I live in Indianapolis, and I work downtown. In Downtown Indianapolis we have this lovely thing called The Canal. The Canal is man-made, and it is basically a 1.5-mile-long concrete moat with sidewalks on both sides so people can walk along and admire the putrid water and over-abundant algae.
And they do. Once, I saw a guy on a unicycle. Moms pushing strollers (of the jogging, double, umbrella or travel system variety) are a common site. Joggers and jugglers and dog-walkers and bicyclists and field-tripping-middle-schoolers are all frequent visitors. In the summer, they offer actual gondola rides on The Canal. And you can rent a paddle boat or a kayak and paddle right into one of the many fountains designed to keep some sort of current. People do that a lot. Once, I even saw a runner pee into one of the planters.
How have I seen all this? My office window looks out over The Canal, so I can spend several minutes every hour gazing out into The Canal and keeping watch over it. You know, from terrorists and bush-peers and other malfeasant types. It helps with productivity. Really.
Now, from up here, it actually looks pretty. Mostly they keep the fountain in the corner running, so the algae doesn’t accumulate too badly outside my window. I can see some dead leaves pushed up along the side, and the water has a bit of a green cast to it, but overall, it’s actually pleasant and a little soothing to have something nice to look out on in times of great frustration. Or when I should be transcribing a recorded interview or summarizing a committee meeting.
Up close, though, The Canal is … gross. It smells bad. The plant life along the bottom is out of control. There are supposedly piranhas that irresponsible pet owners have loosed on the native Indiana fish stocked in The Canal. The city has been fighting a battle against The Canal almost since it was constructed about eight years ago.
So, next month, they are Draining The Canal. The entire 1.5 mile stretch will be emptied of all water. The fish will be transported to the White River and the entire thing is going to be cleaned. Will this help? I don’t think they know. But I’ll be interested to see how absolutely disgusting the bottom of The Canal is when the drain actually happens. And whether or not my tax dollars – which are paying for this experiment, and the full-time employee whose job it’s been to keep The Canal looking spiffy for the last year – are going to waste.