In a Roundabout Way


I was in the car the other day, stuck in traffic, as usual, and I heard something interesting on the radio about California.  It appears that for the first time ever in the history of the universe, more people moved from California than moved to California.  I wondered – where did all those people go?

The next thing you know, I’m reading an article about the growth of Montana.  Montana itself isn’t growing, just its population.  Missoulians are all up in arms about building big apartment complexes and something called infill.  Infill is where you have two houses next to each other, and enough space in between so you aren’t bothered by their surround sound systems, or their kids playing drums in the basement.

Then, one day two contractors come along and one says, “Look, Bob, there’s enough space in between those two houses to put in another house.”   Then you have three houses all shoved together and everyone can hear everything, which is okay … if you’re deaf.

There’s so much talk about growth.  It must be a good thing, right?  Unless you’re referring to your thighs or that weird lump under your armpit.  It’s like nobody wants to live in a small town anymore, because, let’s face it, there are no Super Walmarts in a small town, and where are people supposed to shop?

Growth means more opportunity.  It also means more fences, because the lines of personal space start to blur once the crowd moves in.  And where there are crowds there are usually lawyers, because certain members of the crowd are from California and they think, if they do something stupid to hurt themselves on your property, they can turn around and sue you for it.  So, you’ve got to build a fence to keep those people out.  Fence builders are totally high fiving as we speak.

Growth means more cops too, because you’re going to have to deal with the increased gang activity.  Oh yeah, you forgot about that, didn’t you?  Look, if you’re going to have a big city, you have to have big gangs.  I’m sorry, but those are the rules.  I didn’t make ‘em up.

Another thing growth implies is chaos.  To combat the chaos of your burgeoning population, you’re going to have to implement more rules and regulations.  Who’s going to make up those rules?  I’ll tell you who – people who like to create spreadsheets and organize their paper clips by size, that’s who.  The people who have those little executive clocks on their desks, you know, the ones with the wooden bases that have matching pens jutting out from either side.  They’ve never even used those pens.  The ink in them dried up 15 years ago.

And what’s really sad is that you’re actually going to vote those people into office, because you forgot what annoying little control freaks they were back in high school.  They have no faith in your ability to think for yourself, which is why they plop big concrete “traffic guiders” on your street, just in case you get confused and try to drive your car on the sidewalk.

I live in L.A. and you know how many of those concrete blocks we have here?  None.  You know what else we don’t have here?  Roundabouts.  You know why?  Because we don’t live in freakin’ England, that’s why!

Do you know what an ant death spiral is?  That’s when ants get lost and they start to follow each other in a circle.  They go and go and go until they finally die from exhaustion.

Sometimes I have nightmares about the street where I grew up, which, incidentally now has a roundabout at the intersection, even though there’s never been an accident there in the last 150 years.

In my nightmare, someone gets lost in my neighborhood and they make the mistake of circling the roundabout.  Other people see them and think they know where they’re going so they start to follow them, round and round and round.  Pretty soon thousands of cars are trapped in a tragic all night death spiral and the next morning I step out to find a sea of idling cars with lifeless drivers behind the wheels.

I’m not prone to prophetic dreams, so this probably will never happen … on my street.  But I have no control over what happens on yours.

Look, a certain amount of growth can be a good thing.  I just want you guys to be smart about it because Missoula is a great place.  If you’re gonna wreck something, wreck Billings.  Nobody cares about Billings, except the people who live there, and I don’t know any of those people.  Although I’m pretty sure that tomorrow they’ll all be on my doorstep with torches and pitchforks.  Like that hasn’t happened before.

Missing Missoula

CC the Trained Monkey


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BIO:  Carol Chrest is a bitter old spinster living in Los Angeles. When she’s not working ridiculous hours at her cruddy day job, she writes screenplays.  She drinks.