This weekend, my nephew Dan arrives in Boston to begin his Ph.D. program. We were planning to celebrate with a walking tour of Boston. Student Season is coming in like a lion, this year, thanks to Hurricane Irene. We will probably skip the walking tour. Dan and thousands of others will find themselves moving in the rain. What's the worst weather you ever moved in? Can you beat the stories this year's emigrants will tell?
In general, I am not celebrating the beginning of the school year because it is the beginning of traffic season. All summer, I have been enjoying relatively easy parking and generally lighter traffic. Since I am in the car a lot, I notice this. Do you? But, I am a generous person. Therefore, I refrain from taking it out on the new arrivals, as they drive badly – being lost – on our convoluted streets.
My first undergraduate siting of this season was last week. A young woman of the right age was drifting down Highland Avenue in Somerville at about 15 mile per hour. She was relieved to see me waiting on the sidewalk. I stepped out and gave her directions to I-95 south.
It made me wonder. What are the best directions: the most direct way or the way that is least likely to get one lost? Last week, I chose the latter, because the young lady from Foxboro seemed a bit frazzled.
Our road system is not one of the high points in the greater Boston standard of living.
I would like to welcome a new group of renters to our fair community. To do that, I commiserate about the road system.
The Boston area has many parallel and semi-parallel roads. Therefore alternate routes abound. For example, if you know how to get from Brookline Village to Harvard, you can get to Arlington by continuing up Massachusetts Avenue. Then again, if you know how to get from Brookline Village to Alewife Station, you would get to Arlington via Memorial Drive and Alewife Brook Parkway and onto Route 2. One way is definitely better than the other, depending on what time of the day you are going. What path you know depends on who gave you the first set of directions. Newcomers learn a route, then add to it.
At least that’s what they did before buying a GPS or using on-line maps. I have tried a number of computer-generated mapping programs and they are not consistent. Most people I know use a combination of mapping programs and GPS to get around. Newcomers with directions, but no GPS, have the same problems we had with missing street signs and non 90-degree angle turns. Also electronic directions have routes that are frequently not the most direct choice. No one seems to depend on those map books that used to be standard-issue "welcome to greater Boston" gifts.
The newcomers will get their impression of Boston based on how we treat them in these vulnerable first weeks. What directions you give a new resident is part of your Boston karma. Please be kind.
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