Not all surprises are happy ones. That sad fact was recently brought home to many of the people who live in my neighborhood, Woodmere, which borders on Cedarhurst in the Five Towns. The recent surprise occurred when a street in that vicinity, one that has been a two-way street for more than half a century, suddenly became a one-way street.
To be fair to those responsible for this change, announcements were made. Letters to the editor were written, appeals were made the the Village Board, traffic studies were undertaken and hearings were held. But I never heard an announcement and nobody I know ever heard one either. There was news of the change in a local newspaper. But I never saw that news and nobody I know ever saw it either. I, and the people I know, somehow missed any notice of the change, but it does nothing to change the fact that this change — one I refer to as “the great switcheroo” — was a big shock and one that could have resulted in a major accident.
Experts say that most automobile accidents happen close to home. The reason given is that when people are familiar with their surroundings they tend to pay less attention to road signs. Obviously, in my case, this theory is true. Being so totally familiar with the streets that I travel every day, I never even noticed the new signs, all of which are black-and-white, are in the shape of an arrow, and read ONE WAY. As I barreled down the street heading towards home, I was just barely able to avert crashing headfirst into a van headed in my direction. As I wondered why this guy was heading straight for me, the driver rolled down his window and shouted, “Lady, you’re going the wrong way!”
I’m paraphrasing here because, actually, there was a lot more to it. The man used a few strong adjectives to describe what he thought of me.
It was then that I took a more careful look at my surroundings and discovered that the parked cars on both sides of the street were all facing in the same direction. Clearly, it was now a one-way street. I pulled into a driveway and backed my car out so that I was now facing in the right direction, which was the direction from which I had come. I was now safe, but I was one unhappy camper! It took a few days for me to acclimate myself to the new situation, but that was not to be the end of it.
Less than a week later, I was driving south on Washington Avenue, heading in the direction of the main street in our town, the thoroughfare known as Central Avenue. It was 8:45 a.m. and I had a 9 a.m. appointment with a doctor. When I arrived at the intersection of Washington Avenue and Central, where I normally make a right-hand turn onto Central, I was forced to stop short. Blocking the street were familiar orange cones and a large sign indicating a road closure. A quick look to my right showed that the entire street had been torn up. Only one option was open to me and that was to continue on Washington to the next intersection, which is Washington and Broadway. I made the turn and proceeded west on Broadway, intending to turn right onto Frost Lane in an attempt to approach Central Avenue and get close to the doctor’s office. It was futile. As I neared Central Avenue I spotted the same orange cones and another large sign indicating, once again, street closure. I gritted my teeth, backed up, and turned into the parking lot on Frost Lane. The lot was full, so parking my golden chariot there was out of the question.
Everywhere I went there were street closures. Apparently, March and April are the months of road repair, so I was forced to take multiple detours, none of which brought me even remotely close to the doctor’s office where I needed to be. It was after 9. I was already late for my appointment and there was no indication that I would be getting there anytime soon. I gave up and stopped gritting my teeth. Since I didn’t know the doctor’s phone number by heart, I had no choice but to get home, find that phone number, and call to explain why I would not be keeping my appointment. The receptionist who took my call assured me that she understood. She and the other office workers, including the doctor himself, had all had the same difficulty. None of them was happy because, as she told me, they had not been given any notice that the street would be torn up, which would render their office inaccessible for many patients.
Given the fact that changes have a major impact on everyone living and working in the area, it would be appropriate, as well as thoughtful, if those responsible for street closures as well as street-direction changes would notify community residents in advance. That’s just the way it is.
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-295-4435.