The series of stories that ran in this paper last week on the upcoming mayhem associated with the massive rebuilding of I-15 through Salt Lake County was certainly a thought-provoking one.
You'll recall it explored everything from the effect on downtown businesses (bad) to the impact on the telecommuting revolution (good).As a proud part of the team that wrote all that stuff, I was charged with delving into the construction's negative effects related to the environment (so-so). My only regret was that for limited-space reasons I was unable to reveal the full extent of the research involved with this particular aspect.
Now the rest of the story can be told. Rather than actually read the entire 580-page Environmental Impact Statement, I took a more professional approach to the document and drove it down to my old friend Madame M on State Street.
Please don't get the wrong idea here. Madame M doesn't ply her trade literally "on the street," as her somewhat exotic name might suggest. Rather, she operates in an old storefront between a tattoo parlor and a tavern near the Kentucky Fried Chicken in South Salt Lake, where she deals tarot cards or looks into a crystal ball, whichever you prefer. Her place is the one that says, "Discount Fortunes - $39.95 plus tax. Visa/-Mastercard accepted."
Madam M may be cut-rate but she's an unusually sensitive psychic highly regarded by her peers, which is why I turned to her with the I-15 material.
"The crystal!" I said as I tossed the heavy book toward her in an eerily draped room illuminated by nothing more than an unseen red light. "Hit me with the crystal!"
The book landed at her feet with a thud and Madame M glared at me over her veil from the other side of her little table.
"This is not a pigsty," she said. "Pick up your trash."
"Hey, `M,' it's not trash," I insisted. "It's the federally mandated 580-page environmental impact statement containing exhaustive detail on the massive reconstruction of I-15 through Salt Lake County."
"Like I said, pick up your trash," she countered. "And then look into my eyes."
Suddenly a feeling of helplessness came over me. I stooped groggily, plucked the EIS from the floor and dropped it into a trash can that had little stars and moons all over it.
I slumped wordlessly into the beanbag chair opposite her and stared vacantly into her big gypsy eyes.
"I see you in a tiny room," she said.
"Where? What am I doing?"
"You are nervous, impatient."
"Yes, yes that's me."
"You have with you two day's supply of food, several gallons of drinking water and other beverages, a cellular phone and a deck of playing cards."
"But . . . have no fear," she cooed. "These items will meet your basic need to eat, to drink, to socialize and to play while you are trapped in this small enclosure."
She glanced down into the crystal ball before holding my empty gaze once again.
"I see something else. Something strange. In this tiny room with you, there is a steering wheel jutting out of one wall."
"My truck!" I shouted. "I'm stuck in my truck in a two-day traffic jam in the middle of the I-15 project!"
"Get used to it," she said, her eyes narrowing into sinister little slits.
"But `M!' I beseech you! Is there no hope for those with this fate?!? Is there no silver lining, no pot of gold at the end of the highway, no way we might grow from the suffering and the shame?!?"
"Porta-potties," she said.
"Invest in porta-potties. Then set them up every couple of hundred yards along the construction corridor. You will make a vast fortune from this endeavor. And be more comfortable, too."
"Anything else?" she asked.
"That about covers it," I said, snapping out of my trance. "How 'bout you? You must have some worries, concerns, questions about all this."
"Just one," she mused, lowering her veil and peering into my eyes one more time.
"Will this be Visa or MasterCard?"