My Massachusetts grandfather was a lead engineer on a number of dams and canal projects including some around here, and also the Panama Canal. Legend has it, since he was very scientific, he would approximate the rate of leaves as they flowed along beside his dug out canoe. So this letter is for my grandfather.

I used to meditate on my front porch. Now I estimate the speed of passing vehicles. A simple formula exists to determine the speed: Speed equals Distance (in miles) divided by time (in hours). Skipping to the end, the speed in mph of a vehicle passing the distance between 3 telephone poles is equal to 170 divided by the number of seconds it takes to pass. (I already converted the answer to mph within the equation, so all you have to do is count the seconds it takes a car to pass between 3 poles, and divide the number you get into 170, and you have the mph.) Now, I don’t expect you to take my word for it, without the proof. So here goes: The distance between 3 poles in an urban area is 250 feet. 250 feet is the same as .0473485 miles. Multiply .0473485 miles times 3,600 because you are going to divide in terms of seconds (60 seconds times 60 minutes), so your final answer will be in hours, and you get 170.

Now everyone knows how to approximate speed of a vehicle passing three telephone poles. The more seconds it takes to pass my front porch, the lower the miles per hour, and visa versa. Next, let’s all work on slowing down as we roll along. 