Friday, October 12, 2007

Tollway Oases

When I was little I lived in New Jersey for a year. My parents used the time there to travel all over the eastern seaboard to see the sights. One of my earliest memories is of being in a tollway oasis (probably in Massachusetts) and being overwhelmed by the array of fast food locations. After I moved back to the south I would recall that fast food buffet and the memory wouldn't make sense. There are few toll roads in the south and so the idea of an oasis is foreign. It wasn't until years later that I was able to reconcile the memory with reality as I visited Chicago for the first time and saw the plethora of oases sprinkled throughout the metro area.

I'm not a big fan of toll roads, I think they make themselves more expensive just by existing, and would much prefer a creative tax that did not require millions of dollars to be spent on toll collection every year, but its Illinois, so what are you gonna do? I suppose I should let it be, but today I was struck by something at the oasis that really bothered me.

I was running some errands at lunch today and I stopped into the oasis for a quick bite to eat.
I was presented with the usual options, McDonalds, Panda Express, Subway, etc, and I was generally nonplussed by the choices. I was however drawn in by Famous Famiglia, the pizza place which apparently has the contract to operate in every oasis in Illinois. The stromboli I
had was quite good, as were the garlic bread balls. In fact I have no complaints about the food it was down right delicious.

That brings me to the bothering. As I ate my food I looked down at my plate. There in plain sight "New York's Favorite Pizza". New York? This isn't New York, This is Chicago. The city that turned deep dish pizza into the greatest food of all time. (Yes I'll argue that with anyone out there, and I'll win). This whole thing just set me off.

The idea of a tollway is to tax the many motorists that travel through our great state on the way to some less great state, so presumably many of the people traveling on the road are from out of town. These people stop at the oasis as a convenient means of refueling (car and stomach) as they travel through town. When they stop off around the outskirts of Chicago, and have a hankering for Pizza, what do we give them? New York's Favorite Pizza. What about Chicago's Favorite Pizza. Where is the banner of Chicago Gustatory Excellence? The Pizza at the oasis is at its best a missed opportunity to advertise our fair city's culinary accomplishments, and at the worst an offense to those who hold up Chicago's Pizza as the best in the world.

If I have to pay $2.80 a day to drive on a road, at the very least shouldn't I be able to stop along it and get some of Chicago's unique delicacies.

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