There I am, Saturday morning on the 91 Freeway, westbound in Corona, as I start the merge over to the right lane to pick up Route 71.
But what’s this? Traffic? This early?
And that’s when I see the dreaded diamond of death, a 4-foot-by-4-foot orange canvas sign off to the side of the road and those two words every driver fears:
Surely there must be an accident, an oil spill, something unexpected and unplanned for to warrant the closing of an entire ramp for gosh sakes.
As my truck inches forward, I crawl increasingly closer to the ramp in question, expecting to see all matter of mischief and mayhem, plumes of black smoke, blaring sirens, some poor dying soul being Helivac’d to a hospital.
A shadowy figure finally starts to emerge. I squint and roll forward. And that’s when I see something that hits me like a head-on collision with a jack-knifing semi: A guy in an orange vest picking up hamburger wrappers.
More like 50 folks in orange vests, all standing knee-deep in ice plant picking up crap on the side of the ramp, my ramp, the one I can’t take because it’s dotted with orange cones. The ramp that is causing time to stop and an entire five-lane freeway to fill up and overflow with trapped cars, all because someone has chosen right now for 50 yahoos to stand in our way using jabbie sticks to poke at trash.
Southern California has an entire network of those flashing digital billboards. Most of the time they’re flashing something pointless such as “Drive Safely” (which most of us were already doing before we had to slam on the brakes to read a flashing billboard).
On other occasions the flashing billboards are used to pass along the license plate of some car harboring a kidnapped child. As far as I know this has never ever led to the arrest of a kidnapper, which makes sense because most of us can’t even remember our own license plates. The only way I’m going to spot a kidnapped kid is if he’s in the car right next to me holding a sign that reads “KIDNAPPED” with an arrow pointing at his crying face (and then only if I’m not fooling with the radio presets).
But you’d think somebody down at mission control could’ve changed a few of those flashing billboards that morning on the 91 Freeway to read “Ramp Closed.” Maybe I’m just being unreasonable, but having one four-foot sign that reads “Ramp Closed” doesn’t seem like the most effective form of communication, especially when it’s sitting 20 feet in front of the ramp that I can obviously see for myself is closed.
Or even better: Maybe those trash pickers can do their job during a less crowded time on the freeway, like say, 3AM.
I get it that nobody wants to work during the middle of the night, but if you ever find yourself in a reflective vest on the side of a freeway picking up trash? You’ve given up the choice of deciding when you get to work.
I mean, you’re not exactly negotiating from a position of power when a judge has sentenced you to pick up trash as part of your community service.
“What’s that? You don’t want to pick up trash at 3AM? Fine, good luck in the prison showers. Next case!”
I don’t think I’m overstating it when I say that, from our high taxes to our real estate bust to our immigration problem, everything about California pretty much blows.
And if you political types want to keep us voters from marching on the state capitol with pitchforks and fiery torches, maybe you could do something about the freeways. We’re not even asking you to improve the freeway system (lord knows I’ve got a better chance of crushing a hunk of coal into a diamond before Caltrans can repave a highway), we’re just asking you to take care of the freeways we’ve already got. So stop littering them with stoners picking up trash on a Saturday morning.
That’s all. And maybe a few more strategically placed “Ramp Closed” signs.
Oh and drive safely.