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The Snot Hurled 'Round the World

Battle of Lexington GreenI live in the town of Bedford Massachussets, which is adjacent to the more famous towns of Lexington and Concord where the American Revolutionary War began.

The famous "Shot Heard 'Round the World" was fired on the Lexington Battle Green, which is just a ten-minute drive from my house.

When I go to Lexington for a meeting of ToastMasters or to tutor high school students at Cary Memorial Library, I drive down the convenient route to Lexington Battle Green, where I can park my car for two hours, then loop around the Green to return home to Bedford.

Last Thursday (August 18) I went to Lexington to attend the noon-time meeting of ToastMasters, in which I was slated to evaluate the talk of one of the speakers who told a story of an incongruous experience on her honeymoon.

I stuck around after the meeting to have lunch with another member, and then returned to my car to drive home.  As I looped around the triangularly shaped Battle Green, I came upon a barricade and some orange construction barrels on a short section of the pavement on Harrington Road. There was a sign on the barricade reading "Road Closed" as if there were some damage that was waiting to be repaired.  I scanned the road on the other side of the barricade, looking for some clue as to what the issue was. I saw no utility crew or flagman, just a few orange barrels.  Meantime a car came down the road from the opposite direction, indicating to me that at least his lane was open.  And about that time, another car came up behind me.  So there I was, boxed in with a barricade in front of me, and car behind me and no obvious alternative but to go around the barricade and barrels to continue my journey home.

I came to the stop sign at the end of Harrington Road, crossed over Bedford Street to head back up Hancock Road, stopping at the Lexington Minuteman Bike Trail to let a pedestrian cross.  Less than a mile later I saw flashing red lights behind me, so I pull to the side, stopped, and put on my flashers. An officer stopped behind me, got out of his SUV, radioed his position, and approached my car.  In the meantime, I had unbuckled my seatbelt to pull out my wallet and driver's license for him.

He reproached me for going around the barricade, telling me I had gone the wrong way on a one-way street.

Snoopy Gobsmacked"One way?" I asked.  Since when is that a one-way street?

The officer explained to me that the Unitarian Church had requested the town turn Harrington Road into a one-way street and to place the barricades there for the convenience of the parishioners. Then he excoriated me for disobeying the sign on the barricade that said, "Road Closed."

I told him that it was a confusing situation, there was no obvious reason for the barricade and nowhere else to go except around it.

He said I should have turned around and gone back the other way.

At this point I'm thinking that would have been imprudent, to try to turn around on a narrow street with a barricade on one side and another car behind me, and with oncoming traffic in the westbound lane of Harrington Road. And then I would be going the wrong direction on a street that I am unfamiliar with, which is an excellent way to get lost in the warren of roads in this part of the state.

He asked me for my vehicle registration, which took me a few minutes to pick out, since the state issues a new one every other year, and all the old ones were still in the glove box. But I found the current one and handed it to the officer.

1997 Buick and Mazda

After reading it, he said, "Mazda?!?" with an unmistakeable tone of skepticism."

"It's a Mazda 626," I said. "1996.  (Or is it '97?)"

He walked around the back of the vehicle to look at the insignia.

"What did you think it was?" I asked him.

"This looks like a Buick," he declared.

I didn't even know they still made Buicks, but yes, the '97 Mazda 626 Sedan does look a lot like a '97 Buick LeSabre.  Who knew?

What was interesting is that he didn't believe the words on the Registration, which didn't jibe with the evidence of his senses in regarding my car with his own two eyes.  

After I got home, I read the text of the Citation, "Violation of Posted Do Not Enter Signs."

CitationDo Not Enter?!?  I didn't recall seeing any "Do Not Enter" signs.  Did I miss seeing it???  I recall there was an ordinary Stop Sign that I had no recollection of seeing there before.  I recall stopping and looking left to make sure there was no oncoming traffic before turning right onto Harrington Road. Where was this "Do Not Enter" sign that I didn't see?

I also called up the office of the Adminstrator of the Unitarian Church to find out more about this barricade and this story about Harrington Road becoming one-way at the request of the church.

I left a message and set aside the puzzle for the next day.

