By LARRY HYPES
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Ringing out the old year takes less time than ever and resolutions seldom last through the first week of the new one. Still, both traditions have rightful places in our lives and on the calendar. That calendar, incidentally, is a long-time friend much like the school semesters I have worked through for almost four decades now.
Both provide closure. I have never been sure just how I would respond to a job where there was no end until retirement, or a month where there was never a last day. School ends with final exams and the grades recorded. There is a finite period and somehow that really suits me. I like clocks, calendars, tape measures, and other devices which explain beginning and ending, Alpha and Omega.
Strangely, however, baseball remains my favorite sport and ideally there is no end to a ball game as long as a team keeps hitting. Until that third out is made, the game is not over. Theoretically, a baseball game could extend into infinity and if fans count the winter as hot stove time, perhaps the game does come close to perpetual motion.
So, what would I wish for for 2013? It would be nice if television networks would stop having seven minutes of commercials during program breaks. I am old fashioned — not a channel surfer — so I get stuck, usually, waiting for the show to come back on. A couple of minutes is plenty to hawk one’s wares and even with more breaks there would be a little more continuity to the show on display.
To be honest, I watch less TV than I used to and the reason is the excessive commercials. One more TV wish is also related to the advertisements and I would wish that the commercials not be coordinated so that all stations take them at the same time. Several of my friends, who do use the clicker frequently, complain that when they change channels, every other program is on commercial break. I know, I know, it has to be done to pay for the programming, but we don’t necessarily have to like it.
As a frequent highway user, another wish for the new year would be the elimination of traffic lights on four-lane or divided highways. One of the (very) few reasons I like traveling on the interstate highway system is the absence of traffic lights. It is not so convenient around here. For example, there is a quartet of traffic lights at Claypool Hill and then finally freedom to drive until one reaches the Route 460 Ridgeview Plaza complex. From there until the other side of Princeton, drivers encounter a seemingly never-ending series of stops and starts. There are six lights between the shopping complex and the mall. From Green Valley to Princeton, there are seven more.
It is no wonder the news is often filled with stories of wrecks at or around these local traffic lights. Drivers stop, start, speed up, slow down, and often on steep inclines here in the mountains. Dangerous, dangerous, dangerous. Divided highways were not designed for traffic lights — they were built to speed up the flow of traffic. Exit and entry ramps surely would make driving safer, less stressful, and easier on the brakes than all of these traffic lights. At least, that is one old driver’s opinion. I suspect those lights, like the commercials, are designed around the dollar. Look around the next time you stop — you are likely to find a variety of establishments in the immediate vicinity. I suspect those lights are going to remain exactly where they are and we may even get a few more.
If traffic lights mean creating or maintaining more jobs in the area, perhaps we all can just continue to tolerate them.
However, unless there is a major emergency, 2013 will likely be another year I don’t travel I-77 to Charleston very much. I like those tolls even less than the lights and believe they should have been eliminated years ago. Interstate 77 on down into the Carolinas, or I-81 either north or south manages very nicely, thank you, to carry traffic without toll booths. If the West Virginia Department of Transportation ever combines traffic lights with toll booths, it might just be time for another revolution.
Finally, I hope that you and your family and friends have an even better upcoming 12 months than you had hoped for. May you find employment and the good health to enjoy every one of our incredible four seasons here in the Daily Telegraph readership area. Hopefully, you will be able to worship at the church or synagogue or other religious institution of your choice on a regular basis. Our area has long counted on that tradition as one of its enduring strengths and this newspaper has promoted the idea since its founding in 1893. I hope you have the opportunity to take some restful, relaxing “times out” with those you care most about this coming year. All work and no play can be a problem in many ways. For those students leaving one level of education for perhaps another, here is a wish for the very best transition and a smooth entry into the next arena. Good luck to all of our fire, rescue, hospital, police, and other public servants including the highway workers and utility workers in the coming months. Their safety is of great concern to all of us who depend on these fine individuals often in times of great peril.
Thanks in advance to our wonderful readers for picking up the Bluefield Daily Telegraph every day and Happy New Year to you all!
Larry Hypes is a teacher at Tazewell High School and a columnist for the Daily Telegraph.