Guest Op-Ed: Have You Heard?

By Alison Barnet

When President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill finally gets passed, do you know the first thing on his agenda? He’ll be flying to the South End where he’ll proceed at once to rip up our brick sidewalks and replace them with smooth slabs of pavement safe to walk on. Hordes of people, many on canes and walkers, who wouldn’t dare walk on the sidewalks, will cheer him from the street.

Of course, the president wasn’t alone in pulling up the bricks. A large contingent of congressmen and women did much of the work, piling up bricks to be taken away by truckloads of masons.

We’ll hear the president complaining, “Whoever put these sidewalks down apparently didn’t know a thing about trees.” That’s right,” the people watching from the street will chime in. But one guy, apparently drunk, kept yelling, “These sidewalks are 100 years old” as though that were something to be proud of,  and, when the president corrected him: “They were put down 1979-1980,” the guy told him he didn’t know anything and kept yelling, “These sidewalks are 100 years old,” jabbing angrily at the ground. A group from the nearby neighborhood association applauded him, furious that their beloved bond with historic Beacon Hill had been questioned. No longer could they claim that the South End is just as old, and they vowed to sell their condos ASAP.

Arriving the day after a rain storm, Biden was shocked to see a lake covering the intersection of many South End streets, an infrastructure problem he somehow hadn’t foreseen. One was directly across the street from a hospital—shocking! Getting his legs and feet wet, he crossed the street to the hospital only to find himself on a particularly bad stretch of sidewalk with many loose bricks and deep holes. “Is the hospital drumming up business?” he wondered. Noticing a bus stop at the corner, he wondered how anyone could manage to run for the bus without harm.

Nearly finished with pulling up bricks on all the South End streets, Biden, standing on a piece of the old sidewalk, didn’t notice a hole where bricks used to be and tripped and fell. Each of the congressional committee had already fallen, one breaking her glasses, another who didn’t notice big, long lumps in the sidewalk. That was nothing compared to what happened to another team member who went flying after he tripped over a dog’s leash and had to be taken away by ambulance.

Alison Barnet is a South End resident and former editor of the South End News.

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