The Road to Hell Is Paved

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(It was impossible for the Ipswich Chronicle to run the entire pothole discussion, so I submitted an abbreviated version for the print edition. Here’s the full-length original. Thanks to all who participated!)

roller prepped

I try to be reasonable. Level-headed. Rational. I don’t want to let the unimportant become important. I attempt to see the world logically. Realistically. There are too many crazies already, too many screamers and fanatics and apocalypticists.

But I fail. I am what I am. And deep inside myself, in my sub-conscious realm, in my dream-making place, I am not reasonable. Not level-headed. In fact, utterly irrational.

So this morning when I burst from my pillow in a panic, gasping and shuddering, veins throbbing in my temples, I was embarrassed to confront, yet again, my shameful personal reality.

I am tragically fixated.

Fixated on what? you may ask.

Potholes.

I was having a nightmare about the paving of outer Linebrook Road.

This is what my life has become. I’m so happy here in Ipswich, so comfortable in this town I chose, that the most serious overnight work my brain has to do is to ponder the problem of potholes.

The announcement was made — Linebrook Road would be closed from Leslie to Route 1 starting at 7 a.m. Two days for prep, two days for paving. Then, driving toward town, I saw the satisfying evidence, parked on the triangle of brush where Leslie Road doesn’t know which way to turn onto Linebrook Road: a fabulous yellow Busby Construction Co. CS-563 CAT asphalt roller, its massive coffee-can wheel bulging out from its front, ready to squish hot asphalt into even the tiniest crevice.

It was love at first sight, me and this mammoth machine. Here was our great gladiator, the hero bringing healing. No more potholes spraining our spines, spilling our Starbucks, and making us miss erroneous auto-corrects while illegally texting at the wheel. Thanks to this handsome contraption, my vertebrae and my Honda’s front end both have hope of realigning. Life on Planet Outer Linebrook, already very good, was about to get even better.

But in my nightmare, just as the long-awaited driver mounted the wondrous golden monster-truck, an angry crowd surged forth: residents of Mile Lane, armed with torches and clam forks. The mob engulfed the asphalt roller, climbed up into the cab, and shrieked for the driver to head east. They would have the potholes of Mile Lane filled first, or he would find himself flattened by his own device.

At this moment, I came screaming down Linebrook Road in my pajamas.

“No! No! Don’t leave us! We were so close! So——”

Suddenly I fell into a pothole.

Summoning superhuman strength (this being a dream), I scrambled back up to the pocked surface of Linebrook Road. The surly horde was practically smothering the driver. Terrified, he was firing up the asphalt roller. The colossal wheels began to roll, and the pack of Mile Lane marauders sent up an awful cheer.

“No!” I screamed again.

But then — something new.

The asphalt roller abruptly stopped.

The crowd turned as one.

A straggling line of humanity had formed, most of them my Facebook friends, all the way to Route 1: dozens of citizens, from other parts of Ipswich, waving more torches and clam forks, yes, but also some angrily brandishing lacrosse sticks or backyard pub table parasols.

“Paradise Road!” Melissa Herrick hissed.

“Goldfinch Way!” Sonia Johnson growled.

Sarah MacDowell cried out over the crowd. “Dornell Road has side-by-side potholes in front of a basketball hoop! The kids will probably get swallowed up if they go out to play!”

“Hayward Street!” Judi Watts and Elizabeth McClain shouted simultaneously.

“The industrial park on Hayward will have all potholes filled very soon!” Melissa Lane chirped. “They’re marked and just waiting on the company to arrive!” The crowd turned and scowled her into silence.

“Elm Street!” Sean O’Brien shouted over them. “Yes, in front of the police station,” Keith Anderson added.

“School Street, hands down!” Martha Miller yelled. Cindy Parker nodded. “Every year,” Ali McClellan groused, “it buckles up.”

“High Street is no picnic,” Jim Martel snarled, “from Mineral to County!”

“No,” Heidi Graffum-Curran jeered, “High is worse from the new bridge to Clam Box!”

“Amen!” Nancy Manning chanted. “Clam Box,” Kim Marchand sneered.

“High Street toward Lord’s Square,” Joanna Cooper offered.

“High Street is a mess,” John McGrath muttered.

“Jeffrey’s Neck is a mess,” Tom Palance corrected.

“Jeffrey’s Neck!” Wendy Dabcovich crowed. “Takes the cake!” Kathleen Whitfield agreed.

“The Neck has some nasty ones!” Cory Simonds called out. “Especially in the rain. Under every puddle lies a hungry hole.”

“Jeffrey’s Neck,” Jeffrey Johnson moaned, as if for a part of his own body.

