Roads really are great. Without them we'd all need SUV's in order to go from place to place because the ground would be all rocks and dirt and shrubs and stuff. But there's another reason I like roads this morning — they usually aren't exploding. Usually is the key word there, as I now have first hand experience with what it's like to see a road do the unusual — explode. Yesterday I was minding my own business, walking down 42nd street here in Manhattan towards Grand Central station — on my way over to the CNBC studio in midtown to talk about fuel economy standards on On The Money, when my world literally exploded in front of me. I had just past Second Avenue and was approaching Third. A little over a block away from Lexington Avenue, I heard this...
...huge explosion and felt the ground shaking around me. I then looked over to the right, down 42nd and saw a mass of people running towards me, shouting and grabbing cell phones from out-of-view pockets and briefcases. Some of them had a frightened look on their faces like I'd never seen before. And as I saw this mass of humanity rushing forward to engulf me, I was confronted with a very instinctual fight or flight feeling. But as is my foolish character, I went with "fight," rushing forward to find out what everyone was running from.
As I cornered Lexington I was blasted with a thick stream of hot and wet smoke (looking back on it, that would be steam), and when that initial blast cleared, I was greeted with a geyser of smoke and debris shooting straight into the air, seemingly competing with the 77-story height of the Chrysler building behind me. As I was showered with the warm and wet smoke (again, I'm now cognizant it was steam) and crumbled bits of pavement and dirt I turned and began to book it down Lexington toward 44th St. I had no idea what had happened, but for some reason I felt like it didn't look like the t-word. There was something about the way the geyser looked that made me think it was something non-terror related. So in some way, while speed walking down Lex, sweat dripping off my brow, I felt comforted by that fact.
That not-so-long six block walk to the studio gave me time to call friends, family and loved ones to explain that I was fine but I didn't know what was happening. Well, at least I did that for the first two blocks and then phone calls became impossible as the cell towers became jammed with frantic calls from mothers to children, men to wives and all other forms of familial or non-familial relationships. That gave me four blocks to contemplate the weirdest part of the whole experience for me — the fact that the road, something I'd always taken for granted, could possibly explode. The road is such an important part of the driving experience, so for me it's hard to believe it could just "blow up" like that. We all expect the road to just be there — whether in good or bad shape, it's there. So this morning the first thing you should do is go out and take a look at the street or roadway you drive on each day and just thank it for not exploding today and showering you with asbestos-laden debris. Because yes, it can happen. Also, I'm going to go back home to Detroit this weekend — because although the roads may flood in the D, they certainly don't explode. At least I hope they don't.
[Photo credit: AP, BJ Garcia]