On Friday morning I drove back down to the Lexington Battle Green to figure out what the story was.

Stop Sign at Right Turn Onto Harrington RoadThe Stop Sign (which was new) was where I had noticed it, but there was no sign saying One-Way ~ Do Not Enter.  Why would there be a normal right turn lane with just a standard Stop Sign, which means to give the right of way to oncoming traffic inbound to Lexington Center from Mass Ave? 

I walked across the street to the Unitarian Church, walking down the entrance drive on the left side of the building to the parking lot in back, where I found the entrance to the Administrative Office.  I went in and found Jane Foley, the Adminstrator, who had just made a note of my call on her answering machine of the previous afternoon.

I asked her if she could corroborate the story of the police officer that the church had requested the change in traffic pattern on Harrington Road.

She said the church had made no such request and that this was something the town had been planning on their own since last May.

I asked her if she knew the police were laying in wait on the exit driveway on the right side of the church, to nab anyone who went around the barricade.

She had no idea there was a police detail assigned to do that, and she said she would contact the Board to follow-up.

I chatted with her about the experience, explaining that I had received an infantilizing lecture from the police officer, and that I found it alienating and crazy-making. Why, if there is a new and confusing change, were they handing out $60 tickets instead of assisting visitors to make sense of an incongruous barricade in front of what looks like a road repair activity?

When I went back outside, I walked past the police cruiser laying in wait on the exit side of the church. This was a different officer from the day before, a female with black hair pulled stiffly back in a bun. I did not pause to talk to her, but I did observe her ticketing two more vehicles for the same infraction.  Clearly, this was a detail assignment from either the Captain or Lieutanant who was supervising this operation.

Looking down the road in the opposite direction, I saw one of those portable electric signs that would be visible to traffic coming into Lexington Center along Mass Avenue from Worthen Road.  It was situated on the island and flashed a message which was hard to read standing right in front of it, but I gather that was the one that directed traffic away from Harrington Road. That electric sign is not visible from the direction I came, looping around the Green to return to Bedford.

Town Plans for Harrington RoadThere was nothing in the current online edition of the Lexington Minuteman about Harrington Road, so I brought up the Lexington Town Web Site and found the plans from last May regarding some 3-month trials of new traffic patterns, including the one on Harrington Road.  According to the drawings by the engineers, there was supposed to be a sign on the barricade reading "One-Way, Do Not Enter." But for some reason, there was no such sign on the barricades, but rather a large electric sign visible only to traffic coming east on Mass Ave. For people like me, looping clockwise around the Green, there was no such sign at all.

Evidently the officers on detail had not bothered to appreciate that the signage on the site did not match the plans. Moreover, given the way they were parked alongside the exit drive of the church, they could not see the motorists until they were going around the barricades. It occurs to me that the officer who stopped me did not know which direction I had entered Harrington Street from, since he erroneously assumed I had gone past a sign reading "One-Way ~ Do Not Enter."  It's unclear to me how the officers were not aware that no such sign is visible anywhere along a circuit looping clockwise around Lexington Battle Green.

Filing Appeal

It will cost me $25 just to request a Court Appearance before the Judge Magistrate.

One of my neighbors is a former Lieutenant in the Public Safety Division of the Concord Police, and he says that most of the time these cases are dismissed. But either way, one is out $25 for an appearance or $60 to settle the books. If the citation is issued in error, there is no alternative. The Citations go into the computer, and mistakes cannot be corrected prior to filing for a court appearance.

If I were to appear before a Judge Magistrate to present a defense, I don't know if Sgt. Timothy J. Barry would be obliged to be present. But if he were there, and if the Judge Magistrate sided with me, would she grant me an opportunity to chide the officer who cited me?  

Dunno.  But here is what I would like to say to Sgt. Barry:

Vade Retro Satana

What you bring to me is evil.

Try drinking the poison yourself.



Primitive Logic leads to paradoxes and impasses. Higher order thinking is required to resolve dilemmas and conundrums where there is no obvious way out of the dead end.

Sgt. Barry said the Unitarian Church had requested that Harrington Road become one-way.

He excoriated me for not obeying the sign.

