Don’t be a stinkah, use ya blinkah

I figure the average American spends about 56 hours a week on sleep, 40 hours a week on work, 6 hours a week on the commute, 14 hours a week on meal prep or eating or cleaning up afterward, and most of the rest of the week on social media.

My own statistics, as a relatively new resident of Ipswich, Massachusetts, are somewhat skewed from the national average because of the roughly 4 hours a week I spend sitting at the Hammatt Street stop sign trying to get onto Depot Square.

This odd intersection — well, I realize it’s not odd by New England standards; we have crooked three-pronged Y-shaped intersections all over the region — but the Hammatt-Depot-Washington Street intersection features the complication of a stop sign, at the foot of Hammatt Street. This means the southbound folks approaching on Washington Street and the northbound folks approaching on Depot Square have the right of way. The poor schnook approaching on Hammatt (that’s me) is obligated to stop and let any and all traffic pass before proceeding in either direction.

This should be a simple matter, but of course, it’s not, if a vehicle is heading up Depot, because you don’t know which way said vehicle will be turning at the intersection. They might follow the bend in the road, past the Ipswich Tavern, onto Hammatt. Or they might make a soft left to cross the railroad tracks and slip onto Washington. If they’re staying to their right, you can pull away from your stop and drive up Depot Square or down Washington, no problem. But you don’t know which way they’re going. You have to wait and see.

Unless, of course, the driver heading north on Depot offers you the information, by using their turn signal — that device you perhaps call the “blinkah.”

It appears to me that use of the blinkah is more or less a lost art here in New England — or maybe it was never an art in the first place. Maybe that page somehow got deleted from the MassDOT driver-education curriculum, so nobody really learns what to do with that stick jutting out from the steering column. Using the blinkah may be one of those mysterious ancient practices that has to be passed down from parent to child. Perhaps at some point in our past, parents became lackadaisical about preserving this tradition, and subsequent generations lost their blinkability.

I do believe use of the blinkah is a custom worth reviving, if only to get me from Tedford’s to Jetty’s.

Say you’re driving from the train station, and you turn at the bank, heading up toward Spice Thai. See that small car at the Hammatt Street stop sign? That’s me. I’m desperate for a bagel. Do a good deed. Use your blinkah. Tell me you’ll be staying to the right, and it’s safe for me to pull out. Or tell me you’ll be cutting to the left, and I have good reason to stay put. If you don’t use your blinkah, I’m stranded.

Living in Ipswich has been good for me because it’s taught me patience. Patience is the only feasible response to the Hammatt-Depot-Washington intersection, because the only real alternative — fulminating rage — is linked to cardiac arrest. Our historic cemeteries are full of people who went with the fulminating rage approach.

It is possible, of course, to avoid the torture by turning north on Hammatt and making a huge loop, via Central Street and Market Street, to get to Depot Square and Washington Street. Depending on traffic, you might actually save time driving this additional half-mile route. But I’m an optimistic old fool, telling myself, day after day, that someone driving north on Depot Square might actually use their blinkah. Hope springs eternal. Which is how long I’ve been sitting on Hammatt Street.


Doug Brendel writes most of his Outsidah columns from the front seat of his car. Follow him online at Don’t follow him on Hammatt Street; you’ll never get home.

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