Janis Jaquith
625 words


My doctor's appointment is in four minutes. I'm sitting in my car, my thumbs twitching against the steering wheel, wondering when traffic will start moving again.

Great, now we're rolling, but why so slow? I'm not on a highway. I'm not in a city. I'm not even in the suburbs. I'm on a road in the country.

Where did all these cars come from? Where did all these people come from? And it gets worse every day. When I moved here six years ago, I could stop my car in the middle of this road and look at the mountains for a minute or two, and no one would come up behind me.

That's six years ago, not sixty.

Now, I like to think of myself as a kind, reasonable person, but this self-image has been put to the test lately by a villain. That villain is: The Developer.

Like Jerry Seinfeld saying, "Newman," that word is uttered with disdain among my family and friends.


I have no problem with builders who put up a house here, a house there, especially when the impact on the surrounding land is minimal.

The real villain, the Snidely Whiplash of rural America, is the developer who comes in with bulldozers and destroys a tract of graceful, picturesque landscape, replacing our beautiful countryside with dozens - sometimes hundreds - of houses.

This morning, I'm rolling along at five miles an hour past a bright green field dotted with cows the color of heavy cream. Butterflies dance around blue cornflowers at the edge of the road, and I wonder: How soon will it be before these cows are evicted, the rolling field flattened, all of this replaced by acres of aluminum and vinyl boxes, a checkerboard of little yards saturated with herbicides and insecticides, where no butterfly will survive.

And every house has at least two cars.

Sitting in traffic and thinking about developers is an unhealthy combination. My blood pressure must be through the roof. I tell myself: Breathe deeply, relax those shoulders. Think of this as a lazy tour of the countryside.

And think of the developer. He has a family to feed. Maybe kids in college. And this is how he makes his living. Who are you to tell this guy he can't feed his family? He means no harm.

This is where my internal dialogue heats up.

Okay, I understand that he means no harm. Just like the termites that are destroying the floor under your feet. They mean no harm. It's not personal. They're just very good at what they do.

We're moving faster now. Twenty-seven miles an hour. The woman behind me, in the black Suburban, is tailgating so close, she's practically in my back seat. If I wanted to be this close to strangers, I would've moved to New York.

My question for the developer is this: How will you know when you're done? Will it be when every farm and forest and meadow is covered with houses and stores and asphalt? And what will you do then? What will you do once you've ruined everything? If the answer is "Go someplace else." Why don't you go there now?

Right now. Just don't go by car, because you'd never get out of here. Take a plane, take a helicopter.

Take a hike.

Copyright ©2023, Janis Jaquith. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission prohibited.