“More of a sinkhole than a pothole,” Barbara Parker protested.

“And Little Neck Road!” Joyce McCarthy continued.

“Did I mention,” Susan McCarron mentioned, “that I broke my foot stepping into a pothole on Ryan Avenue?”

A momentary hush fell over the crowd, as David Wallace rose glowering from the mists. Solemnly he intoned:

“There’s been one since winter in front of Rite-Aid,

So vast it could swallow an Ipswich parade.”

“Avery Street!” Richard Hilaire barked, breaking the spell. “Quite a creative and beautiful patchwork. My grandma would be proud.”

“Avery and Hayward!” Judi Watts declared.

“Chattanooga Road will rattle anything apart!” Daniel Rowland insisted.

“Broadway!” Denise Mootafian sang out. “And the Doyon driveway is a car-eating monster!”

“Do school parking lots count?” Nikki Weisberg asked.

“The Doyon parking lot,” Lisa-Marie Cashman echoed crossly. “I’ve had my car realigned several times after bottoming out.”

“Upper Broadway beats all,” Joni Soffron said. “Hang onto your seat!” Laura Dietz seconded the m-m-m-m-motion.

“Linden Street?” Chuck Kollars crooned. “Used to be one of the town’s craziest.”

The crowd was growing restless, gradually advancing on the Mile Lane mob.

“Farley and Broadway,” Gail Griffin groaned.

“Spillers,” Allison Duback suggested.

“Jeffrey’s Neck!” Wendy yelled again.

Laura Hoffmann, so far toward the back of the line she was still at work in the Library, exclaimed from the check-out desk: “Drive down Pineswamp Road to the end! There are huge orange barrels in the road warning you of the sinkholes! Not kidding!”

“The end of Pineswamp Road,” Kristine Glennon prophesied, “is going to cave into the swamp!”

“The road is caving in!” Amy Bonaiuto squawked.

“Bailey,” Kristen Breen asserted, “between Brownville and Perley Ave. So many people use it as a cut-through — but the town won’t fix it because it isn’t a ‘real’ road. Hang on to your coffee, and make sure everything is secured!”

“Bailey,” Jason Dorr repeated. “Bailey is a total mess,” Nancy Thistlewood asserted.

The crowd settled uneasily, as David Wallace rose again from the shadows. His voice floated over the multitudes.

“At Ipswich geography, I am a whiz,

But honestly, who can say where Bailey is?”

“Never heard of it,” Penny Bernard grunted.

“One block between Perley and Brownville,” KelleyJane Kloub snorted.

“North Perley,” Douglas Wilkins interjected.

“Town Farm,” Liza Barlow whispered. “Potholes so big, you can drop and elephant into them!” KelleyJane grumped.

“I busted a strut this morning,” Rose Coulombe raged, “on Town Farm Road!”

“The potholes are everywhere!” Micki Hughes yelped. “If a vehicle is coming from the opposite direction, you have to stop or risk falling into the hole. There’s no way to straddle them!”

“Just confirmed,” Rose grumbled: “my strut is blown. It’s leaking now.”

“Jeffrey’s Neck!” (It was Wendy again.) “Yeah,” Kathryn Eaton sighed.

“Jeffrey’s Neck now has a natural launching ramp,” Heather Ann sniffed, “just before you hit the causeway. Hit it at the speed limit and you get air.”

“Boxford Road, a.k.a. far outer Linebrook,” Darcy Moulton observed.

“Central Street,” Sharon West stated flatly.

“Poplar!” Julie Tucker cried out. “Heartbreak!”

Heartbreak, indeed. The crowd converged on the hijackers, the din was deafening, the mayhem was maddening, the big yellow asphalt roller was being destroyed, carnage everywhere, twisted pieces of yellow metal flying hither and yon, each gargantuan fragment landing with a twang and gouging a fresh jagged pothole in Linebrook Road.

Then I woke up. Slimy with sweat, my chest heaving with the horror of it all. It was almost as if my mommy were once again sitting beside my little bed, patting my little head, in the waning days of the Eisenhower Administration, softly assuring me: “It’s OK, Dougie, it was only a nightmare.” At the time, she might have been referring to the Eisenhower Administration. But now, the fog began to lift. Reality began to re-emerge. Mile Lane would wait. The other streets would wait. Yes, Linebrook Road was being prepped. It would be paved. My thoracic vertebrae might eventually have a chance of disengaging from my lumbar vertebrae.

Life is good. And getting smoother.

(I adapted this column from my friends’ actual Facebook posts. Thanks again to all who commented!)

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