Every September, Boston area residents watch for one inevitable sign that fall has arrived.
It is not the thousands of college students returning to the city, or the popular Head of the Charles Rowing Regatta that brings throngs of spectators to the banks of the river.
And it is not the fact that wild cranberries can be found in the bogs, or that the macoun apples are in season.
Bostonians watch for one inevitable sign of an approaching autumn– that a student with a rental truck will not heed the warning signs, and will slam into one of the low bridges (9 foot clearance) on Storrow Drive, Memorial Drive, or Soldier’s Field Rd.
That, my friends, is what is known in these parts as ‘storrowing.”
To be clear, storrowing is not confined to college students. Plenty of commercial trucks have also been instantaneously “converted” to convertibles by overpass collisions.
Images of many of the incidents, with entertaining commentary, are frequently posted on Universal Hub, All Boston All the Time and on twitter.
A recent post: “Winna, winna, U-Haul dinna | Universal Hub – 9/1/22 – 12:16 pm included local news coverage:
AdamG’s comments about why judges awarded it a 9.5 out of 10 demonstrate the best of Boston’s humor.
Also, a retrospect: The year in Storrowing: 2021
In August 2021, Julia Taliesin of Boston.com reported that “According to numerous photos and videos posted by Only In Boston on Twitter, an over-height truck has either hit an overpass or had to back out of Storrow Drive every single day this August, as of Aug. 18.”
In Sept 2022, Boston.com’s Lisa Weidenfeld wrote, “Yes, it’s time once again to gape at pictures and videos of Uhauls that people have driven past any number of warning signs along Storrow Drive, Memorial Drive, and Soldiers Field Road. The prototypical Storrowing involves the roof of a moving truck sheered straight off as traffic grinds to a halt for miles behind it. In luckier versions, the moving boxes stay in the trucks, but occasionally, a Storrowing will see some poor college student’s dorm furniture strewn around the road.”
Nathan Phillips, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environment at Boston University, gave some historical perspective, as well as a vision for the future, in his article “Reverse the curse: pedestrianize Storrow Drive, Build back better, don’t rebuild the status quo”.
The roadway was supposed to be “a quiet, green, delightful civic space.”Pedestrianizing Storrow Drive would reverse a 70-year-old curse. Against the wishes of Helen and James Storrow, the 4-6 lane blight on the Esplanade opened in 1951. To add insult to injury, the builders named it Storrow Drive.” “Imagine Storrow Drive transformed: quiet, soot-free, no longer a wall between the Charles River and the Back Bay and Boston University  (with) pedestrians and joggers on the Esplanade who no longer endure the noise, exhaust, tire, and brake pollution of this glorified frontage road along the Massachusetts Turnpike.”
Limiting the roadways to cars-only and prohibiting buses and trucks was supposed to help maintain the character of the area.
A Bigger Question than Boston Traffic
But the storrowing issue is a bit larger than the question of how Massachusetts can address its 9 ft. bridge issue.
Canadian scientist, television personality, author, and environmental activist David Suzuki notes, “We’re in a giant car heading towards a brick wall and everyone’s arguing over where they’re going to sit.”
Misguided Social Engineering on the Part of Institutions; Individuals Missing Warning Signs
There are two aspects to the storrowing phenomenon.
One is that the roadway is poorly situated and was not designed for current use or conditions. The area was envisioned as a park.
The second aspect is that unfamiliar and/or distracted drivers do not see and/or heed the warning signs.
Three Flavors of Storrowing, in the Land of Dunkies and Jimmies
(In Boston-speak, Dunkies= Dunkin Donuts; Jimmies = chocolate or rainbow sprinkles on an ice cream cone)
Three different scenarios are observed in storrowing culture.
One is when a truck slams spectacularly into a bridge.
A second scenario is when a truck gets stuck under a bridge.
See another image here: A truck stuck under a bridge on August 30, 2016 just in time for college move-in day.
Backing Up into Traffic Truck
A third, less photogenic scenario occurs when a driver, for whatever reason, does not see or heed the warning signs initially, but realizes, belatedly, that the vehicle cannot pass under the bridge.
In this case, the truck will attempt to back off the roadway against the flow of traffic.
Navigation: Undone by Over-Dependence on Modern Technology?
Here, the Massachusetts Dept. of Transportation reminds drivers that Waze and Google Maps can lead an unfamiliar driver directly into a storrowing.
Actually, is our relationship with technology more dire than the phenomenon of following a navigation device directly into a storrowing, or worse?
The navigation systems and warning signs could be improved, but, like the truck rooftops, is human health and the environment safe in the current socially-engineered environment that is increasingly laden with artificial frequencies? Who is monitoring?
Heeding Warnings, Even if Belatedly: A Badge of Honor
We need a new verb to describe the willingness to back up, because more than anything, what society needs is individuals and decision-makers willing to take a step back from proceeding with blinders on about the risks of our current love affair with unhinged technologies, including wireless and 5G that have not been tested for biological impacts because inanimate engineering models are being used instead.
(We have had to reverse course countless times before, for example, with asbestos, lead, mercury, and cigarettes. And previous Late Lessons from Early Warnings: “The 14 case studies in the “Late Lessons” Report (EEA 2001) include several chemicals (TBT, benzene, PCBs, CFCs, methyl tertiary butyl ether, sulfur dioxide, and other Great Lakes pollutants); two pharmaceuticals (DES and beef hormones); two physical agents (asbestos and medical X rays); one pathogen (bovine spongiform encephalopathy); and contaminated fisheries. These case studies are all examples of false negatives because the agents or activities were regarded as not harmful for some time before evidence showed that they were indeed hazardous. We tried to include a false positive case study in the report (i.e., where actions to reduce potential hazards were unnecessary), but we failed to find either authors or sufficiently robust examples to use. Providing evidence of false positives is more difficult than with false negatives (Mazur 2004). How robust should the evidence be and over what periods of time should the evidence be obtained on the absence of harm before investigators conclude that a restricted substance or activity is without significant risk?”)
Although sometimes referenced as a walk of shame in the land of storrowing, heeding warning signs, even belatedly, is a sign of wisdom, and deserving of a badge of honor.
We could be listening to those swimming against the tide, because this is how a necessary course correction always starts.
This is a necessary course correction. We’re speeding along in a fully loaded rental truck during rush hour on a roadway that wasn’t supposed to be here.
As the late eco-feminist and environmental ethicist Marti Kheel noted, “When you are standing at the edge of a cliff, progress is walking backward. “
Some storrowing images, and brilliant community commentaries:
If you’re going to slam your truck into a Storrow overpass, do it right, we always say: https://www.universalhub.com/2015/if-youre-going-slam-your-truck-storrow-overpass-do
Got a Close up Of Storrowed UHaul https://www.reddit.com/r/boston/comments/x3k1my/got_a_closeup_of_the_storrowed_uhaul/
NBC 10 Boston Trucks Get ‘Storrowed’ on Storrow Drive (instant convertible) The aftermath of a Ryder box truck striking the overpass on Thursday, July 5, 2018. (w/28 additional photos of storrowing) https://www.nbcboston.com/multimedia/trucks-get-storrowed-on-storrow-drive/1919550/
A truck is stuck under a bridge on Storrow Drive Monday, Aug. 26, 2013. https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2021/08/19/boston-storrowing-what-to-know/
Of course 2020 would end with a storrowing: https://universalhub.com/2020/course-2020-would-end-storrowing
And storrowing is named after the memory of once healthy trucks that decided to take a jaunt on Boston’s Storrow Drive and became insta-convertibles. http://www.cynical-c.com/2020/09/16/blue-moons-and-a-storrowing-happens-what-i-learned-today-wednesday-september-16/
Let’s get the foot off the accelerator?