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Does Chaos Rule America’s
Transportation Systems?

Mac Gordon

Donuts on Cake

The chaos that overwhelmed America’s transportation systems during the recent holiday season extended far beyond airport terminals.

But, as for flight travel, it will likely be years before Southwest Airlines overcomes inadequacies in managing flight schedules caused by the disastrous winter weather.

Southwest trotted out its hierarchy for apologies to the discordant passengers stacked up like cordwood in terminals nationwide. The airline did appease some homesick travelers with the apologies and promises of reduced costs for future airline trips.

Our grand plans to touch both ends of Mississippi earth during the holidays, first on the southern line and later the northern footprint, were scuttled by an inch of snow in DeSoto County. That event forced a delay of several weeks for a planned Christmas celebration in my family’s rural environs southeast of Olive Branch.

So, we returned to thankfully-dry Interstate-10, where thousands of cars packed to the gills with Christmas gifts jockeyed for position along the 2,460 miles of this American autobahn.

If you must be on an American interstate highway during weather-related trying times, I-10 through Florida is the place to be. Florida knows what pleases the motoring public: Plenty of clean rest stops, multiple state and local law keepers overlooking the action, road surfaces seemingly always in top condition, maintenance crews constantly working to resolve deficiencies and the usual blue skies causing Florida to be known as the “Sunshine State.”

If your vehicle has a system failure on the state’s interstate highways, the Florida Department of Transportation’s crew of emergency first-responders will descend on you within minutes to change a tire, diagnose mechanical problems or deliver needed gasoline. You can see them unfailingly on the move looking for travelers in need of a helping hand.

Few states go to the expense of providing this no-cost service for motorists, but you must understand that Florida is serious about motorists’ vehicular transport. So is Georgia, which provides similar favors to the public. Can you even imagine Mississippi government attempting such an initiative?

These facts keep Florida at or near the top of “most visited states” lists, although such rankings can be fluid. A rating compiled by one tourist-tracking firm shows Florida as visited by 61-percent of Americans, followed by New York, 55-percent; California, 54-percent; Texas 52-percent; and Pennsylvania, 48-percent.

Mississippi’s ranking on the list tells that only 27-percent of current Americans have visited our state, much better than the bottom rung state of Alaska, 13-percent of citizens; North Dakota, 15-percent; and Idaho, Montana and Nebraska at 19-percent each. That’s a paltry rating for Mississippi, which was formerly known as the “Hospitality State,” but not so much nowadays.

One of Mississippi’s major inadequacies is the simple act of keeping motorists’ pit stops clean. The larger welcome centers bordering other states do a decent job with this task because they have the needed personnel, but several of the smaller rest stops in inner Mississippi are seemingly incapable of keeping tidy restrooms.

One of the most chaotic scenes we witnessed during our holiday excursion came at a large convenience store at the Mississippi-Alabama line on U.S. 98, just inside Alabama. A mammoth outlet had exactly one employee trying to manage 20 fuel pumps, none of which would accept any type of payment card outside the store.

Gasoline customers were forced to go inside, where another mob of shoppers was trying to pay for merchandise and hot food items. The young, harried clerk was completely overwhelmed by the havoc in the store.

I often wonder whether owners of such enterprises realize the number of sales lost due to situations like that one.

Donuts on Cake
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