Thursday, May 12, 2011

12 MAY 11: Up - to Here With It

"Everything's going up," I've heard a couple of people say in recent days. And you don't have to look far to see they're right. If Bugs Bunny came to Columbus today and asked his famous question, "What's up, Doc?" he might get about six different answers.

Let's start with the temperature, which has been up to mid-July levels this week. Columbus broke a record for the date Wednesday, with a high of 94 degrees F. This is why I'm glad we have a new Ice Rink - although I fear the managers will start charging one dollar an hour simply to sit in the bleachers.

It was the warmest 11 May in Columbus since 1955. Yet again the air conditioner stayed off at my home. I'm still getting by with a large floor fan, pointed most of the time toward the computer room. The papers on my desk seem a little stickier when I touch them, though....

The hot weather can be dangerous, of course. Muscogee County Coroner Bill Thrower needed treatment at a hospital Wednesday, after he collapsed from heat exhaustion. He was released Wednesday night, with orders to rest for a few days. Hopefully none of Thrower's aides will recommend a few minutes on a cot at the morgue.

The good news is that a squall line is expected to reach Columbus, bringing rain and cooler temperatures for the weekend. Admittedly the forecasters on TV probably won't refer to it that way. "Squall line" is one of those phrases young people expect older people like me to say, to show how out-of-date we are.

If Columbus drivers weren't already hot under the collar from the weather, a trip to gas stations Wednesday assured it. The price of regular unleaded jumped about ten cents a gallon in many sections of town - as if we're already paying the higher salary for the new Parks and Recreation Director.

The price of gasoline reportedly went above four dollars a gallon in Taylor County. That's probably more likely to occur in a rural area -- whether your town is along an interstate highway serving truck drivers or not.

I read two reports of jumping gas prices online, and decided it was time to hurry out and fill up. The original plan was to wait for that promised decline in national prices to begin - but it's been looking like the reduction in Columbus city government actually might happen first.

After checking the price list online, I took a guess which turned out to be smart. I went to Phenix City, where prices had yet to jump and regular unleaded still was below $3.75 per gallon. There are times when the stereotype of Phenix City being "behind the times" can be a good thing.

I have yet to hear an official explanation for Wednesday's price increase. But my best educated guess is that the Mississippi River flooding could be to blame - especially if refineries in Louisiana have to shut down for a while. It's similar to the "Ike spike" after the 2008 hurricane. I only hope e-coli bacteria doesn't clog my gas tank in the coming weeks.

If that's not enough, I found something else Wednesday night that's gone up -- except most Columbus drivers probably will like this one. The speed limit on the Veterans Parkway bridge between 15th and 18th Street quietly has increased. It's now 40 miles per hour, instead of 30. Of course, that means many drivers now will cross the bridge at 50 or 55.

The Veterans Parkway bridge had a speed limit of 30 miles per hour since its opening - and I made it a habit to drive at that posted speed. It can be a simple pleasure at times to watch the world go by....

Some drivers grumbled about Columbus Police setting "speed traps" at either end of the Veterans Parkway bridge, to catch people going faster than 30 miles per hour. They thought that speed limit for a six-lane road was too low. Perhaps city officials finally decided they were right. Or perhaps their minds will change once all the families from Fort Knox fill the bridge this fall.

That's the "up and up" for the moment. Now let's send out some Instant Messages....

+ To Lumpkin Police Chief Ron Jackson: Did I see that right on WRBL - you keep an open Bible at the front of your desk? Do you turn to verses on "the unpardonable sin" when you're questioning possible suspects?

+ To the Social Security Administration: You're kidding, aren't you? Were there really 99 parents in Alabama who named their baby boys Bentley last year, after the new governor? Was there also a rush in the 1990s to name children Fob?

(At least there's a little bit of sanity on that list of Alabama baby names. Nicholas placed higher than Bentley -- obviously in the wake of Alabama's national football title.)

+ To Auburn University football coach Gene Chizik: At first I was surprised to read you're releasing a "memoir" in July. But I guess it's not too early - especially if Justin Bieber's been working on one.

+ To WXTX: Sorry about that - I missed your special report Wednesday night on making money from blogging. A late night at a local poker tournament kept me from watching. Ultimately, it didn't pay off either.

+ To Peachtree Cinemas on Manchester Expressway: I'll admit this may be a stupid question. But why are you showing the movie "I Am Number Four" at screen number seven?

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