It’s not what you think. The title refers to directions. You’d know that if you were a Wizard of Oz fan. When Dorothy first encounters the scarecrow she is pondering which way to go, and he offers the less-than-definitive advice, “…people do go both ways.” I might as well have been in Oz the other night when I tried to pick my daughter up from a friend’s house.
I looked up the address for Webcowet Street on Google maps. The directions seemed simple enough. I jotted down the main lefts and rights on a piece of paper and set out. I found the street, and then I lost it. It came to an end at a T intersection. The number I was looking for was nowhere to be found. I had my GPS ─ in the glove compartment ─ so I picked up my phone instead.
I could hear my daughter’s friend in the background asking if I was lost. Apparently this was not the first time this had happened. I was advised to keep going and look for a white house. They’d watch for me. At that moment, I noticed a sign tacked to a telephone pole straight ahead, but higher up than a normal street sign. It looked like this: ←Sherborn/Webcowet. I thought that was odd, but I went to the left, the way the arrow told me to. I drove slowly, peering for house numbers, until I ended up back at the main road.
I was starting to feel a little panicky. I hadn’t felt that way since my daughter was a baby and I drove through a snowstorm to retrieve her from daycare. Granted, it wasn’t snowing, and she’s a teenager, but my maternal instincts had leapt into high gear. All I wanted to do was find her. I pulled back onto the main road, turned onto Webcowet, and called again.
“Drive down the street,” I was told. When I got to the T intersection I stopped. My daughter said, “Do you see two girls waving at you?” And there they were, to the right of the intersection. I felt relieved, humiliated and furious, all at the same time. I looked at the sign again. It had no right arrow on it. I’d stupidly assumed that the sign meant turn left if you’re looking for either Sherborn or Webcowet.
Arlington has a lot of streets that don’t go where you expect them to. On the map, what looks like one long stretch may end, only to resurface a few blocks away. Or a street, like mine, can be interrupted by a private way, land not tended to by the town and therefore rutted and a threat to your under-carriage. If you choose not to risk your car, it can be a challenge to find where the town-maintained street picks up again.
I could call the town and complain, but with the lousy economy and dearth of public works employees, I can see where a confusing sign would be a low priority. But for the sake of mothers everywhere, I might just haul a ladder down to that intersection and add a right-pointing arrow myself.