Calvin Mackie
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Calvin Mackie
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Calvin Mackie

My commute every morning from the eastern suburbs of New Orleans and now from the West bank of New Orleans have never been particularly eventful. At the most, the morning events consist of spilling hot coffee in my lap, running out of gas, or forgetting my toll tag or toll money. Each of these events are minor compared to the things I witness other people experiencing on a daily basis. Every morning I enjoy watching human behavior, particularly the ebb and flow that occurs as the result of the daily repetition in life.

The city of New Orleans is completely surrounded by water. Because of this, when commuters travel towards the city's business district, they most likely have to cross a bridge. One of these bridges is affectionately called "The High Rise." This bridge spans the Industrial Canal that connects the Mississippi River with Lake Pontchatrain. A number of international ships and tankers use this route to deliver materials from the Gulf of Mexico via the infamous Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (which flooded the Lower 9th ward during Hurricane Katrina). Since it has to be high enough for tankers to pass under it, this bridge is one of the tallest bridges in the state of Louisiana; hence the reason for its name, The High Rise.

This bridge has been a daily source of frustration because, regardless of driving conditions, traffic stacks up at the base of the bridge every single morning. Every morning the same commuters arrive at the bottom of the bridge and hit their brakes as if it is their first time crossing The High Rise. The result is that every morning, as these same commuters slow down, a bottleneck occurs. If there happens to be an accident on the bridge you'd better have packed a lunch; everyone is going to be there for a while.

In an attempt to fix the problem, the transportation department posted signs asking motorists to maintain their speed. This has had no luck in improving the situation. Whenever I drive across the bridge, I look curiously around for accidents or other reasons that would explain the daily traffic. Each time I fail to spot any reason for the traffic and as a result, stare menacingly at the other drivers, wondering why are they driving so slowly and cautiously.

Occasionally, I see the same individuals on consecutive days. Day after day, these people drive as if there is no connecting span on the bridge, as if they are going to plunge into the chilly turbulent waters below. Everyday I pass Explorers, Escorts, Suburbans, pick-up trucks, eighteen-wheelers, BMWs, and Mercedes that seem to be struggling to maintain respectable speeds on the steep bridge.

As an engineer I know that even though each of these vehicles most likely have different sized engines that are rated for a variety of terrain and road conditions, all were designed to meet common minimum performance standards. These standards would most certainly provide enough power to allow them to traverse the steep grade of the bridge. Whether a vehicle has a four, six, or eight-cylinder engine, the car can conquer the bridge. The problem is not with the car; it is that the drivers are afraid to utilize their vehicles. Every morning, in order to maintain speed and diffuse traffic jams, all the drivers need to do is PRESS ON THE GAS!

This scenario mirrors the daily struggles in life that most people face. One of the greatest burdens life places on you is the burden of making decisions. You will always face bridges, hills, and barriers that seem impassable. Obstacles such as these will force you to discover the depth and integrity of your determination.

God has created all people with the ability to accomplish great things. Some people may have been created as more intelligent, quicker, or stronger than others, but every single person was given the tools necessary to cross "The High Rises" in their lives. All you have to do is Press on the GAS! When it seems as if you are not going to make it to the top or if you believe that you are going to fail, you have to dig deep and look within. No one has claimed that your journey through life, college, or a career was going to be simple or easy.

There will be some mornings when you will wake up, look at the bridges you have to cross to get to the mountaintop, and question whether you are capable of making it. This has happened to even the most preeminent people in all fields and facets of life, the people who seem as though they have it easy. There is one big difference between the people who succeed and those who do not. Those people who are successful have chosen to continue moving toward their goals when the obstacles seem to high or too difficult. These people keep pressing forward when others slow down, hit their brakes, or pull to the side of the road. Each person has what it takes to get to the other side the side of success and achievement and the place for which you were created. You were not born to be mediocre, riding the brakes, or stuck at the base of "The High Rise" in your life while others continue to pass you by. Whenever you have doubt, fear, anxiety, or even consider giving up completely, remember to PRESS ON THE GAS!

Calvin Mackie

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