A thought on the value of ‘lines’

Jeff Andres
ECM General Manager

Lines. Bottom line. Fine line. Clothes line. Line of work. Finish line. Line of fire. Sign on the dotted line. Don’t cross the line. Toe the line. Line dance. Form one line. Hold the line. Stay within the lines. You get the picture; the list goes on and on. Let’s just say we love our lines and we need our lines.

I remember early on in life, I was learning how to print my letters and then later how to write them in cursive. We were given a grey piece of paper with light blue solid and dashed lines and told to print our letters as neatly as we could without going outside of the lines. I also remember a lot of red circles on my paper where I couldn’t manage to control the #2 pencil enough to follow the rules. And the teachers could always tell when I tried to erase the miniscule slip-ups. I even remember early on having to use thick black colored pencils that didn’t have erasers on them.

I also remember Yosemite Sam drawing a line on the ground and daring Bugs Bunny to cross the line, with Bugs crossing the line before Sam could complete his sentence. And for some of you who had the patience to play with something for hours and hours called an Etch-A-Sketch, can you imagine how you could ever draw something without turning the wheels to draw lines?

Now that I am a few years older, I see how important lines are to us as we get behind the wheel of 2,000 plus pounds of metal, plastic, and rubber to drive. We see the consequences far too many times when someone crosses the center line and hits an oncoming vehicle or ends up in the ditch when they cross the fog line. Sometimes on particularly stressful rides home in the winter, I have to laugh because when the lines are covered with snow, some drivers are completely lost. They cannot look at the width of the road and determine where they should be driving. They need lines. Or on a day when the fog is so thick, the white fog line is the only thing there to guide you to your destination. We love our lines so much we spend millions of dollars painting and repainting them on our streets and highways, as many of you are witnessing now that the weather permits MnDOT to do so.

But some days I think we carry our affection for lines a little too far. As our youngest son bids farewell to the Cambridge Middle School, I also bid good riddance to the parking lot, hopefully never to see it again for many years. You see, one of my frustrations happens when we attend an event at the school where there will be a lot of people. The parking lot that starts in the front of the school and wraps around the west side of the building is painted with bright lines (and even numbered).

But these lines are painted for the long and wide busses that use that lot every school day, morning and afternoon. As much as I would like to say we are the first one to many of these events, it usually happens that we arrive in advance of the event but certainly after the majority of the crowd has arrived. By that point, the cars, trucks, and SUVs who got there first have dutifully parked within the confines of those lines meant for the wide buses and everyone else has followed. So having nowhere else close to park, people start rimming the outside curbs of the lot making passage to the back of the school a difficult and dangerous task.

I remember one time when we arrived early and I took it upon myself to try to start a new trend and parked a normal distance from the car that got there just before me. I found out as we were leaving that I was the only rebel in the bunch as everyone else conformed to the lines, with a wide space left open next to me. After the first few events at the new school and a shortage of parking space, we thought surely we would see Charlie Burroughs or someone else out there with flags and an orange vest directing people how to park. Or at least a memo or email sent home from the band teacher reminding people to ignore the lines and park close to each other. But neither happened.

So as our trips to Cambridge Middle School come to an end, I thought maybe there would be a way I could offer a suggestion to help avoid future parking issues for these large events. Maybe the next time the lines are repainted in the lots, there can be yellow lines for the busses and blue lines for cars. Then, more vehicles could fit in the parking area while still parking within the lines. Or maybe a shuttle bus from the high school parking lot would be easier.