Blow By, Blow Dry


I have not lived in Ipswich long, but I have lived here long enough to suggest a few ways to deal with speeders on outer Linebrook Road, where I live.

The speed limit is 25 mph, which is a little slow for modern drivers, I realize that. But after you pass Cumby’s, the road curves left, then right, then left and right again, then left again — until finally you think it’s straightening out, but right then there’s an incline that makes it impossible to see what’s up ahead, and once you get over the incline, you discover another curve, then another, and then another. Et cetera. It’s a wiggly road. An unpredictable road. It’s the road they’ve based several video games on.

Sure, you might be a brilliant driver with lightning reflexes commanding a highly responsive sports car that could take these curves at 35 or 45 or even more. But this is Planet Outer Linebrook, remember. At any moment, you could come around a turn and suddenly find yourself about to broadside a deer family casually clip-clopping across the asphalt. You might survive the crash, but this is a really inefficient way of procuring venison for your freezer. As you maneuver your way along outer Linebrook Road, you’ll also want to give yourself enough time to dodge our dogs, cats, coyotes, squirrels, skunks, fishers, raccoons, beavers, turtles, turkeys, ducks, and those illegal free-range chickens standing along the side of the road hoping to flag down a lawyer. Okay, maybe I exaggerate. We don’t really have any beavers.

I realize it’s a difficult discipline, driving 25 mph. Let’s say you’ve been in Danvers, slurping spaghetti at Ponte Vecchio, and now you’re full of carbs, roaring north along on Route 1 at 50 mph or more. You approach Linebrook Road, the light is green, and you careen around the corner at Cumby’s heading west. Of course you hate, I mean really hate, to slow down to 25 on dopey little outer Linebrook Road.

Or maybe you’ve been at Marini’s farm stand, where you were looking longingly at the field where their corn maze will be, and dreaming of summer. Now you’re heading west on Linebrook Road, the speed limit is 30 mph, so of course you’re not doing any more than 40. Then you cross Route 1 and have to slow down to 25. It’s painful. It’s like a loss of liberty. It’s un-American. John Adams would absolutely hate this.

But slowing down is important. Speeding is dangerous to those of us who live out here. I happen to reside on one of those little bends in the road — just past a “Dangerous Intersection” sign — and I’ve had two mailboxes taken out by drivers who didn’t quite make the curve. If I’m checking for my mail and I lean over to make sure I’ve gotten everything out the box, my rear end is at serious risk of detachment by drivers who just passed the “Dangerous Intersection” sign and, feeling like they’re in the clear now, hit the gas.

Since I arrived in this neighborhood, I’ve suggested a variety of strategies for encouraging drivers to slow down on outer Linebrook Road — including speed bumps, toll gates, information kiosks, traffic signals, and snipers, to name a few. But now my friend Richard Howard has offered a real solution. Something realistic, something practical, something truly feasible. And as you’ll recall, Richard until recently served as an esteemed member of our venerable FinCom, so it will come as no surprise that his plan is entirely affordable.

Richard’s idea has its roots in Hopeman, a small seaside village in the Moray area of northeast Scotland. It’s a bit more Rockport than Ipswich, in a way, since it began as a fishing port, but boomed in the mid-1800s exporting stone from nearby quarries. Yet like Ipswich, the village of Hopeman features an array of attractive places where you can spend your money: a general store, a gift shop, two hairdressers, a butcher shop, a hotel, a flower shop, a post office, and three eating establishments, including a Chinese carryout. There’s also a golf course. (Hopeman also has an art gallery, unlike Ipswich; there were three when I moved here, all gone now.) But like Ipswich, Hopeman features a hugely popular summertime gala featuring a sandcastle competition and plenty of music. Hopeman’s beaches feature a number of remarkable species of birds; however, Hopeman has no piping plovers, so none of its birds dictate public policy.

However, to the point: the village of Hopeman has also had a problem with speeders. They were dealing with drivers racing through town at 60 mph and more, even with children heading to or from school.

But no more. The 1,700 or so residents of this enterprising little shire came up with a simple, low-cost solution.

Here it is:

They send someone in a fluorescent-yellow jacket to stand by the side of the road holding a blow-dryer, aimed like a gun at oncoming drivers.

It looks for all the world like a cop aiming a radar gun at you. And you do. Slow. Down.

Apparently the town of Hopeman has a number of volunteers who take turns donning the vest and manning the blow-dryer. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the person in the vest looks like a cop; the BBC website ran a feature showing a young girl doing the deed, without any apparent diminishment in effectiveness.

Blow-dryers are not a panacea, of course. Mock-cop Day-Glo blow-dryer-aiming can feel foolish. Even one of Hopeman’s elected officials admitted to the BBC his discomfort about the strategy: “We don’t like to be seen standing with hair dryers and hi-vis vests,” he said. But apparently, extreme times call for extreme measures. And why would the people of Hopeman keep doing it — long enough for the BBC and NPR to pick up the story — unless it was working?

So let’s go, outer Linebrook. Come on. Let’s give it a try. Adapting the blow-dryer strategy ought to be simple. I’ll donate my blow-dryer and I’ll buy a bright neon-yellow one-size-fits-all reflective vest. All you have to do is sign up by emailing, and show up for your shift. A very brief training session — how to aim your blow-dryer, how to look friendly-yet-stern, like a real Ipswich cop — and you’ll be well on your way to contributing to the quality of life here on Planet Outer Linebrook.

If this works westbound, we’ll add an eastbound shift. Eventually we may negotiate to work on High Street.

Wait, no. Too dangerous.




2 thoughts on “Blow By, Blow Dry

  1. Meg Alfoni

    As an outer Linebrook resident of 35+ years, I came up with the perfect solution a long time ago. Pop-up babies! You get a picture of a 2 year old in running stance printed on a piece of cardboard. You attach said cardboard picture to some kind of pulley system. You lay the cardboard baby flat in the middle of the road until you see a speeder coming along. Then you pull the string/rope and the cardboard baby pops up. Guaranteed that person will never speed on Linebrook (or anywhere else for that matter) again.

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