Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Captured Populations

Ladies and Gentlemen, you may remember Hurricane Katrina from several years ago. New Orleans was all over the news after that, and so much money and so many volunteers poured into the city to help rebuild. Believe it or not, New Orleans was not the only place affected. Every coastal county in Mississippi took heavy damage with extensive flooding and a 27 foot storm surge that moved upwards of twelve miles inland. Even now, almost four years later, driving along the beach, the devastation is blatantly obvious. Rebuilding is slow, and takes a lot of money. We only recently had the last of our destroyed bridges replaced. Still, many places have a lot of work left to do. One city, Bay St. Louis, has found a creative way to help rebuild.

The first thing one needs to understand in the rebuilding process is that it takes a lot of money, often tax money to rebuild and jumpstart a destroyed community. Unfortunately, a number of people who fled from Katrina didn't return. Their homes were gone. Their jobs were gone. There was little to pull them back to the coast. There was little to return to, for that matter. The price of homes skyrocketed because there were so few that came through unharmed, and those who had them didn't want to part with them. Of course, no returning constituents means a loss of tax dollars. Bay St. Louis found a unique solution to the problem.


I went to drop off a job application at a school there and found myself taking the scenic route through the entire town as one detour led me into another. There were no fewer than five major road construction projects and that's just what I saw. How does all of this boost populations? As I drove in, I was thwarted by half a dozen detours just getting to the school. I was frustrated, but not deterred. It was only when I attempted to leave that I saw the true evil genius behind their plan. My detour led me to another, which led me to another, which led be back to the beginning. You see, there is a single lane leading into the general vicinity of the school, but all roads leading out are detoured. I was stuck in a vicious, inescapable circle that ran me past dozens of quaint little homes for sale.

It's the perfect plan, really. Ensure that those who enter the city can never leave. Then, when their cars run out of gas, direct them to the lovely three bedroom two bath with a nice lawn their car died in front of. Maybe they'd like to tour it. Take out a loan. Settle down. Have some kids. Pay some taxes. Only then will they tell the new resident of the secret route out of town. By that point, however, it's too late. The poor victim is settled. They don't want to navigate a moving van down through those construction zones and they certainly don't want to sell a house in this market.

I wouldn't be fooled by them, oh no. We cheated. We used parking lots, alleys, and quick trips down one way streets to make our escape. I know what happens in picturesque towns you can't escape from. Housewives butcher people and serve them for dinner. Librarians sprout Cthulhu tentacles and keep their husbands locked in the basement in bondage gear. If not that, it's haunted by ghosts seeking revenge for some age old offence, and that sounds equally unpleasant. No thank you. I made my exit post haste, and informed my fiancee that if I did get that job, she'd have to move there, because they'd never let me escape the same way twice. I'd never find my way out again.

So consider yourself warned. Beware of small, quaint little towns that try to make you detour. It's a trap. It's always a trap. Turn around. Drive backwards down one way streets. Get out of your car and run if you must. But whatever you do, do not do not do not be tempted to buy a house when your car runs out of gas.

You have been informed.

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