If you look around you notice things falling apart. It took little effort to discover the rapid deterioration that is happening to the raised dotted yellow rectangles planted in the sidewalks near intersections. Many of these look shabby. Some are strewn with graffiti while others have missing chunks. They take on the appearance of abstract art. It would be difficult to report these conditions to the city because I don’t know what these things are called. I’d like to see them fixed but how do I explain it? It seems crazy to even say out loud, “the yellow rectangles with the raised dots are crumbling.” For starters, I don’t know who to call. It almost makes more sense to accost people on the street. “The yellow rectangles with the raised dots, they are crumbling,” l’d whisper hoping my plight for the rectangles would become contagious.
Knowing that I live in the internet age, the answer is online. As I thought about the search I began to fear what would be revealed, or worse, that I would get information about the specific words instead of the complete phrase. The search for “raised dots on a yellow rectangle” ended up being painless. The promise of the information age came through identifying something I had wondered about for a long time.
These raised dotted yellow rectangles are part of what’s called “Detectable Warning Systems.” It seems obvious that they help people with visual impairments navigate sidewalks. They are component in the braille paving system that can be found in other ways on streets and train platforms.
With this information I realized it would be easier to contact the city and tell them, “Yo, your Detectable Warning Systems are crumbling.” Of course after that it might be necessary to describe what I was talking about, “You know, the yellow, raised dotted rectangles; they need help.”
At one point I was on the street taking a picture of a couple of these “Detectable Warning Systems” for an example of what they looked like when they’re in reasonable condition. A man asked me what I was taking a picture of. He said he was only curious but I couldn’t help him with his curiosity. There were no words to explain what I was doing. If I could have thought straight in the moment it would have been something like, “Ah, I’m trying to blog about things.” I recall muttering not much of anything and wandering away fast.
Taking pictures of Detectable Warning Systems in good condition made me realize that regardless of wear and tear they all end up getting filthy. People put their feet on them.
It’s easy to see why these Detectable Warning Systems are falling apart. They are out in the elements getting walked on, stood on and generally roughed up. I have wondered whether anyone else besides me has noticed this deterioration or has become alarmed by it. It has me considering what other parts of our infrastructure are in disrepair and going unchecked. I want to believe these parts of the sidewalk are maintained on a regular basis and replaced or repaired as needed. It’s a minor thing but it leads me to wonder how anyone can keep up with the onslaught of all the things that are busy falling apart around us. My guess is that a few city employees have the time on their hands to be a part of my vast audience. They’ll get the message.
I’m dealing with a Pacific Northwest winter that’s mild by most standards but what does envelope us is the grayness of it all, the pale, sunless skies that stretch on for weeks shed dim light on grimy streets and now no one’s going to the car wash as the “Wash Me” scrawls accumulate on these dirty vehicles. Meanwhile everywhere I look I see lines of meaningless graffiti or somehow worse bad painted cover up jobs, not to mention misaligned hair cuts in the grocery store. I’m no longer sure I can tell the difference between a winter chill and a flu symptom. My seasonal despair has me bracing for the next month which Rich Reece described as being tougher. Most days I try to shake out the ear worm of Jeff Dodge and the Peasant Revolution Band’s version of The Pogues “Dirty Old Town.” Crumbled bits of plastic from the Detectable Warning Systems seem to be the last straw.
Post Script: Admittedly I became a bit confused about these warning systems. The bumps and rectangles were referred to in many different ways in my research. These systems have been put in place in conjunction with the American Disability Act.
Post Post Script: If you’re looking to check out the video link to “Dirty Old Town,” you can fast forward to 55:34 of episode 3 of Season Two of the Peasant Revolution Band Variety Hour. Don’t say I did warn you about the possibilities of an earworm.