September comes. It comes with the heaviness of a known dread, the resignation that it is a circumstance – in its many unfolding contours -that must be faced with a readiness that is part steeliness and the rest a dour stoicism. The music must be faced.
On this one occasion in the life of Guyana, September has nothing to with the electoral; or of such pungent abstractions as possible merges, lists, and electors. It is neither the cinematic romance of “Come September” of Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida fame nor the theme of the same name composed by Bobby Darin and played by Billy Vaughn and his Orchestra.
The September that comes in Guyana, and the dread that comes with it, is of the roads. The roads with their jarring jostling and jamming for an inch of space in gruelling efforts to get to just about every place.
It wasn’t helped on the first day of the school and work week that the unexpected made mincemeat of the day for the people from ‘over the river’ when the Demerara Harbour Bridge was slammed by the unpredictable. A mess was made of the roadways and passageways to and from over there.
Local roads: the alleyways, byways, and carriageways that function as personal express highways for the impatiently hurrying, the dangerously speeding, and the abusively menacing. This is the dread of September felt by parents and caretakers of children trundling on their way to institutions of learning clustered around the big city and its peripheries.
It is the same for those professionals, who care for them during the classroom day. The dread comes because, often, there is so little regard for other road users, so much unconcern for the physical fact of tens of thousands of younger ones clogging up already choked and limited roads.
The relatively tranquil respite of a smoother commute, a less stressful round trip to work or marketplace or other places of business during most of July and August, vanishes with the sound of the first gong that signals schools in session.
The endurance tests of skill and nerve, and of caution and discreet, subdued acceleration makes the driving age adults forget the memory of the long school holiday, as though it never existed.
The dread comes with a furious rush; not the slow rush-hour buildup and paralysis that characterize the Demerara Harbour Bridge; but a rush that can be mentally draining and physically sapping.
All this is made still more agitating by the mad people in and out of machines. For this can be observed daily through the lane changers, light beaters, street walkers and foot draggers (pedestrian crossers), double parkers, and assorted vehicular gaffers perched in the middle of busy streets and roads.
They do so without a care in the world; and without any fear as to being called out and made to pay for the error of their ways. For there is, also, the inaction and instances provided by the batteries of environmental officers scanning sky, trees, grass, and everywhere else. It is everywhere else, other than the human hazards to the crisp, smooth flow of traffic, as well as to the perils of life and limb.
Environmental officer is a polite term for the traffic people, who go about duties and responsibilities with the nonchalance of the acutely hard of hearing and the cataract challenged: untroubled and unmoved.
It should not surprise that the Guyanese road hogs all come out with a vengeance – duly energized by the misnamed ‘summer’ vacation hiatus -and ready to continue as before.
They have few conscientious official human restraints to consider, either ahead of them or in the rearview mirror. There is bound to be tensions and eruptions with so many faces in so many tight spaces. Confrontations all too fluidly provide glimmers of the simmer that lurk just below the social and now electorally driven surface. It only adds to making the place smaller, less habitable, and the routine of the usual travels more of a watchful ordeal involving men, machines, and the mayhems that are a part of all three.
This is what comes with school reopening and September. It starts and intensifies with September. Right in front of that torrid baseline stands the clogs and crinkles that come with the bustling Christmas Season. That is, if country and citizen can somehow navigate their way to that fateful watermark in a year much bedeviled with one political depth charge after another that takes it ever farther down.
The good word, though distant is that alternate surfaces are being constructed to dilute some of the congestions that plague heavily traveled areas. The bad news is that they are still on the intermediate horizon, and not available for the urgent access and relief needed now. And last, from the magic weaved by prospective petrodollars and dancing in local heads, it might be opportune for the initiation of thoughtful visions focused on comprehensive urban planning, through readying to build entirely new infrastructure platforms.
In a land with so much land, a bigger, higher, nicer town and many arterial roads sound nice, even with only the dreaming. Political sense needed; wisdom and visions also (of a real nation).
Clearly, modern roads must be a vital component, if only to make the commute a year-round experience that is more health-giving and spiritually satisfying. No one out there (or up there) should have a problem with any of this. Or do they?
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