The way Sgt. Barry spoke to me was infantilizing and alienating, not to mention crazy-making.

If, when I was a child, my father had lectured me the way Sgt. Barry did, I never would have become a scientist. Fortunately, my father was also a scientist, which is why he would never have treated me in such an infantilizing manner.

Sgt. Barry disbelieved the information on my vehicle registration. He thought my car was a Buick and he had to go look at the logo on the back of the vehicle to convince himself it really was a Mazda and not a Buick, as he believed.

One of my neighbors, who attends the same church (Saint Michaels Catholic Church in Bedford) as Sgt. Timothy J. Barry, tells me that Sgt. Barry's 24-yr old son is a police officer in the Bedford Police, where I live. 

Believe it or not there are two people named Sgt. Barry on the Lexington Police Force.  One of them is married to a recently elected Town SelectWoman, Suzanne E. Barry, who is also the Chairman of the Board of Selectmen.  However I have learned that the husband of Suzanne E. Barry is the other Sgt. Barry, not the one who stopped me. 


My father used to say, "Don't believe everything you read."

Today we tell our students, "Don't believe everything you think."

Your first duty as a scientist is to be skeptical of everything, including your own pet theories, so as to avoid falling into the trap of becoming self-deluded.


I spoke to my neighbor, Roy Mulcahy, who has experience as a Public Safety Officer with the Concord Police.  He said these citations go into a computer and once they are in, the only way out is to either pay the $60 fine or pay $25 to request a Court Appearance before a Magistrate Judge who usually dismisses them. 

I said to Roy, "It sounds a bit like a racket."

"It is a racket," he said in a matter of fact tone of voice.

"Can I quote you on that?" I asked. 


Sgt. Timothy J. Barry, Lexington MA Police

Timothy J. Barry Promoted to Sergeant | Lexington Minuteman | Sept 21, 2010

“Police work is in Sgt. Barry’s blood,” said Capt. Manny Ferro of the Lexington Police Department. 

“He comes from a long line of police officers. His father was a police officer. His uncle was a police officer. I’m sure his kids will be police officers,” Ferro said. “He’s very passionate about police service.”

Barry, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice administration, started at the Lexington Police Department in 1981. With a background in firearms, Barry has served as a range instructor and field training officer. He has also served on the motorcycle unit.

“We recognize Tim’s ability to instruct effectively,” Ferro  aid. “Tim is a very loyal employee and a great addition for us.”


Jane Foley First Parish Administrator, Unitarian Universalist Church

Jane Foley is our Parish Administrator. She comes to First Parish with a varied background in administrative work, including as the administrative assistant of a state-run trust company for small Massachusetts businesses and as Membership Director at First Parish in Concord. Jane is a member of the UU church in Melrose, where she is currently co-chair of the Fellowship Committee. She has also served as Board President, Board Vice-President, and Coordinator of the Covenant Group program at the Melrose church.

Email Jane if you have questions about First Parish.


My message to Sgt. Timothy J. Barry and his superiors at the Lexington Police:

Vade Retro Satana

What you bring to me is evil.

Try drinking the poison yourself.


To: John Livsey, Lexington Town Engineer
From: Barry Kort
Subject: Please Review Quotes on Harrington Road Story

Hi John,

Thanks for taking the time to chat with me yesterday regarding the issues with the Harrington Road signage.

One thing I didn't mention is that my drive down to Lexington, via Grove Street and Hancock Road is efficient, with only two stop signs and very little traffic.  The return trip home also used to be the same, as I could loop around the Battle Green to gain access to Hancock Road for the return drive home: Two stop signs and almost no traffic on Hancock and Grove.

Now, with the detour, my trip home via Mass Ave to Worthen to Bedford Street and the Great Road is six traffic lights and two stop signs in stop-and-go traffic on major local thoroughfares.

Would it not have been better to put in a traffic light at the intersection of Harrington Road and Bedford Street, with something like a 2-minute red light and a 20-second green light for traffic on Harrington Road to cross Bedford Street?

