It was bitterly cold, 18 degrees with a wind chill that made it feel more like seven. And the buses that take seniors from the designated parking area near Northwestern University’s Welsh-Ryan Arena to continuing education classes on the campus were nowhere to be found. The culprit – an able-bodied member of the arena construction crew who moved the no parking cone to park closer to where he was working. Now the buses couldn’t make the turn, stranding folks the age of his parents, or maybe his grandparents.
I joined several other seniors wandering over the icy, wind-whipped lot. We saw an unfamiliar bus at the far end of the pretty large parking area. After walking cautiously across the lot, we arrived to be told that bus was full. We had to work our way to another bus some distance away that had to park on the street. Luckily, no one fell on the ice. But it was not an easy journey.
Folks do thoughtless things, and I hope Mortenson Construction will explain to its workers that there are good reasons for spaces to be blocked off by cones. The huge Welsh-Ryan Arena construction project, which began at the conclusion of the basketball season in March 2017, will be ongoing until the fall of 2018. While the old arena still served its purpose, what university would not want a shiny new $110-plus million one for the enjoyment of students and alums?
Here’s the thing. The excellent class I was attending that day was sponsored by the NU Alumni Association. People had come out on a very cold day to learn about Hamilton’s America. The class is a combination of the history of pre and post-revolutionary times and the forces that created our country, and an analysis of how that plays out in Lin Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton. I know, that’s far less important than making sure construction workers can park closer to the arena construction site. But the fact that seniors like me still want to learn should count for something, right?
I get it. Moving the cones was a thoughtless act by a few people I will never meet. Evidently, they had either left for lunch by the time the buses returned or someone had asked them to move their cars. But the cold weather seems to bring out the worst in people when it comes to putting their vehicles in places that are most convenient for them regardless of the impact on others.
That same day, I was driving home on Chicago Avenue in Evanston. While this is a main street, there are only two lanes with parked cars on both sides. And there, double-parked on an angle, was a car forcing drivers to veer into oncoming traffic to get around. As I waited for my opportunity to pass, someone flung open the street-side door, and a man emerged in front of me making it impossible to pass. Lucky for both of us I was at a standstill. And by the way, he was perfectly able-bodied and fairly young, so why block traffic rather than finding a parking space or safe place to pull over next to the curb?
Winter is tough in this neck of the woods, especially for folks my age who want to continue doing things but are terrified of falling on icy pavement. It would sure help if drivers found a way to pull over to the curb rather than blocking side streets while waiting to pick up people. And it is especially important to respect handicapped parking spaces as well as areas that are reserved for folks who need to board buses of all kinds.
It’s going to snow a lot this week. If you are young, healthy, and able, please don’t leave those who are not out in the cold. And to my fellow seniors who want to get out and learn, be careful out there.
Addition to post, February 7, 2018: