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By L. Kincaid Holmes
While hours of operation have tightened up in many businesses, there is one work sector that must continue – the media. News is a 24/7 business, pandemic or not, and whether you’re a journalist, editor, or deliverer there’s work to do and those jobs are considered essential business in most stay-at=home orders across the nation.
My father, Roy Holmes, works third shift at The Boston Globe, driving International 6-wheel box trucks delivering the Globe, The New York Times, and the Boston Herald, across New England – all before sunrise.
While the radius I’m allowed these days has shrunk to just my hometown – to the grocery or hardware store and back to my house in Middleboro, Massachusetts – my dad’s travel allows me a wider view of the surreal images of the time.
My dad and about 130 other drivers are healthy and working and are having similar experiences.
Talk to some of these drivers and you get one unanimous description of New England roads today: “Eerie.” Not just on the empty arteries of once-congested Boston, but on long stretches of Interstate in through the hills of Vermont. Their videos accompanying this article are testament to their strange experiences.
“It’s that way all over the place,” says my dad.
While streets at 1:30 a.m. are usually still booming with cars and commercial vehicles in normal times, on an early weekday morning last week, my dad saw zero cars and only two delivery trucks on his trip from Newton to Boston, a total of 16 minutes.
Driving back down the Southeast Expressway, heading back to the Globe, the most activity my dad saw were police cruisers following a guy on a wheelchair, northbound, passed Massachusetts’ iconic rainbow swathed gas tank.
Two Saturdays ago, my dad’s route took him into Hyannis, 60 miles from Taunton down on Cape Cod. He saw five cars during the whole shift.
His coworker, Billy Quinn, also works nights at The Globe. Since the pandemic stay-at-home orders began, “eerie” is the best way to describe the roads, says Quinn. “There’s unbelievably little traffic,” he says about one sot in Boston that is “usually crazed.” And when he drove 125 miles to Brattleboro, Vermont, he says, “I didn’t see three cars the entire drive.”
Another driver for the Globe, Arthur Quinlan, who delivers papers by day in a semi-truck, takes videos every day of the deserted roads, with the radio “cranking full blast.”
“Today [April,15] was nothing … it was scary,” says Quinlan. “I drove to Newton to Brookline to South Boston through Park Square. It was ridiculous.”
Describing Park Square, a normally packed intersection, he says, “I saw three people there at the main intersection.”
From a once-crowed expressway standstill to 60 mph on the highways – it’s never been easier to deliver news, even sad news.