Scranton, PA has long been the butt of jokes. Think of Michael Scott, the inept manager on TV’s “The Office.” Or, for your oldsters, Harry Chapin’s 70s song, “30,000 Pounds of Bananas.”
Whether or not the city deserves its bad rap is unknown.
But one thing is for sure, and let’s give credit where credit is due: Scranton has figured out a way to ensure lifetime employment.
For more than 37 years I’ve traveled I-81, through Scranton, on trips between New Jersey and Rochester, NY.
If nothing else, the trips afford me snapshots of development, if one can call it that, along the roadway.
Billboards change their messages and new ones pop up as others deteriorate. The price of gas, of course, changes seemingly hourly, as does which stations feature the lowest prices.
Not long ago, on I-80, a connector off I-81, I “discovered” a great radio station: the NPR at Centenary College in Hackettstown, NJ: WNTI-FM. As a former college radio broadcaster, and as a current driver in search of audio stimulation, I find their format compelling. A good mix of current and older rock, the unfamiliar former nicely complements the sing-along latter.
But enough of the trip down memory lane. More serious matters demand attention.
Employment, for instance. And, as most know, the current unemployment figure stubbornly hovers in the seven percent neighborhood. Considerably more at some places.
Over the course of the one-third century I’ve traveled through Scranton on I-81, I’ve seen, for instance, a garden apartment complex built from the ground up, expanded in size and, later, the re-roofing of the structure.
I’ve also seen no end to the highway construction that has taken place at the I-81 and I-84 interchange.
It is constant. There hasn’t been a single trip I’ve taken – and they’re pretty regular – when there has not been construction at that interchange.
The construction has provided lifetime employment.
And all with no discernible change or improvement to motoring.
The north side of Scranton on I-81 is still a reduced speed zone over-populated by jersey walls.
The south side a tangled mess with a maze of signs offering confusing directions.
Once, not paying close enough attention (and perhaps being on a faulty “autopilot”), I ended up IN Scranton.
One wonders if this highway project has management by the professional team from TV’s “The Office.”
Still, there may be a lesson here concerning a cure for current unemployment: More highway construction.