Honk If You Love Traffic

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Honk If You Love Traffic

“The Outsidah”

Stop Me Before I Do It Again
Doug Brendel

I am really, really trying to quit.
Beginning with the very first column I ever wrote for this newspaper, I have commented more or less continuously on the traffic in Ipswich. I’m trying to give it up, but it’s so, so hard.
I’ve never said that our traffic is bad. It’s not heavy traffic. It’s not Boston traffic. It’s — what is the word? — idiosyncratic. It is, shall we say, interesting in its Ipswichiosity.
My personal history as a driver of automobiles in other cities did not prepare me well for the anomalies of Ipswich traffic. In Chicago, they run you over. In Boston, they cut you off. In Maricopa County, Arizona, which is literally as large as the entire state of New Hampshire, it’s just one massive movie-car-chase scene, because wherever you’re going, you’ve got so much ground to cover, if you don’t go 90, you’ll never get there.
Ipswich traffic is different. It’s friendly. It’s so nice, so neighborly, so prudent … well, I may need therapy to live here. Maybe I’m just deranged by all those years in the Big City, playing real-life bumper cars with the death machine operators.
I have tried the 12-step program Columnists Anonymous, but I have never been able to get past Step 1: “I admit that I’m powerless over my addiction” — in this case, writing about Ipswich traffic. I can’t bring myself to believe, deep down inside, that I’m actually powerless — that I can’t somehow make things different.
Yes, I realize I’m new in town, and I can’t have even the slightest influence until at least 2029. I realize these rolling roads, stripes of asphalt laid over the paths trod by cows of the Colonial era, were not laid out by mere human hands — God Himself directed the design, as He guided the Colonial cows to wander hither and yon. I think it was sort of a cosmic doodling exercise. Perhaps God was having a slow day. Perhaps he was a little bored, waiting for someone to invent Words With Friends. Perhaps His traffic-management angels somehow missed foreseeing the poor lady from Swampscott who spent two and a half weeks stranded in her Subaru, paralyzed with fear and confusion at that little triangle of grass where County Street, South Main Street, Poplar Street, and South Village Green all come together. I’ve spent time there myself, pondering great truths like, Who really has the right-of-way here?
But every time I swear I’ll never write another column about Ipswich traffic, I find myself sitting behind the wheel in the midst of yet another Nightmare on Elm Street, or Hallucination on High Street, and the urge within me begins to throb anew: Write, Doug! Write about the traffic!
I am really trying to quit. But not hard enough. I can’t quit. Not here, in a town that sports not only the enigma of Lord’s Square (with the High Street stop sign bonus feature) — and the Five Corners conundrum — plus the Town Farm–High Street Bridge puzzle — but also the Hammatt–Depot Square–Washington Street train crossing thingy-doodle (which, on Google Earth, looks like a warped wishbone).
For a traffic-obsessed columnist, Ipswich is just too tempting.
Like, have you tried coming east from Marini on Linebrook Road, and then when you get to — oh, never mind. I’ll write about it next time.

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