It’s called a Boston tradition, though not one that appears on post cards next to pictures of baked beans, clam chowder and North End cannoli. It’s more like shared aggravation, like having your car dusted by a salt truck on Route 128 during a snowstorm. We refer to the near-daily occurrence this time of year of box trucks and moving vans getting wedged inside a tunnel, shearing off a roof or stopping altogether to avoid one of these calamities, thus blocking traffic, on Storrow Drive.
Causes of these fiascos in most cases are clear to those who frequent the east-west artery from Boston to Allston. Out-of-towners who don’t normally drive box trucks and moving vans, i.e. parents of college students, are too distracted by present circumstance, i.e. moving their children into college, to recognize that their borrowed or rented vehicle won’t clear 13 feet, 3 inches (or, in some spots, as little as 9 feet). Or maybe they’re so taken by a view of the Charles River that they momentarily lose their sense of place.
Yes, there are signs. Obviously those aren’t obvious or explicit enough.
Typically we wouldn’t dedicate this many words or this much mental energy to the pinch-points of Boston traffic. Distancing ourselves from those problems is part of the reason we live where we do.
Still, when Moe and Curly Howard go adventuring with Larry Fine on Storrow Drive, with subsequent antics, it inevitably creates havoc for people following the rules who are trying to get to work, get home or visit their own children on campus.
The set-up may be innocent enough but the end result is not funny. It’s in the interest of everyone in this part of New England that something be done to alleviate this problem — garish, flashing lights when an over-height truck wanders onto the Leverett Circle Connector, perhaps, and approaches Storrow Drive. We wouldn’t be opposed to repurposing a fog horn.
If all of it seems too much, well, this kind of thing happens more than you might think. The Twitter account Only in Boston tallied 34 occurrences over three weeks last month, including three on Monday, Aug. 16, for what it called a hat trick. The Boston Herald’s reporting finds that tally may be inflated because it mixes “Storrowings,” or instances of trucks actually getting stuck in the low-slung tunnels, with near-misses. (See, this phenomenon is so local and relatable, it’s now led to a linguistic conversion of “Storrow” to “Storrowing.”)
Regardless of precise number or turns of phrase they inspire, they’re still far too many, especially when one thinks of the traffic knots these incidents create and the hours lost by commuters and travelers as they wait for these problems to get untangled. And, to be sure, the problem extends past Storrow Drive onto Soldiers Field Road, and it affects Memorial Drive in Cambridge as well.
Recognizing their role in these mishaps, area colleges and universities warn students and their parents of the peculiarities of these parkways. The state Department of Conservation and Recreation posts warnings to social media -- “Avoid getting #Storrowed by staying off Storrow Drive if you’re in a moving truck or van!” read a Tweet on Aug. 30 -- and it also sends notices to car rental agencies.
Then there are those low-hanging “Cars Only” signs that surely slap loudly against the roof of an offender. All of these warnings and still we are where we are.
May we modestly suggest that in a city rich with college campuses and some of this country’s finest institutions of higher learning, someone somewhere is smart enough to find a way to keep box trucks off Storrow Drive.