You Can Get There From Here


I have not lived in Ipswich long, but I have lived here long enough to be entering old age — proven by the fact that my youngest child is now at Ipswich High School and recklessly approaching driving age.

Lydia Charlotte will soon need to master driving in Ipswich. Please note that this is not exactly the same as mastering plain old “driving.” Many driving-related phenomena in Ipswich require special skills which are not required — or even recommended — elsewhere.

For example, Lydia Charlotte will eventually need her hair styled. This means she will need to get herself from our home on Planet Outer Linebrook to Detangles on Short Street, where Kathy Gelsomini has been responsible for Brendel family hair ever since we moved to town.

Dear daughter: I offer you this basic primer in getting from here to there.

This journey, of less than five miles, should take only 10 minutes. You simply follow Linebrook Road across Route 1, past Marini, past the Catholic church, to the stop sign at Lord’s Square. All of this can be accomplished with the most rudimentary of driving skills.

Here, however — at Lord’s Square — you will need special abilities, rare insights, and perhaps a dash of luck. For here, you must cross the street, moving from the head of Linebrook Road to the head of Short Street. This is a distance of barely 80 feet, but it is likely to be an extraordinary adventure, vividly remembered for a long time to come, possibly during therapy sessions.

First, prepare yourself for the navigation process. Note that you are crossing not one but two state routes, both 133 and 1A, which means you may be dealing with eastbound traffic from Georgetown competing with southbound traffic from Newbury, as well as westbound traffic from Gloucester competing with northbound traffic from Hamilton. The folks approaching Lord’s Square from your right will likely be disoriented by the sharp curve in the road, as they’re forced to bend toward the dog-leg at High Street. The folks approaching from your left will be even more disoriented, because they will have just experienced the dog-leg at High Street. You may actually catch a glimpse of these drivers mouthing the words “What just happened?”

Even if traffic thins out enough to convince you that you have time to gun the accelerator and bolt across the road to Short Street, please don’t — at least not until you have glanced to your right, to see if anyone is sitting at the head of Liberty Street, also hoping to leap into the fray. Whomever you may see sitting at that stop sign, do not — I repeat, do not, under any circumstances — make eye contact with them. They are trapped on a one-way street which should go the opposite direction but doesn’t, and it’s possible that they’ve been sitting at that stop sign for some number of hours, watching in vain for an opportunity to pull into traffic and get on with their lives. One woman who lives on Liberty Street reportedly raised her five children in her minivan at the Liberty Street stop sign. In such straits, a driver to your right, waiting on Liberty Street, may be fidgety, even desperate, so at any moment they may do something irrational. Or even something emotional — like clasping their hands and miming a plea of anguish — just to get your sympathy. So whatever you do, do not look directly at the Liberty Street driver. Just keep track of them, out of the corner of your eye, so you’re not accidentally broadsided by them when you finally make your move.

When you finally feel that you have enough time to cross the street without being clobbered, I urge you to hit the gas. This is no time for timidity. You have to move your vehicle some 80 feet — nearly two-hundredths of a mile — before you can relax again. In a situation like this, my dear daughter, there is no shame in leaving skid marks on the asphalt. And if you find yourself fainting with fright, uneasy about mashing the accelerator, just remember: Until you get to Detangles, your hair looks terrible.

I’m sorry I can’t teach you in this session everything you’ll need to know about driving in Ipswich, but please know that I love you, I’m committed to you, I’ll pay your hospital bills as necessary — and I promise to keep coaching you as best I can. Future lessons include:

  • How to Survive When Three Drivers Simultaneously Approach the Railroad Crossing in Front of the Ipswich Sports Bar
  • Where You Can Turn Left at Five Corners and Where You Can’t
  • How to Get to the Neck Without a Boat During High Tide

And maybe most important of all:

  • How to Get Off Argilla Road Onto County.





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