Caution: Paid Pedestrian Crossing


paid pedestrians

If you’re sitting at Five Corners, needing to turn left onto Central Street, you’re doomed.

Well, maybe not technically “doomed.” But you are probably going to sit there for a long, long time. Long enough to ponder complicated questions like “Am I technically ‘doomed’?” Or, “What are the mathematical odds of my getting out there onto Central Street without causing an accident?” In fact, you’ll have enough time to figure those odds with a pencil and paper. Using long division. Or using an abacus, if you happen to have an abacus in your cup holder.

In any event, you’re going to be there awhile.

However, there is hope. You do have allies in this situation. They’re called “pedestrians.”

People on foot have enormous power in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. They can stop Mack trucks in their tracks. Since pedestrians have the right of way — and something like super-powered right of way in designated crosswalks — they can stop traffic without a gesture, without a badge, without even a lawyer.

So your most realistic hope for pulling out into the intersection at Five Corners may be a pedestrian who happens be crossing the street. If you’re sitting on Market Street hoping against hope to turn left onto Central, your best friend is the woozy housewife stumbling out of the Pub after a few midday beers and crossing South Main to get a massage at Slight of Hand. The moment she sets foot on asphalt, traffic moving toward Five Corners from all six possible directions comes to a nervous halt. This is how 18.7% of all drivers in Ipswich get across Five Corners.

Which means, what we need, to alleviate traffic congestion at Five Corners, is street-crossers. (Not street-walkers. Not cross-dressers. Please read carefully.) Here’s how the program works. When you subscribe, you get a little transponder to affix to your windshield, just behind your rear-view mirror, next to your E-ZPass box. As you approach one of the accursed stop signs at Five Corners, your transponder sends a signal to one of the street-crossers I have hired for your convenience. They’ll be stationed at the ten corners we so fondly refer to as Five Corners. Each of them will have a little unit that lights up and vibrates, like the thingy you get from the hostess at a tacky chain restaurant when you have to wait for a table. The moment the street-crosser gets the signal, he or she will start crossing the street. Traffic will grind to a halt. You’ll be able to ease your vehicle forward, and by the time my street-crosser has street-crossed, you’ll be too far out into the intersection to be denied a place in the stream of traffic.

Proceed, with snickering.

If the subscription program is successful, we’ll add kiosks at certain points leading toward Five Corners, where non-subscribers can get in on the fun. For example, as you drive toward Ipswich Center on Central Street, when you come to Mineral, there will be station where you can pull to the curb, pay $5 (cash, please), then immediately proceed to Five Corners. There, a street-crosser will ensure your smooth passage by walking right in front of that Congregationalist SUV trying to sneak across from North Main Street after a chili cook-off at First Church.

As a public service, I intend to hire young people, hard-hit in the current economy, as street-crossers. Young people are also the bravest demographic group, and this is, after all, a stepping-out-into-traffic sort of job. After the business is well established — and assuming no young people have been mowed down by inattentive Hummer-drivers, leading to colossal lawsuits and legal fees — we will begin hiring senior citizens. I’m thinking a senior citizen with a particularly problematic hip could be a hero in this scenario. You not only get through Five Corners yourself, but you make all the other cars wait a really, really long time. This could be the basis of a Premium Club membership option.

Please join.

P.S. Special note to Liberty Street residents: Before you ask, the answer is yes. We do hope to bring our service to Lord’s Square.


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