By Kristin Varela on July 31, 2013
There are some things we take for granted in the U.S. such as high-speed internet in our homes, not to mention free WiFi at nearly every public corner — in McDonald's, Starbucks and heck, even public parks. But there's one thing everyone complains about that we should actually be thankful for ... our roads.
My family and I recently returned from two weeks in South Africa visiting my in-laws. While it wasn't my first trip there, it was our first trip with all three of our kids, traveling an extra five hours by road from Johannesburg to Hoedspruit with all the grandkids loaded up in a rented van driven by my father-in-law. The road conditions were terrifying to say the least, especially with my most precious cargo onboard.
Making this drive was like playing Frogger, dodging potholes large enough to swallow the van on one side of the road while evading oncoming traffic on the other. Not to mention the high mountain passes, sans guardrails, with portions of the road crumbling down the hillside, and bridges partially washed away by flooding.
When my father-in-law was stopped for speeding (which didn't help my nerves), rather than paying the 300-rand ticket, he was able to "negotiate" with the officer to pay her 100 rand to let him go without a ticket. Standard operating procedure, I'm assured. While thinking that 300 rand could have gone to fill in a few potholes, I was feeling grateful for the U.S. infrastructure system that generally ensures safe roads to travel on with our families day in and day out.
The next time I'm standing in line at the county clerk's office, waiting to pay what seem like an exorbitantly large car-registration fee or paying a fine for a parking ticket, I might just do so a little less begrudgingly after seeing what a difference a percentage of those dollars actually do make to our road infrastructure.
I might even go so far as to smile to the clerk, knowing it may be the only one she gets that day.
Senior Family Editor Kristin Varela blends work and family life by driving her three tween-teen girls every which way in test cars. Email Kristin