We’ll cross that sign of the cross when we come to it

I have an Episcopalian friend who lives at the corner of County and Poplar in Ipswich, and now that the bridge is one-way heading north, she can go to church but she can’t go back home. 

She loves the church, and the church family loves her, but nobody wants her there permanently. 

Yes, technically, she can return home, but to get there she has to make a circuitous journey past four other faith traditions: the Methodist and Congregational churches, the Christian Science reading room, and the Choate Bridge Pub.

The other option is to walk to church, and walk home, which is possible because the bridge is still open in both directions for pedestrians.

But it’s a daunting trek, some two-tenths of a mile, one way. That’s 422 steps, 211 of them on each leg.

On a frigid winter Sunday morning, my friend will certainly prefer the comfort of her Chrysler to the cold of her Crocs.

With the bridge closed to southbound traffic, her trip home from church — north on County, left on Green, left on North Main, left on South Main — will cover three times as much distance as it took her to get there. The math of the situation is overwhelmingly complicated. Instead of two-tenths up and two-tenths back for a total of four-tenths, it’s two-tenths up and six-tenths back for a total of eight-tenths. Twice the total distance. My friend’s Sunday morning gas bill will literally double — which can’t help but cut into her donations to the church. The bridge closure discriminates cruelly against the Episcopal church.

The bridge closure will also diminish the non-church aspects of my friend’s life. Between all those stop signs and left turns, not to mention navigating Five Corners, by the time she gets home it will be time to go to church again. Forget making a living or having a romance or going to Shaw’s. She’ll have to go on welfare and order groceries from Amazon. It’s just one minor bridge closure to you, maybe, but it’s radical lifestyle upheaval for an innocent resident of Poplar Street.

The problem with the bridge, they say, involves “structural deficiencies.” So besides the narrowing of traffic to a single lane, the bridge now has a weight limit of 15 tons. “The bridge is still safe for travel,” DPW director Rick Clarke is quoted as saying. But beware. If you’re walking across the bridge and 15 tons’ worth of vehicles are crossing at the same moment, the bridge at that moment is overloaded by your exact weight.

It’s not a farfetched scenario. The bridge is 200 feet long, give or take. The average Ford F-150 is about 18.5 feet long. I told you the math is complicated. I’ll boil it down for you:

The County Street bridge could accommodate 10 pickup trucks. But a Ford F-150 weighs well over 3 tons, and that’s without a load of what-not in the bed. So we’re talking more than 30 total tons of truck.

Even if you got D’s in math like I did, you can see the terrible chance my friend will be taking if she walks to church.

My heartfelt advice: Pause, dear one, as you approach the County Street bridge. Look around. Make sure there isn’t a caravan of pickup trucks crossing at the same time as you.

Better yet, drive to church; take the long road home. Maybe stop at Heart & Soul for lunch on your way back. Take sustenance for your pilgrim journey.

And may God bless you.

Doug Brendel lives a bridge too far, on outer Linebrook Road, 4 miles west of Ipswich center, and works remotely, 4,200 miles to the east. Follow him at NewThing.net.

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