Let there be no confusion. I don't mean weigh stations, though truckers or those who live near long-haul shipping routes may presume otherwise, and I don't mean to rate various makes or models, even Italianate ones like Fiat or Alfa Romeo, as my brother N. W. Thomas so kindly suggested; I will leave these matters to Teamsters and the like. Rather, I wish to reflect a bit, not upon mirrors (though my chosen verb may imply it, and objects are no doubt closer than they appear), but upon an aspect of our modern society. I was about to say "upon our modern society," but then I realized that I would alienate a large portion of the blogosphere by infringing upon their province. (Blogger, by the bye, does not recognize the word blogosphere; I am outraged.)
After such a prooemium, you may be wondering what I'm getting at: so much the better, say I. I am talking about the practice that has developed in the United States particularly of planning, designing, and constructing things so as to accommodate that no doubt useful item of technology, the automobile, with the further effect of inconveniencing to a variably great extent, the pedestrian, who, unlike the automobile, has human dignity. I would like to imagine a scenario for a moment; I beseech my dear Realists not to be too put off by my flights of fancy. Idealists, this one's for you.
Imagine, I pray you, a man of another age, indeed, more or less any other age: let us say a Roman of the Late Republic. His praenomen is Gaius, or I daresay Marcus, but no matter. He comes to our time and begins, like a virtuous and civilized man, to follow a road in well-founded hopes of its leading to Rome.
He comes, let us say, to a market of sorts, what we today call a shopping center, a strip mall, or a Series of Shoppes. He at first wonders what it could be, for it is separated from the roadway by a field, or a group of fields, entirely paved. He estimates that the nearest building is a furlong from the road, though this maybe an exaggeration, he thinks. He considers the patrician villas in various outskirts of Roman towns, and wonders if this might be something similar. Let him look as he will for signs of habitation; it is in vain. Instead as he traverses the paved field he notes that the place has a commercial appearance, and is in fact a group of places to buy things. Why, he wonders, separate the products from the consumer? (He sometimes thinks in very 20th century ways.) And why, he further considers, is all the writing so oversized? As one walks along beside the shop, one cannot receive any useful information. He becomes a bit frustrated, and wishes that some roads led to Rome a bit more quickly.
To be continued...
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