I took off last week and drove up to Pennsylvania to see family and friends I hadn't seen in over three years. It was a bittersweet homecoming, but long overdue. But before I even reached Philadelphia I noticed something. The collective IQ of the state must have dropped twenty points since I moved away in 1998.
The first thing I noticed was the sign coming into PA on I-81.
"Welcome to Pennsylvania! Please keep it clean! Ed Rendell, Governor."
Ed Rendell as governor? Holy shit!
He was a shitty mayor in Philly, couldn't do shit running the DNC and now he's the governor of Pennsylvania? Have they all lost there minds? Tom Ridge wasn't all that great but Ed Rendell? Come on. Ok, only Wilson Goode was worse as mayor, but only because he burnt down an entire city block of homes. Anywhere else in the world that would be crazy. In Philadelphia that's Urban Renewal.
What it really should have said was:
"Welcome to Pennsylvania! The inmates are running the asylum!"
But that's only the beginning. Driving along I-81 north towards the PA Turnpike I began noticing other signs. Giant yellow ones put up by PennDOT. The first one read: "Keep right and pass on LEFT only. It's the Law"
Well no shit.
I learned that in high school driver's ed class about a million years ago. I'm pretty sure I don't need to be reminded of this little nugget of information every half-mile. Then came these absolutely huge white spots painted in each lane about one hundred feet apart. The next sign that was erected stated: "Do not tailgate. Keep at least two dots between you and the vehicle in front."
Now they're telling me how not to tailgate. Another little gem of wisdom I learned in driver's ed. There was an accident ahead so I pulled over to see if I could help. I approached a dazed looking driver sitting on the guardrail and I asked him what happened.
"I was too busy reading all these huge yellow signs to notice traffic had slowed and I plowed into a station wagon loaded with nuns going 30 in a 65 mph zone."
How much did this signage cost the taxpayers? With the money they spent on this crap PennDOT could have re-paved every state highway. Then they could have dusted off those old signs from the mid-80's that read:
"Welcome to Pennsylvania! Closed due to construction!"
I finally get to the Turnpike around 8:30 PM. As a matter of course the interchange is under construction. All ticket booths are closed except one so there's about a two mile back up though Carlyle, PA. I finally get my ticket and zoom out of the booths, heading for the correct lane to put me on the eastbound side of the Turnpike. I'm going about 70 at this point and then I realize the curving ramp to the highway is banked wrong. I'm making a sweeping right-hand turn and the road is banked to the left. Some highway engineer probably got paid a few million dollars to design that little trick. I almost rolled the rental.
Ok. So now I'm on the road tooling along and finally get a Philly radio station. It's my old favorite from when I was a teen. 93.3, WMMR, the home of Rock and Roll! Ok. I figure all is ok now. After a commercial or two, the DJ comes on. The voice is really familiar. But he's talking some really strange stuff. He's got guys calling him and telling him how they've covered up when they've shit their pants while out on a date.
I don't know about you, but I've never shit my pants on a date, and even if I did I wouldn't be calling a radio program in the 5th largest market in the US at 8:30 on a Friday night to tell all about it. Then I put the voice to a name. It's Dee Snyder. (Remember "Twisted Sister"?) That explains a lot.
Dee Snyder is now a DJ in Philly. Wonderful. I changed the station to WMGK... The old "Easy Listening" station my parents used to listen to. At least there I can hear some Led Zepplin and The Who and not hear about shit filled drawers.
So, I'm still driving along and this guy I'm in back of decided to slam on his breaks. Was there a deer in the road? No. A state trooper had someone pulled over on the westbound side. I didn't slam into the guy who hit his breaks because I was keeping two white spots between him and I like a good little motorist.
I wondered why he slammed on his breaks though. If you've never had the displeasure of driving the PA Turnpike, there's a huge, four foot tall barrier running down the center splitting the east and west sides. They were probably retrieved from the Berlin wall when the two Germany's reunited. A 63 ton Abrams tank couldn't get over this thing. Unless the State Police now have Crown Vics that can levitate, this cop is not going to be going after you, dipshit. Keep going. Besides, he's already busy writing a ticket to some other shithead who didn't read the huge yellow signs telling him not to tailgate or pass on the right.
I finally at this point pull into a rest area to check the ticket for the cost of the toll. I couldn't figure the ticket out. The exit I want, what I thought was still exit 28, is now exit 351... Now lets change all the exit numbers to confuse the shit out of people.
So I get off at the right exit finally after I paid the $7.50 toll. I roll south on Rt. 1 into Philadelphia. I see a familiar blue sign.
"Welcome to Philadelphia! The City that loves you back! John F. Street, Mayor"
John Street the mayor? What the fuck! This guy was under investigation by the FBI, and was a parking scofflaw and never paid his gas bills. (or was that his brother Milton who didn't pay the gas bill?) Doesn't matter. The guy is worthless. Frank Rizzo must be spinning in his grave. (For those of you who don't know who Frank Rizzo was, he was the police commissioner then mayor back in the 70's. When elected mayor, when asked what he would do about crime, he said: "I'm going to be so tough on crime Atilla the Hun is going to look like a faggot!" And please genuflect when you say "Frank Rizzo")
So now I'm completely baffled. I stop into a WaWa store to get a six pack to share with my best friend.
Oh that's right! I'm in Pennsylvania. I can't get beer at a convenience store. Pennsylvania is the only place left in the entire goddamn universe where you can't get beer at a supermarket or corner store.
So now get to my buddy's house. The next day him and I go to meet my brother for lunch and get a REAL Philly cheesesteak. Something I haven't haven't had in quite a while. As we were waiting for my brother to show up, we ordered a few beers and I got the local rag, the Philadelphia Daily News. I wanted to read some local news to see what was going on in the old neighborhood.
"We're Number 1 with a Bullet!
Oh boy. Here we go. What was this all about?
I read the story. I just shook my head in amazement. It seems that handgun crimes are way up in The City of Brotherly Love. The guns are being bought in South Carolina and Georgia legally, transported to Philly then sold on the street to thugs. They call it the "Iron Expressway."
So who is the mayor and police commissioner blaming for this? The thugs using the guns? Nope. The thugs buying the guns in the south and selling them illegally? Nope.
They're blaming honest citizens who posses concealed carry permits, those who would like to get one and the gun shop owners in Philly. They want to make gun permits harder to get if not impossible. So the now the bad guys will have the guns and those who want to protect themselves legally won't be able to.
Really smart. Who's brain fart was that Johnny? Sara Brady sucking your dick?
If I'm not mistaken, as I was a law enforcement officer for a long time, it's not the law-abiding folks who are the problem. It's the criminals.
They just don't get it.
IQ's dropped quite a few points since I've left. I'm really glad I don't live there anymore. If I'd have stayed I'm afraid I would have had a brain hemorrhage just reading the paper every day.
I never thought I'd say it, but I was so glad when I saw the sign "Welcome to West Virginia!" The other day on I-64.
Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden