When Back to School = Getting Storrowed

The new school season approaches quickly and, once again, as they do every year, first-year college students in Boston are getting Storrowed.

The Best and Brightest Come to Boston

Boston boasts 35 colleges and universities that educate 152,000 students every year. These young people are, we expect, among the best and the brightest. They have submitted outstanding SAT scores, written award-winning essays, given valedictorian speeches, aced Advance Placement courses and completed internships.

These kids know how to work the internet, use their GPS devices, and plan a travel route. They can get from home to their new campus digs with a minimum of problems, right?


What they can’t do, it seems, is follow simple directions.

Storrow Drive, Boston, Charles River, Back Bay

Getting from Here to There

Here’s the story.

Every year, new students rent moving trucks, pack them with the paraphernalia that is now mandatory for dormitory living, and head to Boston. They plan a route that often includes a parkway called Storrow Drive. This road runs along the Charles River on the northern edge of Boston.

It goes right by Boston University and leads to the Mass Ave Bridge, which goes across the Charles to the five other universities in Cambridge. Storrow Drive also provides access to schools like the Massachusetts College of Art, Wentworth University, Northeastern University, the Berklee College of Music, Emerson College, Suffolk University and more.

Several Bridges and One Tunnel

On the way, Storrow Drive goes under several low-clearance bridges and, just past the Back Bay, dives into a tunnel. Got the picture?

But here’s the thing: the bridges and the roof of the tunnel are not high enough to accommodate a moving van. Signs along Storrow Drive warn about this situation, saying “No Trucks” and “Cars Only” very clearly. Extra warnings go up prior to move-in season.

Storrow Drive, low clearance, cars only, no trucks, warning signs, low bridges

But every year, with alarming regularity, moving trucks driven by newly minted college students run right into those obstacles.

It’s called “getting Storrowed” and it’s not something you want to do.

College students aren’t the only ones to ignore the “No Trucks” warning, of course. But there’s a definite connection between “Move-In Day” at the city’s institutions of higher education and the incidence of trucks Getting Storrowed.

One might think the students don’t realize they’re driving an actual truck. They rented it, you know, and in their mind it becomes like a car stuffed with their things. Only bigger.

On Storrow Drive, these trucks either get jammed—quite abruptly—torn open completely, or “sardine canned.”

Storrow Drive, Getting Storrowed, low-clearance bridges, sardine-canned, jammed

Getting Sardine Canned

We saw the latter situation unfold far from Storrow Drive one year as we were heading to New York City. Cruising along the Hutchinson River Parkway, I noticed a box truck ahead of us in the right lane. I didn’t really think anything about it until we reached a bridge. He got there first and he hit it at about 60 miles per hour.

The bridge peeled off the entire top of the truck, just like you peel the lid off a sardine can. The top accordioned backwards as the truck kept moving forwards, spraying the roadway with shreds of metal, glass, and plastic.

The truck was still moving as we passed him and I saw the driver with a look of shock and horror on his face. All I could think was, “You are so fired.”

At the time, I thought that perhaps the driver didn’t speak English very well and hadn’t understood the parkway warnings. But that excuse doesn’t apply to all the Boston students who get Storrowed every year.

Consequences of Getting Storrowed

Storrow Drive, Boston, Traffic Jam, Getting Storrowed, low clearance, moving van

Storrow Drive Traffic Jam
Courtesy WCVB-TV

Several things happen when you get Storrowed:

  1. Everything stops. The truck, you, and all the traffic behind you. Getting Storrowed creates a monumental traffic jam. No one will forgive you. This is a great way to learn about Boston drivers first-hand.
  2. The bridge or tunnel will sustain damage.
  3. The truck will be wrecked. As they say in Man of La Mancha, “Whether the pitcher hits the stone or the stone hits the pitcher, it’s going to be bad for the pitcher.”
  4. You’re going to get a ticket. A wicked big ticket. It’s going to cost you.
  5. You’re going to have to pay the rental company for damages to their truck. Big, honking damages.
  6. Some of your precious goods just might end up all over the roadway. No one will swerve to avoid them. Storrow Drive is narrow. Bye-bye guitar.
  7. You’re going to be late moving in to the dorm.
  8. You’re going to have to explain to Dad and Mom how their brilliant child could be so stupid.

Other Streets to Avoid

Move-In Day, Boston University, Boston, Storrow Drive

Move-in day at Boston University

If that doesn’t sound like a good scenario to you, cross Storrow Drive off your route to school. While you’re at it, avoid:

  • North Harvard Street
  • Western Avenue
  • River Street
  • Massachusetts Avenue
  • Bowker Street
  • Dartmouth Street
  • Memorial Drive in Cambridge

On September 1, the city will close several streets and restrict parking to prevent traffic jams. For more information, go to Boston.gov/moving.

If you know someone who will be starting college in Boston this year, be a good friend and keep them from getting Storrowed. Forward this post to him/her. It could save a lot of trouble and expense for everyone.