Sunday, May 3, 2009

Drinking a lot of hatorade... over a bridge



When I was last home, my mom mentioned to me about how one of our neighbors had brought a lot of hate and nasty letters to the paper onto herself... but writing a letter about the bridge construction.

To catch up readers who may not know what this is about, here's a quick overview. There's one big bridge that leads the island of Gloucester/Rockport to the highway. This is how most people get in and out of Gloucester. For several months now, there has been construction on this bridge and it is now one lane, one lane out. For commuters, it's been a bitch. I haven't done this often, but the few times I've driven to work from my parents' house, it's taken me forever and I've been pissy after the drive.

Sometimes, people will wait until the last minute to merge, which is annoying and a little silly, but not terrible. Well, apparently this is awful to my parents' neighbor, so much so that she wrote this letter:

March 13
To the editor:

I am writing to express an almost scientific curiosity about what is going through people's minds, when they zoom up the travel lane while the rest of us are obediently queuing up single file for what seems like miles, while we wait to cross the A. Piatt Andrew Bridge.

Not only are these drivers whizzing by us without any concern for apparent protocol, but the long single line of cars is further delayed as they then enter the line, way up at the front, before the bridge itself.

I would love to do a study on this, and interview people.

Do you think we are all lining up because we are stupid, or blind, and don't understand that the travel lane on the right is actually open? Do you believe that you should whiz by, just because you can? Are you sick or having a baby? Do you cheat at school or work to get ahead? Do you understand what you are doing, or are you oblivious?

I hope that some of you read this and at least feel guilty.

It sounds pompous, but a society does not hold together when everyone is out for him or herself, and this is evident even in apparently trivial matters like waiting in line to cross a bridge.


I'm pretty sure there were better ways she could have spent her afternoon, or however long it took her to write this letter, and the argument is kind of stupid. And do you really think that if someone tries to cut ahead of you in traffic, that society will crumble? I hope not.

Well, then I scrolled down and read some of the FIFTY comments this created. This may not seem like a lot... but this is a small town paper, so it's noteworthy. Here are some highlights:

"...Have you seen the back-up traffic on both sides of Washington Street? This is a no-brainer issue and really doesn't warrant the ink in the GDT...sorry.. :-)"

"The lane on the right IS ACTUALLY OPEN! The purpose of the merge is exactly that: MERGE! That means each lane alternates allowing one car in to form the single line. The reason so many drivers clog one lane is they are certain that nobody will let them in when it's thier turn. How sad is that?"

"Why nothing amazing at all. She's just the kind of woman, head held high in self-satisfaction, who stops to let some fool back out onto a state highway, thereby tying up 15 cars behind her unexpectedly, using up brakes linings and light filaments (causing cancers at a distance) . . . but she's _happy_! Let's be happy for her."
(blogger's note: this is a very accurate description of her, I am sure)


"[name], Stop clogging up the rotary & learn how to drive: use both lanes, then merge at the barrier/cones, alternating back & forth like a zipper. Smarten up!"


Then a few days later, this letter was published:


March 17
To the editor:

Rockport's [name] (Letter, the Times, March 13) bemoans drivers using the travel lane on the approach to the merge cones on the A. Piatt Andrew Bridge, calling them oblivious, cheats, and other such names. How ill-mannered.

Her position is ridiculous. While so many drivers frustratingly line up in the left or passing lane on the bridge approach, the resultant tie-up stretches back much further than necessary, into the rotary and beyond, making life hell for anybody trying to drive through the rotary.

It is absurd for drivers to create the merge a quarter or half-mile before it is necessary. If the road is open, it should be used. The merge should occur where indicated by traffic cones and, quite recently, by the trooper directing traffic to do so at the same position in the road. If the State Police intended for us all to merge right down by the rotary, that's where the cones would be.

This faux display of "good manners," or "apparent protocol" as [name] decrees it, makes a difficult traffic scenario even worse than it need be.

Coming from Lanesville as regular commuters up the line, my wife and I approach the rotary from Washington Street, taking the right lane and turn up the driving/right lane. We drive sensibly toward the cones, where we then signal to merge left.

Drivers in that lane who know Massachusetts Rules of the Road allow us and other drivers to safely merge in turn and we all move forward as one. The only problems are caused by the "you're not getting in front of me because I've been waiting" crowd, who defy our state's rules by either not allowing the merging, or who even veer right in front of drivers to prevent safe and legal passage up the travel lane.

No, [name], I am neither a "cheat" nor am I "zooming" anywhere, and I certainly don't feel guilty.

I simply know and follow the rules of the road. I suggest others read them and do the same for the benefit of all of us. That is how a society holds together.


The author of this letter was Hugo Burnham. Yes, as in the drummer for The Gang of Four, who lives in Gloucester and spends lots of time being awesome. I love his response, as it speaks volumes more sense than Pam and uses humor. I was very happy to read that he responded to her ridiculousness. I found another letter about [name]'s original one, telling her her argument was pointless and gave off a holier than thou personality that no one appreciates.


AND THEN it gets better!

A month letter, another letter was submitted attacking [name]'s letter and asking if she still feels Gloucester drivers who are following traffic laws are lacking in moral fiber. It's biting and delicious:

April 23
To the editor:
It has been one month since [name] made nasty accusations towards all those so-called cheaters who whisk by everyone in the travel lane only to merge where the sign says to. I was not going to respond, but I am a cheater and I, like so many others, are wondering just how [name] feels now. She accused those who use the travel lane to be a person of low integrity, a cheater, one who cheats at work and school and should feel guilty for their actions. I welcome a study on my character. I enter the rotary from the hospital side. It is impossible for me to get in line at the beginning and, furthermore, lining up one car behind the other in the passing lane makes nothing but a major traffic jam into the rotary and far beyond. To get in line, I would have to go up to Blackburn Rotary. Not only that but to stop at the rotary and try to enter that one lane creates a traffic jam long beyond the hospital. To me and many others it made no sense to be sitting in traffic because people were merging long before they had to. If you notice, traffic has greatly improved at the rotary since they have specifically put on the sign "Use two lanes." Makes sense to me. How do you feel about that [name]? Now who feels guilty?


Unfortunately, knowing [name], all these people lashing out against her haughtiness and wasted anger has probably only fueled her fire, as she is one of those locals who has nothing better to do with her life than to judge from her high horse and try to spread her ideas on how a town should be run behind the passive aggressive veil of the "To the Editor" column in the GDT.


Oh hometown, you entertain so...

1 comment:

contrlfreq said...

holy sweet jesus, Gang of Four drummer lives in Gloucester? How punk rock is that?!