Now! For Our Next Act, We Will Screw In a Lightbulb... (Tale of a Traffic Light)



The traffic light in front of DCHS hangs dark and inert on Thursday. School resumes next week.

People who live in big cities miss out on a lot of life experiences that we small-townies take for granted: the calm assurance when we leave our possessions on the front porch at night that they will still be there in the morning; the comfort of knowing when we venture out with a broken limb that everyone we meet will open doors for us and hand us items from grocery shelves we can’t reach; and the dead certainty that if we have an alcoholic beverage, fight with our spouse or illicit love affair everybody in the county will be apprised of the minutest details by Sunday after church.

But one small-town experience urbanites probably do not mind missing is the life-and-death struggles one-traffic-light towns like Trenton have to endure to become two-traffic-light towns. That’s an exaggeration, of course. Trenton now has traffic lights in several places along its main drags, highways 11 and 136. But some Dade officials are currently biting their nails and hearing the Jaws theme in their heads as seconds tick away before school starts next Tuesday, and the long-awaited traffic light in front of Dade High on Highway 136 East remains dark.

The county and city governments as well as the board of education have all agitated for that traffic light for years. Finally, this year, they united to make it happen. The transportation department came through, the light was hung ... but it still wasn’t functional by the time school let out for the summer.

Well, it would be up when the kids came back, predicted all the governing authorities optimistically at their April meetings. But school resumes Aug. 8, it’s Aug. 4 now, and so far, the light is still hanging inert and black-wrapped.

“I noticed this morning it still wasn’t working,” said Dr. Jan Harris, superintendent of schools, questioned by telephone on Friday. She said she had talked with Dade County Executive Chairman Ted Rumley earlier in the week and had understood from him the light was still being tested. “They don’t want to start the light flashing without testing every little thing, in case there’s an accident,” said the superintendent.

The Planet accordingly consulted the county boss. “Georgia Power is the holdup now,” said Rumley.

The county, city and school board, explained Rumley, had pooled funds and hired a Chattanooga contractor, NABCO, to install the light. NABCO finished the job over a month ago but the light has been hanging there dark ever since, waiting for Georgia Power to run power to it.

Rumley said he’d spoken with the power company about the light and been assured it would do its best to have the light functioning by Tuesday. But, said the Boss: “Georgia Power is Georgia Power. They’re in their own world.”

The Planet, however, no respecter of other own worlds, forthwith called Georgia Power. There, public information official John Kraft obligingly checked on the matter with company field workers and called back to say they were on it, but: “They’re waiting for some connection points to be made by the company that installed the light.”

What are connection points? The Planet cannot say, but Kraft said he understood from workers on the ground that connection points were no big deal. “It shouldn’t be a lengthy process,” he said.

Whatever connection points are, is NABCO making them, and will they be connecting by Tuesday morning? The Planet called NABCO, which promised to check with its workers and call back. That hasn’t happened yet.

So will that red light be up and running by the time Dade’s teachers and teen drivers begin swarming in and out of the high school parking lot on Tuesday? Time will tell, and The Planet will faithfully report.

For now, though, The Planet must sign off before succumbing helplessly to the siren call of lightbulb jokes...


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