Finally, I promised you a chance to review my quotes of you from our phone conversation of Friday morning. You will find them at the bottom of this story on one of my social networking web sites:


Last updated 2850 days ago by Moulton

This is a scrupulously precise description of the incident worthy for a lawyer to defend you in court, although you should avoid some repetitions and unnecessary digressions in my point of view, that takes the attention away from the main story.

To present that story to a broader audience, like in FB for example, you should make it much shorter, dismiss all that's not absolutely necessary to visualize the incident and fill it with your special kind of sarcastic and ironic remarks.

Please think twice about going public with the real names, thus shaming these people and tempt them to a reaction whose outcome you cannot predict now.

Ridiculous facts are better consumed with the spice of humor.

Yutiel Yoshi 2882 days ago

How about the title, that Bill Bryson used in one of his columns about America:

Rule number one: Obey all rules! (if they make any sense or not)

Yutiel Yoshi 2882 days ago

One of the points to take away from this kind of story is that it is commonplace for sets of rules to be inconsistent, such that anything one does violates at least one of the operable rules.  

Recall we talked about Harry Potter, where the problem to be solved (an existential threat to the community) cannot be solved if one scrupulously follows the existing set of rules.  The technical term for that commonplace conundrum is the Double Bind ("damned if you do, damned if you don't").

Hermione Learns To Break Rules

Moulton 2882 days ago

This was really interesting for me to read Barry! I enjoy your attention to detail. And for a fairly long story, I actually never got bored reading it! Which says a lot, considering that one would anticipate that the tale of a bogus and unfair traffic citation would not necessarily make for such interesting leisure reading. :)

I am sorry this happened to you.

Dang, it's frustrating dealing with Muggles sometimes (actually, most of the time) eh Barry? Especially given the subtle or not so subtle bullying tactics that so many police officers employ. If it is any consolation, the job of lurking in 'Cash Grab Ticket' locations is an assignment that is very low-grade for cops. Puts most of them in a bad mood from the Get-Go. Thus they utilize what meagre power they have in the situation to the max. I hope that you do pay that $25 fee and go fight the ticket.

I also go to the time and trouble to fight idiotic wrong tickets. We have a very big Cash Generating traffic police system here in Calgary. It costs me more in my time, the cost of parking downtown to attend court, etc., than is financially sensible. But I refuse to let stuff like that 'go'.

Joy Daniels 2880 days ago

Title: How To Screw Ya
Artist: Barry Kort
Composer: Leonard Cohen and Barsoom Tork Associates
YouTube: Hallelujah (KD Lang)
I heard there was a stealthy cop
That Timmy played when he got the drop
But you don't really care for feedback, do ya?
It goes like this: the detail shift
The minor balk, the petty grift
The strident cop exploiting how to screw ya
How to screw ya
How to screw ya
How to screw ya
How to screw ya
Your facts were wrong, you pulled a goof
With assertions begging for some proof
But loyalty and rancor overthrew ya
I regarded you with a gobsmacked stare
I fell into an entrapment lair
And from your chides I heard, "I'm gonna screw ya."
How to screw ya, How to screw ya
How to screw ya
Shield and Golden Arch 
I know this gloom, I've rapped this door
I even had some strife before I knew ya
I've seen your Shield by the Golden Arch
These games are not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken way to screw ya
How to screw ya, How to screw ya
How to screw ya, How to screw ya
I'd give you a Bokonic shove
To show you what is meant by love
Not how to rebuke somebody who confused ya
And consider when I move to speak
The Magistrate may detect a sneak
And every breath bespeaks "I'm gonna screw ya"
How to screw ya, How to screw ya
How to screw ya, How to screw ya
Some say I took your name in vain
No one can help; I took the blame
But if I did, well really, what's it to you?
There's a daze of fright in every word
It doesn't matter which you heard
The holy or the broken way to screw ya
How to screw ya, How to screw ya
How to screw ya, How to screw ya
I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't win; I tried too much
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, How I love ya
CopyClef 2016 Leonard Cohen and Barsoom Tork Associates.
Resurrection Hackware. All wrongs reversed.

At Resurrection Hackware, our annoying song parodies are your everlasting earworm.

Moulton 2879 days ago

So where were the "One-Way ~ Do Not Enter" signs?

