Those who don't know, I live just outside of Philadelphia, and my significant other lives in Philadelphia itself. Due to job situations, I spend most of my time in Philadelphia.
If you aren't aware yet, the Pope is visiting Philadelphia today and tomorrow. The city is expected to host over 1 million visitors this weekend as people flock to the city to get a chance to see and meet the pope. It is a bit difficult for me to gauge what the news cycle is like outside of Philadelphia, but in the city it is all anyone is talking about... and the locals aren't happy.
Preparations for the visit have been ongoing for months now, preparing plans, organizing everything, and paying out lots and lots of money. Majority of folks will be traveling in from outside the city and spending no more than 2 days in the city. For those of us who live in the city, the impact goes far beyond a 2 day weekend, and that is what has the city in a bad mood.
Starting Monday, all parking in Center City began to shut down. This includes where I usually park overnight. So I quite literally had to park on the complete opposite side of the city and traverse the entire downtown section of the city, every morning. This alone added 30 minutes to an already long 1 hour commute.
Streets are completely shut down all weekend. Cars can leave downtown, but not enter. As such, I am stuck at my apartment, and my girlfriend at her apartment in the city since she has to work. I can't stay in the city since I need to get out of the city and on a flight in morning on Monday.
All this week, we've seen police activity increase. Major roads close, this means I have to find a different way to the airport to avoid closures. Random road closures have been happening all week, while workers set up human corrals in an attempt to keep people on the sidewalk. The army has been brought in, and almost all businesses have shut down at the end of the week.
This has triggered a mass exodus to the Jersey Shore for residents of the city. No one wants to be here when we are essentially prisoners of our own homes. Companies offering food cannot get shipments into the city, major highways are closed to all traffic.
This is just a taste of what has been happening in preparation for one person. Religious or not, this is an extreme impact to the local population for a single man to visit. I'm not sure I quite understand it, but it's hard for me to justify the expenditure of $12 million to host a single person.
More over, this significantly impacts my Monday flight. Higher levels of security are expected, people will be starting to travel home on Monday and I am not sure whether or not to expect a madhouse. So I guess that my point here is that when you travel to a special event like this, be aware how negatively it may be impacting the local population. Please be respectful of the locals you meet, they are not happy, they may not want to talk to you and they may have been dealing with this for far longer than you think. So give the waitresses and waiters a little leeway this weekend.