Lower East Side

In the Lower East Side there’s a pothole so big it’s become a tourist attraction. It’s a black, bare-gummed chasm that gapes from the asphalt. It appeared this week after the street began melting from six straight days of temperatures above 100 degrees.

From my apartment I’ve tracked the pothole’s growth by the sounds of cars scraping over it. The first couple of days it was a rough *scrape*, bumpers dipping into the hole and dragging their nails as they pulled out. As the hole has gotten deeper the scrape has become a more alarming *thunk*, and then the pull of the accelerator as the driver escapes.

When the hole first appeared someone put an orange traffic cone on top of it, and drivers inched their way around. This wasn’t always easy, as it’s a small street with parking on either side. As the pothole has gotten bigger the cone has gotten smaller, sinking further. Now only the top two inches of the cone stick out like a shark’s fin warning the most diligent of the danger below.

The pothole’s growth has accelerated. At first it sat astride the “O” in “STOP” that’s painted in white letters on the street. As the hole has stretched it’s overtaken and finally anthropomorphized the “O.” It’s a clever camouflage.

With the orange cone’s usefulness fading, two men today decided to protect traffic from the pothole on their own. One man was in his 50s, Latino, and wearing a visor and a white golf shirt. The other was about the same age, Asian, and wearing khakis and a striped golf shirt. The men tried to ward off traffic with the cone from inside the hole and a second one that had appeared.

The men mostly made things worse. Soon a block of cars stretched toward Grand Street while the Latino man barked  (“WAIT! STOP! WAIT!”) and the Asian man shuffled the cones in various unhelpful configurations to guide the cars. With each car the dance repeated itself. Finally the cars gave up on the whole situation and the line began to slowly reverse. Eventually the men gave up too.

Right now traffic outside is light and the two men and one of the cones are gone. The original cone has returned to its watch in the street, and nearby a pair of tourists take a picture. Just wait until everyone back home hears about the potholes in New York City.