Turns out the Public Works Department had installed them on the wrong end of Harrington Road!  I found them there covered over with black plastic, because they were installed in the wrong place.


Covered One-Way Do Not Enter Sign


One Way Do Not Enter Sign


That's why they didn't exist on the Mass Ave end of Harrington Road where they were supposed to be located. Note also that a week after the original arrangement the Department of Public Works added more barrels all the way up to the Stop Sign at Bedford Road. Orginally the barrels only went for about 20 feet, making it look like they were marking off a short section of road repair.

Moulton 2879 days ago

Today, I spoke to Officer Hsu at the Lexington Police.  I asked him if they were going to void the citations from last week, since the signage was wrong.  He said my only option was to pay the $25 Filing Fee to request an Appeal.

Moulton 2879 days ago

Another excellent song parody, Barry. Looking forward to your future Report describing your Day in Court.

Joy Daniels 2878 days ago

I have added this comment to a recent article about the Harrington Road detour in the Lexington Minuteman.

Comment in Lexington Minuteman

Moulton 2878 days ago

Title: Cash Grab
Artist: Lexington Traffic Detail
Composer: Berry Gordy, Janie Bradford, and Barsoom Tork Associates
YouTube: Money ~ The Beatles

The best history in life is free
But it doesn't mean a thing to me

Now give us money (that's what we want)
That's what we want (that's all we want)
That's what we want (that's all we want) yeah
That's what we want

Driver blunders give us a thrill,
But tourism doesn't pay our bills

Now give us money (that's what we want)
That's what we want (that's all we want)
That's what we want (that's all we want) yeah
That's what we want

Money don't get everything it's true
What it don't get belongs to Zeus

Now give us money (that's all we want)
That's what we want (that's what we want)
That's what we want (that's what we want) yeah
That's what we want

Well, now give us money (that's what we want)
Whole lot of money (that's what we want)
Whoah yeah, we wanna be rich (that's what we want)
Oh, money (that's what we want)
That's what we want, yeah (that's what all we want)
That's what we want

Well, now give us money (that's what we want)
Whole lot of money (that's what we want, whoo)
Whoah, yeah, you know we need money (that's what we want)
Now give us money (that's all we want, whoo)
That's what we want, yeah (that's what we want)
That's what we want

CopyClef 2016 Berry Gordy, Janie Bradford, and Barsoom Tork Associates.
North American Bupkis.  All songs reused.

"At North American Bupkis, we solemnly swear we are up to no good."

Moulton 2878 days ago

Al Gentile wrote a new story about Harrington Road which appeared in the August 31st edition of the Lexington Minuteman.  The large number of motorists who went the wrong way is indicative of missing signage.  The story confirms that new signage was added, but it doesn't say when.

Moulton 2871 days ago

Quoting from Al Gentile's story ...


A “Road Closed” sign blocks one of the lanes on Harrington Road, with orange barrels lining the yellow lines to indicate the entire lane is closed. A “Do Not Enter” sign was installed as well. Drivers who have received tickets have driven past those signs on the wrong side of the road.

Since implementing the traffic plan, several changes have been made to the current installation.

"We added close to 20 barrels so that entire lane is closed off, we put in a couple additional Road Closed Ahead signs at the approach turns, we moved one of the road closed signs further back toward Mass Ave, and we lowered the do not enter sign for increased visibility,” said John Livsey, Lexington Town Engineer.


How do 41 people go past a clearly visible "Do Not Enter Sign"? 

When I revisited the site yesterday afternoon (before I learned of this new story), I startled and said to my colleague, Robert Isenberg, "That sign [the one in the photo in Al Gentile's story] wasn't there before." 

When was that"Do Not Enter" sign added? The story doesn't say. 

I'm feeling gaslighted because my need for candor is not being met.

Moulton 2870 days ago

Lexington Town Engineer, John Livsey, said that the "Do Not Enter" sign in this photo was present from the beginning, but it had been mounted at the very top of the pole, which placed it out of the line of sight of motorists who came upon the barricades. In the Lexington Minuteman story, Livsey is quoted as saying, "we lowered the do not enter sign for increased visibility."  If you examine the photo carefully, you can see the top of the pole extends well above the current position of the sign on the pole.

