No, officer, how fast was I going?

By the time you read this, it may be old news, but as I write these words, it’s the Wild West on Linebrook Road.

They’ve taken down the school zone speed limit signs that used to stand like sentinels as you approached Doyon School.

I understand they’ll be putting up traffic lights, which I assume will operate on actual modern technology. Certainly not in keeping with how the Pilgrims controlled traffic on Linebrook Road, but neither were the signs. Somehow, vehicles need to be slowed from 35 mph to 20 during certain times of the day, when vulnerable kiddos are moving between the schoolhouse and the homestead.

I won’t miss those complicated speed limit signs. They’ve only been gone a few days, but already I can’t seem to remember — when we were supposed to slow down? 8:15 to 9:47 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursdays with out-of-state plates, 8:42 to 9:33 if fully vaccinated? Too much information, too little time. I’m driving, I’m in a hurry. Don’t ask me to read the dang Constitution.

And message wasn’t the only problem with those signs. It was presentation. Big black-on-yellow headline — SCHOOL: good. Under that, big black-on-white SPEED LIMIT: No problem seeing that. But then — trouble.

Underneath the speed limit sign was another sign, half the size, with lines of teeny type, apparently hand-drawn by Snoopy’s bird-friend Woodstock. If I squinted at the sign through the top half of my bifocals, I could vaguely figure out that these lines of type were some indication of the morning and afternoon slow-down periods. But asking me to make out the actual numerals while traveling along at 42 mph — er, uh, 35 mph — well, this was simply not a realistic expectation. As far as I could see, bearing down on that sign at the speed of Chevy, it seemed to me that the Town of Ipswich was asking me to observe the 20 mph limit between mush and smush a.m., and again between shmah and shmuh p.m.

Even if I had been able to read the microscopic hieroglyphics, I would still have only nano-seconds to make the necessary calculations. This system requires more mental gymnastics than I’m normally prepared to perform. I’m a casual fellow. I’m what they used to call gay and carefree. I’m not driving along on Linebrook Road keeping constant track of what time it is, down to the minute. Now, suddenly, the Town demands that I figure out what time it is, and whether the current time is within mush and shmush a.m., process all the data points, and execute the required maneuver. It’s too complex.

I would hate to think that the Town fathers were being disingenuous — making the type on the school zone speed limit signs so minuscule that you had no choice but to slow way the heck down just to read the numbers. But truth be told, ever since I moved to Ipswich, their strategy has worked with me. I can’t count how many times I’ve slowed down passing Doyon in the middle of the day, unsure of what the sign said, still trying to find the clock on my dashboard as I approached Mile Lane.

Now, however, all will be well. Traffic lights are soon to come!

In the meantime, with the signs already down and lights not yet installed, we’re in a strange limbo of lawlessness — nothing to tell you the limit is 20 mph.

So, till the traffic lights go in, will we blast on past the school at 42 — er, uh, 35?

I admonish you, good people of Ipswich, don’t give in to temptation. Even with no sign and no light, the speed limit is 20 — all the way from mush to shmush.


Doug Brendel has lived on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts, for shmah years. Follow his real-life adventures at NewThing.net.

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