Memo to NS:TPW re: My Driveway by William Matheson
My driveway has a lot of problems. One particular problem, as cab drivers and parents-of-friends are quick to point out, is that it is long. To speak for myself, I hardly notice the length - it's the last thought to cross my mind as I walk up its length in mud-and-gravel coated shoes. The majority of my thoughts dwell upon what snarling, ghastly thing might come a' leaping out of the thick trees at any second, and upon my folly in not buying that Canadian Legal Will Kit for $29.95 plus shipping and handling.
As you may have inferred, my driveway is also prone to dampness. Being surrounded by trees, it doesn't receive a lot of sunlight, in the same way that Halifax doesn't receive a lot of Rolling Stones concerts. One way we can fix that, given that money is no object, is to pave it. Or, we could cut down the surrounding trees. Or we could just give up and put in a motorway. But both of these options leave a lot to be desired aesthetically. I happen to like my little tree-tunnel driveway, and any improvements I suggest for it will maintain the overall look-and-feel of the existing road.
For the problem of dampness, then, I suggest paving the driveway. With some grade-widening, it could be made to accommodate two lanes of traffic. A broken line would be painted from the loop by the house (already paved) to the driveway entrance on G**** Drive. These markings would not be for passing purposes, however. No, I propose we make these into bi-directional lanes and use lane indicators suspended between trees to regulate the direction and flow of traffic.
You see, my mother is an art teacher, and as such there are often periods of heavy influx and exodus. On Saturday mornings at 9:30, a whole bunch of minivans with "Grand" in their names come rolling in, and their parents, despite their trepidation about leaving their Precious Angels behind for ninety minutes of Peace and Quiet, are often so anxious to drive out that they'll drive right over the cars of incoming parents wanting to do the same thing. (We also have some problems with the Wednesday night adult class due to a run-on into American Idol.) Hence the need for an all-or-nothing approach to traffic flow at these peak times - two minutes of influx, one minute of no entry (to clear the road), two minutes of exodus… et cetera. Even with two lanes, I don't dare suggest a conventional drive-on-the-right approach, because I know many parents will be coming up that driveway simultaneously, and they will have no qualms about driving on the wrong side of the road. So lane controls are definitely the way to go.
Another problem we've had from time to time is darkness. Ideally the solution would be to suspend my house in the sky and propel it with supersonic-grade jet engines so that it could be perpetually under the Sun. Unfortunately, this may be outside the Department's budget, and it may be more difficult for some of my mother's students to reach her when their class is 60,000 feet in the air. I would submit the idea of placing the entire province into the air, but then we would have to change the name of the province to Aerius Scotia, which may affect our new "Come to Life" branding strategy. Furthermore, this is supposed to be a solution for my driveway, and I don't necessarily want the general seething rabble to benefit from the fruits of my ingenuity.
Therefore, I propose a cheap, elegant solution. Naturally, erecting lampposts along the sides of the driveway would create an eyesore and require the removal and/or mutilation of even more trees. It would also be a significant contribution to the light pollution problem that plagues astronomers everywhere. My personal involvement in astronomy only goes as far as owning a few books and a Fischer-Price "telescope" I received for Christmas in 1988, but this doesn't mean that I am any less aware of the crisis of the expanding urban sky glow.
My cheap and elegant solution, then, is to embed the lights in the driveway itself, and to have them activated by the ground vibrations caused when someone walks or drives on the road surface. They would stay on for five minutes after activation, allowing sufficient time to complete a trip up and down the driveway with their aid. The bulbs would be halogen-type and white, as white lights seem to be prettier and more modern than yellow incandescent lights.
These mud-defying, illumination-providing innovations would be of great help to my stepfather, who often navigates our driveway in his power wheelchair on his way to visit his parents and our other neighbours. Actually, he knows the driveway quite well and to this date has not had any accidents. Mud is a much greater menace to his mobility than darkness. But if these lights had been installed at my mother's parents house in Sherbrooke, we wouldn't have found my stepfather rolled over in the ditch one dark night two summers ago. He wasn't in any danger and was completely unhurt, but as I wouldn't want to have the experience of being upside down in complete darkness for an hour waiting for my wife's son and nieces and nephews to rescue me, I think lights are a good idea.
And while we're at it, let's address another problem facing my driveway: snow. Our driveway gets all the snow Nova Scotia weather can throw at it, and what falls takes a much longer time to melt due to the shelter provided by the trees. Some winters the driveway can become a slick sheet of ice for meters on end, and while this creates no lack of comical humoresque slapstick opportunity, this comedy was lost on me the time I stepped out of my stepbrother's car and fell on my head, as my feet had suddenly decided to relocate to a foot-and-a-half behind the door, under the car. We could rectify this issue by installing video cameras, but as there are times that comedy is not the thing for the hour (such as when one is entertaining female acquaintances), the capital funds for this project would be better spent on a solution for the snow and ice itself.
Our driveway already receives snow-clearing service, although I should mention that "clearing" means four-foot walls of snow on both sides of the road. When White Juan came, we were buried for nearly a week, and we were considering leasing the road to Boeing for wind-tunnel testing purposes. In any case, the proximity of the trees mystify both the clearing and melting of the snow, but I've already established that I'm not willing to remove more than are absolutely necessary.
Since we already have wires in the roadbed, I feel the solution is simple. Heating cables! They would be regulated by moisture and cold-temperature detectors. All these wires would have to be laid before the asphalt is applied, and the wires would need to be of a make that can withstand the heat. If I were making up a portfolio so that I could attend a school instead of writing a proposal to the Department, and most of these driveway improvements were actually completely ridiculous, unnecessary and less than feasible, I would add that this idea is actually commercially available from companies such as WarmZone! People actually do put heating systems in or on their driveways! That is, I would exclaim my surprise at that only if I were making a portfolio, which I am not, and I stress again that these are all feasible, workable ideas.
So far, I have described a driveway that will never experience another art class traffic jam. This driveway will never need shovelling, ploughing or scraping, and my stepfather will never need to be extracted from the ditch, barring unforeseen difficulty with his brakes. There also won't be any mud to sully my shoes. For our finishing touch, let us add warning signage (for the curves, crests, and impending stops), and civic address signage for the benefit of our neighbours who have a summer cottage off the halfway point of our driveway. Also, I daresay that this new driveway will resemble something that people ought to drive on, which will come as news to my friends who, not having been to my house before, parked on G**** Drive by our civic address sign and walked the better part of a kilometre in the dark to get to the house. And, if they are silly enough to do this now, at least they will walk the distance with more comfort and ease than ever before. They'd just better watch out for the Wednesday-night William Hung fans.