No Yield Left Turn Wrong Way Any Time 

I’m applying for a grant from the federal government to fund a major research project which will catalogue, analyze, and explain the signage at Route 1 and Linebrook Road.

A cursory review of the signs visible at that intersection suggests that there are no fewer than 25 distinct messages for drivers to process as they approach — everything from “NO TURN ON RED” to “NEW HOMES e.d. dick group FOR SALE.”

There are signs about driving and not driving, walking and not walking, and how much you’ll pay for a gallon of gas. Signs about parking, not parking, and how to find Marini’s Farm. There’s one sign with type so small you’d have to get out of your car and walk right up to it in order to read it, but it’s positioned at a place with no parking and no sidewalk so no one has ever actually read it.

The grant application will request a clean million dollars. This, I figure, is about what it will take to recruit, train, and deploy multiple teams:

  • A large “language team,” probably English majors who never could find work elsewhere, will meticulously scour the intersection and record every written message. Then they’ll create a spreadsheet to analyze the signage not only alphabetically but by definition, size, color, urgency, and absurdity.
  • An “art team,” probably art majors who never could find work elsewhere, will study the visual impact of each sign, assessing physical dimensions, color combinations, font choices, and absurdity.
  • A “legal team,” probably law students who never could pass the bar, will address the question of how seriously each sign needs to be taken. Each sign will be ranked on a spectrum somewhere between “Obey Under Penalty of Death” and “Ignore This Nonsense.”
  • A “medical team” will assess the psychological impact of this cacophony on area drivers, with separate studies of two demographic groups: area residents who are exposed to the visual barrage repeatedly, and visitors who are expected to navigate the information tangle without any prior preparation. 

(One early theory is that a certain portion of local drivers’ brains go numb; we hope to determine whether this condition is reversible for those who move west and never look back. We also want to investigate rumors that some visiting drivers have suffered aneurysms from taking in so much information before the light changes.)

  • Finally, a “marketing team” will write up an impressive report, to be teased paragraph by paragraph over the course of six months in a series of Facebook posts, and ultimately released at a huge reveal party in the Wolf Hill parking lot, streamed live on YouTube.

I am very much looking forward to the report finally sorting out many of the questions I’ve been wondering about ever since I moved to Ipswich. One prime example is the “ANY TIME” mystery:

On the west side of Route 1 there’s a white sign with red lettering that simply says ANY TIME, with an arrow pointing south. 

On the east side of Route 1 there’s a corresponding white sign with red lettering, identical to the first except that the arrow points north. 

What can these signs possibly mean? 

On the one hand, I hope they’re giving me permission for something delicious, but if so, I urgently want to know what I have permission to do. 

On the other hand, if these signs actually indicate some serious prohibition, I need to know what kind of law I may be accidentally breaking. 

I have nightmares about landing in prison, with my cellmate asking “What’re you in for?” and me forced to confess, “I guess I just never did ANY TIME.”

Watch for news of the grant coming through. We’ll be hiring. That kid of yours, back home from college and living in your basement? They may finally get paying work. And for a good cause!


(Doug Brendel lives eight-tenths of a mile beyond the Intersection of Distress and Death. Follow him at a safe distance on DougBrendel.com.)

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