhere else in the world would say about that?

If what she and others really meant was to say thanks, then just say it. How about, “Thank you to everyone who responded to the bridge collapse and helped those in need. We are all in your debt.” Try it that way next time, douche nozzle.

And to all the officials who try to reassure us by saying “we will rebuild”: duh. As if there were another option. Perhaps instead we’ll separate ourselves into Springfield and New Springfield like they did in an episode of The Simpsons.

Chestily yours,

[EDITOR NOTE: Brief clarification: Marge is simply venting her distaste for “asinine comments” made by politicians after the disaster and is not assigning blame to anyone. Just because Amy Klobuchar is cited above, does not make us Republican tools. We at Killing Batteries are aware that the heads of the Minnesota Department of Transportation are appointed by Minnesota’s governors. So when they have recovered those poor victims from the wreckage and people start asking hard questions about why 20 years worth of warnings about the bridge were categorically ignored, those questions should start with governors Arne Carlson (Republican), Jesse Ventura (Reform), Norm Coleman (Republican) and Tim Pawlenty (Republican) and their respective MnDOT directors.]