I think that it’s safe to say that, after this unforgettable Nebraska winter, we’ve all been eager to get out of the house and cure our cabin fever. But during the past five months, while we were trapped with nothing to do but shovel our driveways and watch reruns of The Shining on cable, none of us really had any idea that in our pursuit of fresh air and a view of anything besides our immediate family members, we’d be forced to drive an obstacle course through pothole pandemonium.
Recently, I slid behind the wheel of our car with my husband in the passenger seat. As we began our journey traveling 45 mph down 72nd Street to Nebraska Furniture Mart to spend another fun afternoon scoping out their mattress selection, my husband suddenly yelled, “WATCH OUT!” while simultaneously bracing for impact by digging his fingernails into the dashboard. If only his warning had come three seconds earlier, I might have been able to either remember where the brake pedal was or steer away from the giant crater that loomed just inches from my right front tire. With a car on one side of me and a curb on the other, I had no option but to close my eyes and pray that I had enough money in savings to pay for the damage.
As I hit a pothole the size of Texas, I screamed and held onto the steering wheel for dear life while my husband muttered, “I think I just lost a tooth.” Meanwhile, I contemplated whether I should have the car or my spine realigned first. A few seconds later, I checked my rear view mirror and breathed a sigh of relief. As far as I could tell, the muffler and three hub-caps were still attached to the car—the fourth rolled back into the darkness of the pothole—never to be seen again.
I stared at the road in front of me with the wariness of a 15-year-old driver who just picked up her learner’s permit from the DMV. As I continued traveling down 72nd Street, I felt like I was living through the end of a horror film when you know the killer isn’t really dead and he’s going to pop up and grab an innocent victim any minute.
Lately, I’ve learned more about the mechanics of why potholes form than I ever wanted to know. Local television stations have been interviewing road crews who tell us that potholes are formed when the asphalt cracks and expands due to constant freezing and thawing. Meanwhile, I just want to get to work without losing my suspension or my sanity. On occasion, I let fear take over and imagine that one day on my way home, my car will disintegrate piece by piece as I hit pothole after pothole and by the time I arrive on my block, I will have nothing left but the steering wheel, a fuzzy dice, and a map of South Dakota.
I know our road crews are working hard to fix all the craters created by a record breaking winter filled with snow, high wind, and ice, and I want them to know how much I appreciate their long days. So, every time I drive past the Omaha road crews, I honk, give them the thumbs up, and just as I turn my eyes back on the road, I scream, forget where my brake pedal is, and then drive straight into the huge pothole in front of their truck.