Pros: funny, accurate, oh so true
Cons: very short
I've lived in the Boston area my entire life, and I don't quite know if I can imagine living in another city. For as bad as the winters suck, and as short as the summers always seem (case in point, it's already August 23rd, WTF?), I enjoy the seasons, I enjoy the fact that every major band comes here on a tour, and well, I don't deal well with change.
With that being said, I'd rather have one of my nuts lopped off before driving in Boston (unless it's the FleetCenter, in which case I'll drive there). Boston is the most asinine city in the country (possibly the world) to drive in. Between never ending construction, one way streets that didn't used to be one way streets, and the other drivers, driving in Boston is kind of like being in hell. After all, if driving in Boston isn't the devil's idea of humorous punishment, or god's idea of appropriate punishment, I don't know what is.
But Ira Gershkoff and Richard Trachtman are here to help. They've recently updated their 1994 Boston Driver's Handbook for 2004, retitling it Wild in the Streets: The Boston Driver's Handbook (The ALMOST Post Big Dig Edition). Now some of you may read this book and think, "bah, it can't be that bad." Hell, the only other reviewer on this site who reviewed this book asked about the diagrams of "Brighton intersection dynamics" on pages 22-23 and how real they were. Let me tell you, that's extremely accurate. You also might be tempted to think that this book is merely satire, that not all Boston drivers could possibly drive like this. You're right, they don't. We call them slowa*ses, and we generally tell them where to go, what to do, and how to do it.
For those who don't know what "The Big Dig" is, it's a (mostly) federally funded construction project that aims to put the portion of Interstate 93 that runs through downtown Boston underground. It is also commonly referred to as the "Central Artery Project," "Tip O'Neil's legacy," and why the Massachusetts citizens should never be electing Ted Kennedy to the Senate ever again. This project was budgeted at 2.5 billion dollars, and expected to take until 2003. While part of the tunnel is open, it cost almost 15 billion dollars to build and it isn't expected to be completely finished until next year. Thank you Tip and Ted.
The Big Dig is an important part of driving in Boston, since this is what has led to most of the road closures, one ways, and certain areas being completely changed around from what they once were (example: I went to college in Boston and took a bus into the city every day. Last summer, I took a bus home from New York and the same area I had been in a year prior had completely changed. A certain one way was now a one way in the completely opposite direction, and getting onto the roads from the highway was significantly different than it had been before).
The thing about this book is that it is extremely accurate. I like the way they broke down each section of Boston in the beginning of the book. Thanks to the good descriptions and the authors' presentations of the drawbacks of each of the neighborhoods, tourists could actually find this to be a necessary piece of tourist literature.
I think that Chapter 4: Basic Manuevers made me laugh out loud the most. Here, the authors diagram and describe (in detail) how to do some of your basic Boston driving manuevers, such as "the cutoff ("When two lanes merge into one, something has to give and it may as well not be you")," "the sidesqueeze," and "blocking." The authors also review how to deal with those pesky traffic lights ("Alert Boston Drivers will learn to condition themselves to react automatically to the yellow cross glow," so true so true). They also are sure to make you aware of when you're behind someone from out of state (they stop when the light is yellow, rather than stomping down on the gas pedal), what stopping on red really means, "the Boston left turn (again, so true so true)," rotaries, yield signs, and the important move known as "beating the guillotine."
The authors also make sure to point out the common obstacles you'll encounter while driving in Boston. These include potholes ("Potholes can be characterized as small pieces of roadway that aren't there"), pesky Boston pedestrians, bikes, buses, dogs, double parked cars, and bike riders ("Bike riders are a strange bunch. They tend to feel very self-righteous about physical fitness, saving energy, and saving the environment, yet at the same time they fail to realize they are breathing more exhaust than anyone else").
Parking in Boston can be a major pain, but these guys have you covered here too. This might be the most invaluable chapter in the book (no kidding, really!), as they give away some nice spots and ideas. I also noticed that they are very much correct about where you're gonna get ticketed and where you're not going to get ticketed.
There is also an entire chapter dealing with advanced manuevers. These include ways to get around taxis ("When it comes to Boston Driving, nobody does it better than your friendly neighborhood cab drivers"), Cadillacs ("Caddies love to get in the left lane and go 20MPH below the speed limit," only to speed up if you try and pass them from the right of course), and how to make advanced turns, such as the "gas station right on red," the "gas station left on red" and the "gas station straight ahead on red." I've used the right on red many times, but even I haven't done the straight ahead or left turn manuevers. I guess that goes to show that even seasoned Boston drivers have things to learn from this book!
The last chapter is full on satire, detailing what the authors believe Boston Driving will become in the future, including an event in the Olympic Games.
For those who buy this book expecting full on satire, you may be surprised just how accurate it is. At the same time, it is absolutely hilarious and it is scary how true some of the things the authors say are. You might not get all the jokes, but once you get here and drive here, I'm sure you'll catch up fast enough.
At only $10, this 150 page tome is well worth the investment, especially if you're planning a trip here, and probably has plenty of re-reading value once you've concluded your trip.
Oh, and one last thing: if you do come here from out of state, find your f*cking gas pedal you stupid sh*tf*ck.