Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I am traveling west on Massachusetts Avenue in North Cambridge after one or more major snowstorms. Snow is piled on the center strip and at the sides of the road, reducing the usual two lanes to one and three quarters or so. The car in front of me is an SUV driven by a possibly thirty-something guy with an incipient bald spot at the back of his head. In front of him, a large, slow, dignified orange trash truck is making its way in the same direction.

The young man isn't satisfied with the deliberate pace of the trash truck. He steers left toward what used to be the center strip and is now a snowbank, with intent to pass. But simultaneously the trash truck also moves to the left, blocking and thwarting the SUV and its driver. Nothing daunted, the SUV moves to the other side, apparently to pass the trash truck on the right.

The trash truck, serenely making its rounds on behalf of the City of Cambridge and probably not aware of the zig-zagging SUV, had moved to the left to provide itself with a better angle for turning up a narrow side street. By the time the SUV gets to the trash truck's right side, the truck has turned in front of him, momentarily blocking the whole street. There's nothing for it but to fall back and wait while the trash truck ponderously makes its way into the side street.

With the trash truck out of the way, the driver of the SUV pours on the coal and accelerates down Mass Ave, and a few blocks later fetches up against the light at Route 16. I, meanwhile, watching this microdrama as I proceed down Mass Ave in my doddering elderly-lady fashion, am still immediately behind him. That's all the good his itching at the trash truck did him.