Each September, God help the parents at the wheel of packed-to-the-nuts SUVs delivering freshmen to one dorm or another. Those people will sooner sprout wings and take flight before they get where they're going on the first (or 10th) try, and they are in the way. If it's your first traffic circle, get ready to see a synchronized middle finger ballet with a resounding fugue of angry horns. If you hesitate for one nothingth of a second at a left green arrow, call your loved ones. The LA freeways may have popularized the term "road rage," but Boston drivers want blood.
Maybe "just pave over those cow paths" wasn't the best strategy for city planning.
You Can't Get There From Anywhere
My personal story goes like this. My then-boyfriend and I moved to Boston in the early 90s after college. Flummoxed by the seemingly inexplicable one way streets, traffic circles, scant signs and dead ends, we mounted a self-imposed seminar on Getting Around Boston.
We would get our maps (which is a very old-school way to start a sentence) and set up destination-based challenges. We'd simulate the gauntlet for a variety of trips. These were practical recon excursions. "OK," we'd say. "Right now we are at home (Inman Square in Somerville). How do we get to the Prudential Center." And so forth.
Our skills would be put to the test in the real world, but only at quiet times. During the day it's too chaotic. So we'd wake pre-dawn, and get out there when the only other cars on the road are bread trucks and cabs.
"There's Big Ben, kids! Parliament!"
"Is this Comm Ave? I think this is Mass Ave! Wait, was that our right turn? You can only go left here, WHAT THE F....?"
Do you know they change the name of the road you're on sometimes here? Sometimes it changes back after a few miles. Or not.
Did you know that it's possible to have a dead-end, one-way street? Nod to Steven Wright...and no wonder...he lives here.
Did you know that the compass points -- North, South, East and West -- can exist in some sort of hazy in-between space like those random thoughts you have when you're half awake or half asleep and don't know what day it even is?
Death grip on the wheel at 10 & 2. One way streets, traffic circles, dead ends. Blink, and you miss a vitally important sign the size of a greeting card, and now you have to drive out to the airport in order to get back to downtown.
Lest you think, oh, but that was before GPS technology got really good. Sure. It's a theory. Try it out. Have fun!
Even if you reach your destination, my friend, you still have to park. The question, "where did you park?" never even comes up in other places, but here that's an ice breaker. Some years ago, I wrote a poem about giving up and just going home.