I think I had a “Newton moment” the other day and may have stumbled on a new law of physics, or at least some kind of basic labor principle. The story about Newton may be apocryphal, but as I heard it, one day Sir Isaac saw an apple fall from a tree — maybe on his head — and wondered why it went down instead of up, or simply stayed where it was. He decided it was a force he called gravity that pulled the apple toward the ground.

My own moment of enlightenment was not so dramatic, and you may already know the answers to the questions I am going to ask you. Why do the warning signs still say “men working” when a lot of people I see putting up traffic barriers these days are women? Incidentally, as the number of distaff employees increases, I expect them to push for sartorial and sanitary upgrades. I’m surprised they haven’t complained already about having to wear the same unflattering safety pullovers and using the same dingy port-a-potties as the guys. What woman wants to be seen by hundreds of frustrated drivers with her face smudged and her hair a nightmare? Naturally, the men don’t care.

Did I say working? If I did, I exaggerated, and that brings me to the new law I have formulated. After careful scientific observation while waiting to get through the work zones, I have concluded that it takes three workers to make one: two to watch and one to handle the shovel. The equipment doesn’t matter, the ratio stays the same: 3:1. If you don’t believe me, see for yourself on nearly every street or road in Texas. There are thousands of examples to prove my theory.

Maybe you can answer my next question. When did the roadwork start? I have lived 40-odd years near Interstate 45. They were working on it when I got here, and probably will continue after I’m gone. Apparently, all the road repairs were authorized at the same time, but it was so long ago that no living person remembers when. Can anybody tell me? The other day somebody said it was a few years after that Alamo business in San Antonio, but I think he was just messing with me. But we need not ask when the projects will be completed. We know that none will be finished in our lifetime, and if they were, it would be time to start over.

Forgive the grousing. I do have another question though. How many politicians does it take for the ribbon-cutting ceremonies every five years or so when a new section of highway is opened and cars waiting in line since the Cold War era can finally get through? Three, you say? No, all of them. The 3:1 law doesn’t apply to dignitaries or things like the number of college freshmen it takes to screw in a light bulb or lug a beer keg into a frat house.

Harold Raley is a professor, linguist, writer and philosopher. Email haroldraley49@gmail.com.

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