For a motorist who comes upon the barricades, sign is poorly positioned to be seen by a driver looking around for information to explain the presence of the barricades.  Also the sign should have had "One-Way" in the white horizontal strip, which would have further explained the situation to a confused motorist.

The elusive "Do Not Enter" sign.

Moulton 2870 days ago

Town Engineer, John Livsey, said that the "Do Not Enter" sign seen here was originally to be positioned on left side of the road, near Tom Fortmann's driveway. According to Livsey, Tom asked that it be moved across to the Lexington Green side of the road.

Originally the sign was mounted at the top of the pole, where it would have been maximally visible to a motorist coming upon the barricade.

But when the sign was moved to the right side of the road, it was positioned in a location not readily visible to a motorist abruptly coming upon the barricade. Livsey said they then had to lower the sign from the top of the pole to lower position, because it was too high up to be clearly visible in the new location.

In the Lexington Minuteman story, Livsey is quoted as saying, "we lowered the do not enter sign for increased visibility." If you examine the photo carefully, you can see the top of the pole extends well above the current position of the sign on the pole.

Moulton 2869 days ago

Returning to Al Gentile's story in the Lexington Minuteman, we read that Lexington Police Chief Mark Corr told The Minuteman 27 written warnings and 14 civil citations were written during the two week period between Aug. 16 and Aug. 29, related to the one-way traffic trial on Harrington Road.

Two-thirds of the motorists who were stopped by the police detail received written warnings and one-third received $60 citations for civil (town by-law) infractions.  How did the police decide who to let off with a warning, and who to stick with a $60 fine?

Did the warnings go to residents of Lexington and the $60 fines go to people who did not live in Lexington?  If not, what was the criterion?  Is there any way to find out?

Moulton 2869 days ago

I sent a note to Lexington Town Engineer suggesting some alternatives:

Hi John,

Please consider some alternatives for the Harrington Road - Bedford Street intersection.

One possibility is to install a traffic light.

Another possibility is to turn the Harrington Road - Bedford Street - Hancock Street Triangle into a Half-Circle along the lines in this crude sketch.

Harrington Road - Bedford Street - Hancock Road Traffic Half-Circle


Moulton 2868 days ago

I went to see Concord District Court Clerk, Ann Colicchio, today to see if they still had the option of dismissing citations without a hearing. She said that the only way to process a citation nowadays is to pay the $25 filing fee, wait for a court date, and show up to present your case.  And so I wrote the $25 check and filed for a hearing.

Here is a story on her from Channel 5, Boston.

Moulton 2866 days ago

My hearing before Clerk-Magisrate Ann Tavares Colicchio in Concord District Court is scheduled for Monday, October 24th, one month from today.

Concord District Court Hearing Notice

The applicable statute is Massachusetts General Law Chapter 90, Section 14.

Massachusetts General Law Chapter 90 Section 14

Moulton 2846 days ago

This morning I spoke by phone to Sgt. George Snow to ask about the police detail assigned to Harrington Road.

He said that the decision to issue a $60 citation vs issuing a warning is at the discretion of the officer, and there is no way for a member of the public to know what criterion the officer is using to make that decision.

Sgt. Snow had no explanation for why the traffic detail was assigned to issue tickets rather than to work at the intersection to help direct traffic for a new and complicated detour. 

Sgt. Snow was unaware that the signage had been changed from the original approved plan, or that there was no signage indicating that Harrington Road was One-Way or that there was a new detour route.

Moulton 2821 days ago

My date in Traffic Court was this morning.

I prevailed. I got about 2 minutes into my story and the Clerk-Magistrate, Ann Colicchio, abruptly dismissed the case. I'm guessing I was not the first person to contest it, as the Clerk-Magistrate seemed to have a very quick grasp of the scene, and she was impressed that I came well-prepared with photos and diagrams.

Moulton 2818 days ago

The NY Times has a story about the non-refundable $25 fee just to present your case to a Clerk-Magistrate.

Moulton 2754 days ago