The Patching Parade

This has been a hard winter depositing large amounts of snow on the land and streets. Snowplows have cruised up and down Milford Street and Hartland Avenue most days and nights during the first half of February, scattering salt and scraping snow and ice to the side of the road. The effect on the roads has been unfortunate. The mixture of salt and water, the abrasion and pounding of the plows, and the normal winter effects of freezing and thawing, have cracked the roads. Fierce potholes lie in wait, ready to devour tire and axle from under any unwary driver.

But last weekend the air grew warmer. No snow fell, and the sun appeared without clouds during much of the day. Today our roof is nearly bare of snow and the icicles that clung to the gutters and eaves have crashed to the ground. With the snow and icicles gone the ice dams in the gutters are rapidly shrinking.

And today we again see the patching parade on Milford.

Patching Parade

The Patching Parade

The patching parade is a remarkably efficient procession. A pickup truck with flashing yellow lights heads the parade. Close behind is a dump truck, filled with asphalt. Several workers walk behind the dump truck shoveling small mounds of asphalt into gaping holes in the road. Behind them comes a small motorized roller which presses the asphalt mounds tightly into the holes, making a temporary but serviceable patch, a bit like a dentist’s temporary filling. At the tail of the parade is another pickup truck with flashing yellow lights. And as the parade continues it leaves the road behind it a little smoother than it was before.

The streets are narrow here, no more than one lane each direction, and the patching parade moves more slowly than normal traffic, stopping here and there where the pavement is most in need of repair. The flashing yellow lights on the pickup trucks serve as a warning to motorists in both directions — those coming from behind know that their progress will be slower than they had planned, and those coming from ahead know that they must be alert for workers in the road. A line of cars and trucks quickly builds up behind the last pickup truck, while oncoming traffic flows steadily past. But from time to time as the parade proceeds the driver of the first pickup truck holds a stop sign in front of the oncoming traffic and allows the cars stuck behind to stream around the parade and pass on down the road, and thus by give and take traffic advances in both directions with relatively little interruption.

Being stuck behind the patching parade is an inconvenience, but a minor one, and I think few complain about it very much. The potholes are by far a greater inconvenience, and the patching parade marches on to reduce their number.

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