Every four hours and 20 minutes, on average, someone dies in a car crash somewhere in the U.S.
This is grim reality, yes, but in a way it’s also encouraging. If you’re out driving, you’ve got four hours and 19 minutes of relative safety. I suggest, in that 20th minute, you just pull over and check your messages or something.
Of course, the traffic-fatalities stat doesn’t include mere injuries — whiplash, mutilation, dismemberment — anything that doesn’t totally kill you. So there’s even more incentive to keep an eye out and drive defensively.
Which means it would be wise to avoid driving through Ipswich, Massachusetts, if at all possible.
If you can’t avoid Ipswich entirely, at the very least avoid Lord’s Square.
In the first place, it’s deceptively named: It’s not a square; it’s a quagmire. It’s an intersection which appears to have been modeled on an octopus. Lord’s Square can be entered from High Street, Central Street, Liberty Street, Linebrook Road, or the Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot — and once you plunge into the vortex, there’s no telling where you’ll come out. You could wind up on High, Central, Linebrook, or Short Street — or back on the Dunkin’ parking lot. Also the laundromat, don’t forget the laundromat. Driving through Lord’s Square feels like a video game, but during an electrical storm, so the power surges and the screen flashes and the audio crackles and you scream and GAME OVER.
Lord’s Square would be risky enough if everyone who drove through it obeyed basic rules of the road, but those rules were apparently written for Chicagoans or Tanzanians and don’t technically apply here in small-town New England. Or perhaps traffic regulations were originally crafted in ancient times by troglodytes writing in their own mysterious language in dark, secluded grottos, and the only schools that teach Troglodyte are in other parts of the country, the parts where we New Englanders regard the people as, well, troglodytes.
In any case, drivers here don’t appear to be on the same page as the average American. For example: The typical driver traversing Lord’s Square doesn’t seem to grasp the idea that you stop for a red light or a red octagonal sign but not for a simple bend in the road. Where Lord’s Square dumps out onto High Street, there are stop signs for vehicles approaching from either the east or the west — but there’s no stop sign for Lord’s Square traffic. No traffic light. No “yield” sign. Not even a speed bump. There’s just a sharp bend to the left — you’re supposed to sail around that corner unimpeded, past those poor suckers waiting at their High Street stop signs — and continue on your way toward Rowley. But no. Lord’s Square at High Street is where drivers somehow conjure an invisible stop sign and come to a standstill in the middle of the traffic flow, causing multiple near-collisions halfway back to CVS. Just one of 14 ways you can die at Lord’s Square.
I might be inclined to suggest posting warning signs at all the approaches to this labyrinth, but we’ve seen how ineffective such signs can be. As you approach my house on outer Linebrook Road, a safe 4.8 miles from Lord’s Square, there’s an ominous sign that reads DANGEROUS INTERSECTION. It’s describing the corner I live at. Last week, for the umpteenth time, I looked out my window to see a smashed-up vehicle being winched up onto the bed of a tow truck.
Clearly, DANGEROUS INTERSECTION isn’t strong enough language. At each of the numerous approaches to Lord’s Square, we may need profanity. Or at the very least, a pragmatic admonition: ABANDON HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE.
Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road, where he’s developing plans for a first aid concession stand. Follow his more serious pursuits at NewThing.net.