Wyndspirit Dreams
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The Price of Progress

July 9, 2003

The tar smile is no more. There is a quiet two-lane road that my parents and I travel when we visit back and forth. It used to be a main highway, until the Interstate came through, providing a parallel and much faster route. But the road is still widely used, mostly by the locals, and it’s beginning to show some wear and tear. For the past couple of years, it has been crisscrossed with tar strip patches—and one tar smile that made us smile every time we saw it. But they are finally resurfacing the road, and the tar smile is buried beneath a thick black blanket now.

On the plus side, so are the rumble strips that used to drive me insane. Four rumble strips, for one little old stop sign? It always marred my drive. I would be sailing along, enjoying the day, and I’d hit the rumble strips and be startled so badly my heart would be pounding for the next five miles. OK, rumble strips serve their purpose as a warning that you are coming to a stop sign, but I was not going to the stop sign! I was turning off on a right-turn yield, but I still hit four rumble strips. Maybe there were even more up by the stop sign—I don’t know. I never went that direction. But I still got the rumble strips. I’m glad they’re gone, and I hope they don’t put them back.

I suppose there is always a good and bad side to progress. Life is full of small sacrifices made to make things better in the long run. And, for all that people brag about the “good old days” and curse modern technology, I have yet to find somebody who would prefer to go back to the days of horses and buggies and outhouses. But still they complain about the sacrifices. The person who gets annoyed and blames computers when an item rings up incorrectly at the cash register because somebody in the back office keyed it in wrong is not thinking how many more mistakes were made when each cashier had to key in each price individually when it was rung up, compounding the element of human error. The person who complains that cars are designed so you have no choice but to hire a mechanic to work on them is not considering how much they would be paying for gas if it were not for the fuel efficiency of today’s cars.

It’s OK to miss the good parts of the “good old days,” but they are gone. Deal with it and get on with your life. Technology is here to stay, both in cash registers and cars. Tar smiles get covered over. And, yes, I will miss it.

Tar Smile