What lies beneath a sinking feeling

  • Posted: Thursday, July 18, 2013 12:01 a.m., Updated: Thursday, July 18, 2013 11:18 a.m.

With apologies to Paul Simon:

Ever feel like you — and the rest of us — are slip-sliding away?

That sinking sensation was underscored for some Post and Courier readers Tuesday by this front-page news from esteemed colleague David Slade:

“On Monday a sinkhole large enough to swallow a car opened in Dorchester County on rural, state-maintained Wire Road, near the Orangeburg County line. Meanwhile, S.C. Department of Transportation crews continued to work on repairing an equally large sinkhole on Interstate 26 in Berkeley County that was discovered July 5.”

Equally large as in “about 10 feet deep and at least 6 feet wide.”

Last Friday, that I-26 sinkhole forced a lane closure that backed traffic up for 7 miles.

A tough way to go

But hey, getting stuck in a gridlock rut beats being buried alive by a 60-by-30-foot sinkhole. An extraordinarily hard-luck Tampa-area man suffered that grisly fate on Feb. 28 when he — and his house — were sucked into eternal oblivion.

Much closer to home, I-26 was a congested mess before those sinkholes appeared, and the new port terminal at the old Charleston Navy Base will only add to its bumper-to-bumper prospects.

Plus, as if DOT officials didn’t have enough to worry about with our state’s dangerously underfunded, increasingly decaying road system, they have figuratively wandered into the deep woods of controversy in their quest to cut trees in the I-26 median from Summerville to I-95.

Nature lover Mark Sanford, our new (and old) 1st District congressman, has even joined the ranks of interstate-greenery-scenery defenders who oppose that DOT plan.

And remember, sinkholes don’t just swallow pavement, vehicles, houses and people.

Sinkholes swallow trees.

Thus, sinkhole reality is deeply depressing.

Yet sinkhole symbolism can be a downright downer too.

So can the way art has long imitated life — and vice versa — both above and under the ground.

Recall Dante Alighieri’s “Inferno” and other frightful fictional (let’s hope) specters of the netherworld.

For instance, in 1961’s “Mole Men vs. the Sons of Hercules,” mighty Maciste (muscle man Mark Forest) must summon all his strength to liberate himself and hundreds more from “wheel of woe” servitude imposed by subterranean albino mutants.

Maciste prevails, in part, by luring some gullible mole men into the daylight.

Back in our own modern realm, sunshine laws serve a similarly positive purpose by illuminating public awareness of government’s frequently low-down machinations.

Still, it’s daunting to know that even heroic powerhouses like Maciste, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and Ultraman have found mole-type creatures challenging adversaries.

And back again in our so-called real world, real moles do a lot of damage to a lot of yards in these parts by constructing vast, grass-killing tunnel systems.

Watch your step

Back to sinkholes: If those harrowing Lowcountry hollows don’t alarm you, how about the massive chasm between federal spending and federal revenues?

As of Wednesday, our record national debt was $16.74 trillion — and steeply climbing.

And how do we stop digging ourselves ever lower into a bottomless pit of despair over proliferating futilities — both collective and individual?

Well, we could start by not constantly gazing into the abyss.

Instead, try looking upward — and onward — more often.

But every now and then, look downward too.

Otherwise, you might fall into a sinkhole.

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.

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