Logic and the KDOT

I must have a karma factor somewhere in my soul that just invites tedious icky stuff to happen. Not always, mind you. I have good times, a great family, and I am pretty satisfied with most things in my life. However, I also am rarely surprised when I get smacked around by people, products, or built-in problems over which I have little or no control.

Government entities fall into that category.

The Wednesday before the big July Fourth holiday I drove to Kansas City to pick up the Youngest Daughter and a friend at the airport. I left in plenty of time, had my MapQuest instructions, actual maps, a full tank of gas, money for the turnpike, and a 32-ounce Diet Coke. How could anything go wrong? Let me count the ways.

Actually only ONE thing went wrong, but it was a biggy.

The interchange at the west edge of Emporia that has for years . . . no, decades, sent drivers from U.S.-50 to either the interstate or the Kansas Turnpike was suddenly gone. Vanished. Detour signs directed us through a half-completed roundabout and meandering orange cones into the western-most edge of Emporia proper.

I was OK for awhile. Traffic was light and I was following the signs to the Kansas Turnpike, my choice of highway. I hadn't been to Emporia for awhile so I was taking in the changes. It was kind of an adventure, you know? Then I ran out of detour signs. Well, that isn't exactly right. There were detour signs pointing drivers in the direction of the interstate, but the signs for the KTA had evaporated. Hmmm . . .

I turned around in a mall parking lot and headed back the way I came. I must have missed something. I wasn't ABOUT to drive out of Emporia without being certain where I was headed. Back to the U.S.-50 junction to follow the signs. It took me two trips, but I finally figured out that the detour signs pointing to the Kansas Turnpike just ended . . . at about the entrance to the mall on Industrial Street in Emporia. I could see nothing for the KTA, just signs for the interstate which would take me to Kansas City, but not the route I wanted to the airport.

I backtracked once more and stopped at a gas station. The clerk was about 16, maybe. She had a wad of gum around which she could not talk. After trying to get an answer about how to get to the turnpike I realized the gum was her salvation. It likely kept her employer from knowing how truly ignorant she was and firing her. I am relieved she didn't know "nothin' about no turnpike or highway or nothin'." I would have ended up in Little Rock for sure.

The next person I approached was a man in line at a fast food restaurant next door. He said that, yes, he was from Emporia and knew all about how to get on the KTA. He told me to go back to U.S.-50 and watch carefully for the interchange. I didn't tell him it was gone.

Back at my car in the parking lot I called the Youngest Daughter who had not yet left Nashville. I explained I couldn't find my way out of Emporia. I told her that if she landed in Kansas City and I was not there, she should just sit tight and I would be there soon . . . probably. Cellular phones are amazing. If man can figure out something like that, why can he not figure out how to install proper detour signs?

Eventually I went back to U.S.-50 and tried again. Why? Because I was convinced that this whole thing was my fault. I figure I just hadn't been watching closely enough and I missed a sign. It could not be the fault of Kansas Department of Transportation, could it? They have a bajillion people working for them to keep things like this from happening, don't they?

At the west edge of Emporia I stopped at a convenience store and asked if anyone might know where I should be headed. Bless my soul, some saint waiting in line to pay for his gas said, "Well, this won't seem right, but go to Industrial and when you get to the bridge with the signs pointing to Kansas City and Wichita on the interstate, you take the one to Wichita." He had to tell me this a couple of times because I thought he was really giving me grief.

But he was right. I took the ramp going south to Wichita on the interstate and eventually ended up on the Kansas Turnpike headed for the Kansas City airport.

Well, shoot, why didn't I think of that? Are you headed to Kansas City? Just follow the signs in the wrong direction to the wrong city on the wrong highway. Makes sense to me.

I am still fuming about this little adventure so I haven't quite figured out what point I would like to make. I can't help but wonder about the karma of the KDOT engineer who created that mess. I just hope I am not destined to drive on his next project.