Tuesday, September 29, 2015

COLUMN: Bridge

I hate change.

This isn't exactly a newsflash. It's a sentence I've uttered many a time in these pages. I've been stuck in my ways since birth. I'm pretty sure that's why my mom spent a day-and-a-half in labor before the doctors finally gave up and yanked me out into the world kicking and screaming.

There's stability in the known. There's safety in the routine. Change can be scary, and any time it occurs in my world, I'm usually the first to speak up with the worst case scenario theoretical.

I don't envy anyone who's had the pleasure to be my boss. What's that? You want to MOVE MY DESK? TO ANOTHER ROOM? Well, sure, that room might give us more workspace, but let's slow down and think things through for a second. That's seven additional steps we now have to take to reach the restroom. Assuming that the average employee takes 1.5 bathroom breaks per work day, over the course of one year, that's 2,730 unnecessary annual footsteps we now have to deal with. Did anyone consider this productivity loss when this harsh decision was made? Yeah, I'm a real hoot to work with.

I'm not saying we should constantly avoid any efforts at progress. More often than not, new means better, and the nerd in me loves advancing technology. You won't ever find me antique shopping. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted a futuristic house with the most modern offerings that science and home interior design could possibly offer. Of course, this perfect future house in my mind resembled something out of The Jetsons or Barbarella, both of which are antiques now in their own right. Still, I'm no fan of old-timey stuff.

Progress is necessary, but I often hate its cost. I didn't live in the Quad Cities until I came here for college, and even in the few years between then and now, the area has changed so much that it's almost unrecognizable. When I first moved up here, John Deere Road was still being built. 53rd Street was a cornfield. Orby was the Super Van Man, the Showcase Cinemas were in Milan, and the only "Choice" I cared to make was a delightful smorgasbord in Moline.

In just a few weeks, it'll be Homecoming week at Augustana, but that home is mostly in name only these days. Augie has changed so much since I attended that it may as well have been a one-room schoolhouse that we had to walk a mile through the snow just to skip class.

Even though I tend to detest it, change isn't a bad thing. Today's Augustana might look nothing like the school I attended just a couple decades ago, but the changes that have occurred are nothing shy of amazing. When I drive past campus every day on my way to work, I'm jealous of the kids I have to stop for at the crosswalks. Part of me wants to go back and pick up another major just so I can experience all the campus changes and new buildings for myself. But I also wish that MY Augie, the Augie of 1988, was still around, too, like an interactive museum I could stroll through and reminisce fondly about all the different ways I used to avoid studying.

And now, more change is headed our way. It's necessary change, but it's change that's going to do away with even more of my favorite parts of town.

When I was a little kid growing up in Galesburg, our family would occasionally make trips to the Quad Cities for shopping and adventure. There were THREE iconic images that I remember from these trips: (1) The Montgomery Elevator tower, (2) the big green bridge over the river, and (3) the welcoming sign of Ross' 24-Hour Restaurant at the base of that bridge. And now, all three are waving their swansong, and it kinda makes me sick to my stomach.

Of course, when I was that same kid, my favorite thing in Galesburg was the beautiful fountain in our town square. This year, that fountain got ripped out and replaced by a statue of Carl Sandberg hanging out with, for no discernable reason whatsoever, a goat. Apparently ol' Carl had a fondness for goats. Note: Not that I will ever attain a level of popularity wherein townsfolk will immediately want to erect a statue upon my passing, but should that unlikely event ever occur, please don't pose me with a Big Mac and an X-Box controller. Just because I like something doesn't mean I want it bronzed.

There's no denying that I-74 needs a new bridge over the Mississippi. If there's one unsightly antique in this town, it's that outmoded green behemoth. I don't recall the exact wording of the last outside study done on the bridge, but it was something like, "We don't THINK you're going to plunge into a watery grave, but you might want to take Centennial from now on." The lanes are dangerously narrow, there's way too few of them to begin with, and there's nothing like the terror of the Grant St. entrance and its sole strategy of "an accelerator and a prayer." The new bridge can't come fast enough.

I just wish it didn't come at the expense of giant swathes of the downtowns I've grown to love. The gas station mecca of downtown Bettendorf is already a thing of the past. I'm pretty sure the old elevator tower's gonna need to go before it's all said and done. Worst of all, at 3 p.m. this Tuesday, Ross' will be leaving their storied downtown eatery. I'm pretty sure I've eaten more lunches there than my own home, and now that building, like so many others, is becoming history.

The good news is that some people handle change better than me. In just a few days, the Ross-Friedhof family will be opening the NEW Ross' just a few minutes away on 53rd Ave. Where once cornfields stood, there will soon be Magic Mountains. That's my kind of progress.

Maybe I'm set in my ways, maybe I'm just sentimental, who knows. But a part of me will miss that green monster when it eventually departs our riverscape. It's a nightmare of a bridge, but it's kind of a pretty thing. No offense to the designers of the proposed new bridge -- I'm sure it's a fine piece of architecture -- but it looks like umpteen other bridges I've crossed before. I, for one, will miss the old girl... until the next time I get stuck waiting 25 minutes to cross the river, and then I'll curse her name and cheer on the inevitable change to come.  

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