So Pope Francis is in Philly this week, which is where I happen to live, and folks are freaking out. People love to freak out for no reason and I think we will all be pleasantly surprised once the pontiff arrives. The main reason for panic is because they are closing down a ton of roads but that is actually why this weekend will be really cool. Cars generate so much animosity and the Pope is here for goodwill, so lets all chill.
People fail to realize what a pain-in-the-ass automobiles are. They are noisy, take up a ton of space, oh, and they kill people like cancer. Americans have just gotten so used to cars fucking up their every day existence they just accept it. We sit in traffic, fight for parking, funnel our hard earned money into insurance and repairs, yet we still feel like our car is our best friend. Trust me, its not. People refer to their spouse as the ball-and-chain but it should be their car. At least your betrothed will occasionally have sex with you and the insurance company gives you money if something tragic happens not the other way around.
I haven’t heard any doomsday papal predictions coming from NYC. One reason is that Manhattan is used to visits from world leaders but the other is because they have a huge mass transit system. Philly’s transits system is…shall we say, substandard? Therefore shutting down major arteries makes folks edgy. On the upside, Philly is very pedestrian friendly. It’s flat and the streets are narrow so people should have no problem hoofin’ it to see his Holiness; especially since they won’t have to worry about getting plowed by a taxi cab crossing an intersection.
I’m not just talking out of my ass here either, for several years I lived a few blocks off the Ben Franklin Parkway which is where most of the mega-sized public events happen in Philadelphia. Every Fourth of July they have the huge fireworks and concert down there and it is always a shit-show before and after. Thousands of tourists always think they are just going to drive up, set up a picnic, watch the fireworks and then hop back in their car and go home, as if no one else has ever thought to try this. The sound of horns honking and profanity spewing is twice as loud and four times as long as the fireworks themselves.
In contrast to this annual hate-fest, a few years ago they had the Live 8 concert. It was estimated that close to a million people would show up and the panic was very similar to this year’s papal visit. Residents of my neighborhood were acting as if rival biker gangs were about have a turf war on the Art Museum steps. City government got so many concerned phone calls that they decided to create a perimeter around the area and close it to all automobiles except emergency vehicles. This in turn upset residents even more. OMG, what were we going to do? How would we survive an entire day without access to cars for a dozen blocks? You know what happened? It was AWESOME. Everyone came out of their apartment buildings and just hung out in the streets. Folks had couches and barbeque grills set-up on the sidewalks because you could just walk in the road. You never realize how much real estate in the world is taken up by black-top. With all that square-footage open to the public, Live 8 didn’t feel crowded at all. When people aren’t jammed together like sardines they are much friendlier to each other.
If shutting down roadways can help make a million drunken concert-goers a dream to deal with, then I think the city will be fine with a flock of devout pilgrims lining up to see an elderly gentleman wish peace and love. #PopeInPhilly