The Radish Rag - Vol. 2
The Great (usual) Flood(s)
Welcome to the Radish Rag, where bitter is better and my name is Kristina Vetter.
Hello fellow Radishes! After much deliberation with myself, I’ve decided that we simply must continue on this journey together. Thank you to those who are already reading, and make sure to pass this along to your favorites, or least favorites—does it matter? I think not.
Now that we’ve missed the chopping block, phew, let’s get down to business. But first, a word from the recesses of my mind:
If you’re new to the radish rag, welcome! As is tradition, before the true rant begins I must warm up with an anecdote from the woman who taught me everything I know. My grandmother. Unmoving. Strong. Witty. Savage…and very German. Enjoy the absurdity.
On one of our trips back to Germany, Gramma and I were on the train heading to Braunschweig in the north-central part of the country. Train travel wasn’t new to us, we were experts by now. Generally, you would purchase a ticket at the kiosk in the station and then stamp it upon entering the train car. But this time we managed to make a rookie mistake. I remember being startled by a tall, robust woman looming over us. I didn’t understand the first part of the conversation, but the subsequent *sigh* told me everything I needed to know: Gramma was 1000% irritated. We had not stamped our tickets, the woman informed us. Pause for gasps. Or we had stamped them, but somehow incorrectly? We, to this day, do not know. At any rate, the merry-go-round of explanations began. There was talk of a fine and having to speak to someone in a court capacity. Gramma being subjected to ridiculous suggestions of forms of payment and strange threats of “permanent record” blotches that would surely scare us into some sort of submission—sure, ok. All the while we are trying to explain that we do not live there. She then started on “finding out where we were staying” to attempt to chastise our host. It was a short, but effective nightmare. Were we going to be arrested? Were we getting thrown off the train? How much money could this possibly cost us in both opportunity and sanity, as well as real-fake monopoly euros?
Long story short, it was a simple mistake made into the biggest of issues by this one, extremely dedicated, Deutsche Bahn worker in a tight vest. Gramma, however, stood (or sat, really) firmly. But, once it was all done and we caught our breath. Something was uttered that I will never forget. Taken in with a deep breath and stock of the situation, my own grandmother, lets out an exasperated statement:
“Well, she was fat.”
I laughed. I couldn’t help it. We were starkly in the wrong in the situation and this woman put us in our place and out to pasture. Stern pointer finger and all. We were not in control, so we doubled down as juveniles to release the tension. In the moments to follow, it provided a strange bonding experience that we didn’t often get. And while it’s not something we say anymore, the memory lives on in our tormented minds of this frighteningly dedicated woman. Were we even German anymore? Can she do that?
Fat is not a bad word, in fact it’s a satisfying word. Sometimes, it’s the way the word feels as you say it. Fat starts with your teeth pressing on your bottom lip, opening up your soft palate “a,” followed by a poignant and punctuated “t.” Cacophonous and resounding, vibrating your skull for emphasis. Fuck is another good example. Do you know what else starts with “f?” Flooding—not as satisfying. And if you’ve ever been stuck on Abercorn between DeRenne and Washington Ave after/during a huge rain, you’d be yelling all manner of “f” words—SEGUE.
From Victory to the river you’ll see pockets of rain-filled mini seas marking each point of failure in our drainage systems. In some cases you’ll even see store fronts with sandbags. Why? Because the street is higher than the threshold of the door. The whole of Savannah is only about 40-49 feet above sea level at the highest point. So not only are we doomed by the inevitable, actual sea levels rising, we must canoe to work after a decent storm. Arriving damp, as usual, but still. Our very own grottoes between each major thoroughfare with the hope that the lane will provide safe passage. We deal, however, this was not exactly “covered” in my Physical Science class. I don’t imagine I can write a strongly worded letter to my 3rd grade science teacher, however; I do implore our teachers to please do better. I was taken completely off guard. Just take more time on the weekends, you know, when you’re not paid? Please don't do that, y'all need a break. Gramma would tell stories about being rapped across the knuckles with a ruler…
Going to Tybee? Sunny one minute, a deluge the next—like it's fucking Florida. Forget it. The entirety of 80 will be closed off until the waters recede. Pan to scene: concussion due blunt force trauma, your head banging against the steering wheel. A healthy dose of an existential crisis “pause.” To give you pause, get it? aNyHoW!
Truly, I’m not sure where to place the fault. To whom do we place this irrational issue at the feet of? If not our teachers, surely it’s with the city. In 2015, there was a plan for “Stormwater Management” with an emphasis on green practices. Understandably, we have quite a few natural resources and protected areas to consider. Savannah is an old gal with specific bones and a lot of overgrowth—*wink.* This requires a fair bit of thought, like in any healthy relationship. However, it’s interesting when that matters and when it doesn’t. New development, for example. Retention ponds are not wetlands. I’m only guessing, though. I only live here.
Perhaps it’s the lack of cash flow? There are always issues to handle in a municipality. Those issues require funds. We aren’t unforgiving, nor unreasonable radishes. But it doesn’t feel good, for example, when the only reliable form of transportation in the city comes with a 50k+ a year price tag and a property tax exemption. Again, not without reason, dear radishes. I just wish I understood the reasons. I digress…
The way this radish sees it, we have two problems: storm-water retention in the city, and developers having enough money to make obstacles like “green practices” disappear. Not so much in the way of an assistant disappearing, but more in the Schroedinger variety. On paper, it sounds nice that these practices are being used, but the literature is careful to use the word: “practical.” Meaning, it gives flexibility to the term. How, when, and when not to use said practices if they are not deemed as such. It’s worthy to note that some properties do not fall into the hands of the city, though we consider them a part of us. So, in those cases, they are not necessarily at fault. But the precedent that the city sets is, also, important. If we continue to award those coming into our city, without any prior knowledge or love of it, then we set a dangerous standard to which our residents are treated. We live here, we work here. So what parts of it we can improve upon for us matters, as well as how much of it we continue to give away to the highest bidder. Late stage anything is a bitch, but I’m about done with being at the service of someone throwing up on my street, in the vacation rental across the way with no thought to how that might ruin my morning. No clue as to how their unchecked presence has skyrocketed living costs and all but removed the idea of a starter home. But we keep welcoming them because that’s our industry: service. Where is our service? How many floods, literal and metaphorical, do we keep allowing? If we, as individuals, can improve upon so much every day: how we treat others, how we talk about them, and use our surrounding language. Why can’t the city be clear in how they are handling our issues, with language that takes care of its citizens rather than hiding behind safety nets of quick money? Global cultural shifts have happened faster than the I-16 upgrade. I may digress, but to regress would be a crime. We need more. We deserve more. Because we fucking live here. Let’s start with the drainage, so it doesn’t flood our collective engines, and we’ll work from there.