An Open Letter To The Guy Who Cut Me Off At Five Corners

An Open Letter To The Guy Who Cut Me Off At Five Corners
by Dave Ferguson

Before I looked at your pickup – I mean, really looked – I rattled off a string of excuses for you, since I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. 

But first, let me paint the scene for you: It was a gorgeous late spring day and the activity on-island had already picked up.  A ferry had just let out and Five Corners was already a stop-and-start exercise in anarchy. 

I was coming up to Five Corners, driving straight on State Road in my missile-on-wheels staying straight, and generally speaking, that means I have the right of way.  You made a screeching hard left coming from The Boat going towards Oak Bluffs, where you nearly shaved my eyebrows off.  All I saw was the battered rim of a baseball cap over poppy-seed stubble.  Why would you do this?  I gave you reasons.    

1)     You thought it was a fart, but it turned out to be a turd turtling out, throwing elbows in a mad dash for oxygen

2)     Your cataracts mysteriously ballooned in size and covered the upper half of your face

3)     You had freshly smoked twelve hits, a noxious salad of meth and PCP

4)     New to the island, you were rightly astonished at the absence of traffic cops or a traffic light at such a disastrous intersection, and dipped your finger into the honeypot of chaos for a hot second

5)     You hail from Tasmania and that’s just how you roll

6)     Your wife was crowning another sociopath at the hospital

7)     You’re an X-Man and your mutant superpower is your peerless inability to honor well-established social rules of conduct

8)     You simply stopped giving a fuck when your license was revoked six months ago from driving over the influence, whatever that means

And after all those reasons flashed through my mind’s eye, I really looked at the back of your truck.  Massachusetts plate.  Asymmetrical dings in the bumper. Duct tape holding up dinged bumper. Re-purposed bumper sticker: MOPEDS ARE DOPES.  Scottish Bakehouse angel-fork sticker.  “Salt Life” decal decaying on the back window. 

And then it hit me: you’re not a tourist.  You’re from here.  And you wear the disdain you have for the only thing sustaining this community on your sleeve: summer people. (And to be fair, summer people, some are not.) 

Oh, you’re an entitled lot.  And you’re legion.  Not all islanders cop this attitude, not by any stretch, but there are a surprising lot of you.  “This is my island,” you mutter, the lower lip jutting out far enough for a Cessna to land.  You’re the kind to stop your car in the middle of a road to talk to a neighbor or work acquaintance, who is also stopped in the middle of a road.  Because it’s your island, your road, your rules, and every tourist and summer resident can go to hell.

You’re the plumber who experiments in price gouging if he sees a Connecticut license plate in the driveway.  You’re the management at Cronig’s who inflates prices threefold once June puts its Tommy Bahamas on. 

And you’re right up there with the Old Guard.  You know what I mean: the people in charge who have a strict code in adhering to the island’s beloved “character.”  You know: the classic New England look of a distressed Adirondack chair in a freshly cut acre of emerald green grass, boxed in by an undulating rock wall.  It’s within this character that lies the goblin crippling this place: the resistance to change. 

I’ll rest my case with one word: roundabout.  When the roundabout was introduced as an idea to alleviate an increasingly festering problem, you’d think someone threatened to release a sloth of starving black bears (it’s what you call a pack of bears: a sloth, and you likely learned something today!) in the State Forest.  All the towns, save one, crossed their arms and turned their noses up.  And look what happened!  It smoothed things out tremendously, like magic.  Oh the horror!

It’s pretty simple and pretty Buddhist: if you resist change, you resist life.  And you’ll lay your body down on the front lines before anything resembling change can “deface” your well-meaning but ultimately disastrous conservation of the island’s so-called character. 

We all know that Five Corners is an abortion of civil engineering.  It was a terrible idea to begin with, and it’s a worse idea today.  It’s a festering problem that still begs the question: where are all the traffic cops?!  Surely the Steamship Authority only needs one to tell which direction the cars need to go.  Surely a well-placed sign could do that job and free up an officer to deal with the chronic cardiac arrest that is Five Corners. 

That’s what it seems like: at one end of the street you have five people convulsing on the ground in hypovolemic shock, just bleeding out and all over one another, fingers and toes darting in all directions because they don’t know what else to do, and then down on the other side of the street, at the so-called Steamship Authority, you have five police and five EMTs tending to a toddler with a splinter.  But look closer and you will see a toddler that holds the entire island at gunpoint.