COMMENT: Whenever my grandmother was going through particularly trying times she would sigh heavily as she recounted her ordeal and always conclude with, "I suppose I got some poor soul out of purgatory."
For those of you who weren't raised Catholic, purgatory is the place for people who aren't wicked enough to go to hell, and not nearly good enough for heaven. Sort of like a busy air terminal. You sit around and wait until the Big Cheese himself decides you've suffered enough and you ascend to join the good boys and girls or else people back on Earth can offer up sacrifices and get you out of purgatory that way.
I know, I know. It seemed to make sense at the time.
I've thought a lot about my grandmother as I've driven around Auckland over the summer. She would be stunned at the number of souls I've fast-tracked to heaven as I've sat fuming in long lines of cars waiting for one lane to open or found myself like a rat in a maze, being sent on a detour around back streets and narrow roads, in order to get from A to B.
What in the name of all that is holy are Auckland Council doing?
Last week I took a taxi from the ferry terminal to West Lynn – a distance of 5.4km. It took more than 40 minutes and cost $50. Admittedly it was at knock-off time, but the roadworks we encountered all the way home were the real issue.
I've accepted the inner-city disruption because in the long term, a light-rail project will benefit the city. I understand that Vector has to upgrade its lines if we are to have reliable infrastructure. And yes, the roads have to be resealed.
But why is this all being done at the same time?
I felt positively claustrophobic the other day when I drove home from work. What is usually a 10-minute trip took more than half an hour as I was sent on detours and held up by stop/go men. If I tried to duck down a side street, it was more of the same – roadworks, one-way systems and long queues.
I smiled through gritted teeth when the man finally turned the sign to go – after all, it's not his fault – and as I finally pulled into the driveway, I told myself that I needed a bit of patience and forbearance and surely, after all, these would be improvements to the city and of benefit to all ratepayers.
But then I remembered that I live in West Lynn and based on the experience of the "improvements" made there, I should have absolutely no faith at all in the ability of Auckland Transport to deliver on its promises. The revamping of this little village has been a complete disaster.
In 2017 last year, West Lynn was subjected to a makeover by AT where car parks were removed, bus stops were moved, speed humps installed and cycleways added. Along the way, shops got flooded – thanks to the weird steep-sloping asphalt running from the road to the strip of footpath - road safety was compromised, shoppers felt alienated, retailers did it tough. And, now, barely anyone uses the cycleways.
"Soz," said Auckland Transport, and offered to fix the whole mess – which would cost ratepayers $23 million. The poor local business owners refused to back the plan, saying they couldn't withstand any more disruption to their businesses and aghast at the cost of the operation.
It's an absolute disgrace and surely heads should roll over this costly and breathtaking incompetence. Looking through Auckland Transport's list of road closures and disruptions, I imagine you're having the same trials and tribulations beyond the inner-city suburbs.
I can't drive out to see them for myself. I'm trapped here, corralled by road closures and one-way streets.
All I can hope for is that the West Lynn fiasco isn't replicated in your suburb and that, ultimately, we'll all be better off as a city once the improvements are completed.
But that requires the same leap of faith that has me hoping I'm getting souls out of purgatory by keeping a lid on my temper as I stew, yet again, in another queue of cars.