Monday, June 26, 2006

Driving in Massachusetts

When I was talking to my neice, who graduated from the U. of New Hampshire, about moving up to the Boston area, she told me to watch out for the Massholes. They were, she said, Massachusetts drivers. Oddly, when Julie and I went to the Irish festival a few weekends ago, I noticed a guy wearing a t-shirt that had, emblazoned across its front in a slight arc, the term Massholes.

So, just how bad are Massachusetts drivers? I've learned, since being up here, that Massachusetts ranks #1 in the country for accidents. Unfortunately, I'm a contributor to that ranking. In an earlier posting I ranted about how this guy came from a side street, pulled in front of me and then stopped. He said he was preparing to make a left turn. As it had just started raining and the street was slick, I slid right into him. No damage occured to his SUV but I needed a new hood, front bumper and a headlight. Masshole, I called him. The problem was, while what he wanted to do was go across an intersection, because the streets didn't line up he had to make a right and then a left, and couldn't just go straight across.

To be honest, I don't think Massachusetts drivers are any worse than drivers anywhere else. They are certainly not the best, either. I've seen road ragers, people who drive like their perpetually late and others who beep their horn at the slightest infraction, perceived or real. However, many drivers up here, it occurs to me, including myself, drive like they're lost most of the time.

Having lived up here now for a year and a half, and doing much driving inside 128 (the road, inside of which, encompasses much of the greater Boston area), I have found that I'm lost much of the time I'm driving. Roads up here don't go in straight lines, intersections don't cross at right angles, streets don't line up with each other. Most of the time, the only street signs you see are those for the cross streets. Rarely do you see the name of the street you're on and, when you do, more often than not it's changed names.

Streets up here meander, twist and curve around as they go along. There was no effort to straighten out the cow paths, horse trails and walking routes when they became streets and byways. And, as you travel from one town to the next, the name of the street you're traveling on changes. As an example, Waltham Street in Newton becomes Lexington Street in Waltham but then changes it's name to Moody Street. At Main Street Moody Street ends but, if you go two blocks east on Main, Lexington Street begins again. As you drive up Lexington Street toward the town of Lexington, Lexington Street changes its name to Waltham Street.

One time I was headed to the doctor and got turned around. I was in Brookline and needed to get to the corner of Brookline Ave. and Rte. 9. I asked a guy in a van who worked for the transit authority (known as the T) how to get there. He thought for a minute, started to try to tell me a couple times and finally gave up. He said for me to follow him, that he'd take me there. As I followed him I realized there was no way he could have told me such that I could have successfully followed his directions.

There've been a couple times when people have asked me for directions somewhere. I told them I knew where they wanted to go but couldn't tell them how to get there.

Most all people refer to Route 9 as just that. Route 9, however, is also known, going west from the Greyhound Bus Station, where it begins in downtown Boston just east of Copley Square, by 9 different names as it stretches out to Framingham. It starts out as St. James Ave. then becomes Huntington Ave., Avenue of the Arts, and, in Brookline, Washington St. but then changes to Boylston St.; in Newton it's just Rte. 9 but in Wellesley Route 9 is called Worcester Street. In Natick, it's Worcester Road. By the time you get to Framingham Route 9 has become the Boston-Worcester Turnpike.

I once tried to follow Route 60 from Waltham to Middlesex Fells. I never made it. Later I found out that the folks in Belmont didn't like it that "their" roads had route numbers and so the city took them down. I guess the rationale is that the Belmonters believe that only other Belmonters live there, or should and, if so, should know where they're going.

I think that's why there're so many accidents. People aren't necesarily bad drivers, they just aren't sure where they're going most of the time. I have several routes memorized and so, like others who do, know how to get to a specific place I'm going to and so become impatient with those who don't. For the most part, however, every time I go out in traffic, unless I know exactly how to get where I'm going, I'm never sure of how or whether I'll get there.

Julie, when she got a new car a couple years ago, made it a requirement that the car have a GPS. She's been living up here for close to 30 years and still gets lost enough to warrant needing space age technology. Recently I used her car to get from the dentist's office in Belmont to Weymouth, where I was working that day. I knew that I'd never get through Boston without getting interminably lost.

I've driven more than 13,000 miles through Europe two different times and rarely got lost. I used to complain that in Baltimore, the beltway exits were poorly marked but, you could eventually figure out how to get where you were going. Since moving up here, I have to say that if you don't know how to get where you're going, the liklihood is that you won't get there.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are one of them. You had plenty of practice while you were in Baltimore. Yes, you contribute to the reputation of bad drivers. Oh, yeah, let me get my red pen out. In the sentence where it says they drive like they are perpetually late--it is not their, it should be they're. Later in your blog, the word necessarily is spelled wrong. It should not be necesarily, it is necessarily. Just thought I would check in and read your blog as I do every now and then. I am really happy that you are doing well and will be okay. Miss you. Love ya, Mr. Fastidious :)

8:51 AM  

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