What’s in a name — or, in this case, an address? Quite a bit, as it turns out.
In the United States, we have a pretty odd addressing system. It’s an amalgamation of vague rules, suggestions and “best practices” but it does give us a place to start in forming a few theories about the setting of 10 Cloverfield Lane based on its address. But it’s important to note that it’s pretty unlikely that anyone in America lives at a 10 Cloverfield Lane. Our system, while occasionally inconsistent and a little confusing, doesn’t really line up with what an address like 10 Cloverfield Lane conveys.
To begin, let’s establish the simplest part of the address: “lane.” A “lane” is often a rural road, usually a dead end, usually narrow. Given the posters we’ve seen for 10 Cloverfield Lane, “rural” is probably an apt descriptor for setting here, considering the film takes place in a survival bunker. Bunkers aren’t especially common fixtures in highly-populated areas, so it makes sense that we’d be somewhere like a lane — rural, not often traveled, dead-end.
With that bit out of the way, let’s move on to the good stuff: numbers.
We’ve got a few different ways of addressing property in the United States, but it all comes back to information and efficiency thanks to NENA Standards (that is, the National Emergency Number Association). Essentially, 9-1-1 protocols dictate that all structures, homes, properties, etc. must have an address, no matter how rural. When the addressing systems were established, it wasn’t much of a problem in towns, and anyone who was having mail delivered was likely unaffected, but there were certainly changes in addresses as NENA set forth some “best practices” for addressing.
There are a few ways to view addressing in the United States: primarily the distance-based and grid-based systems, and the more official axial and linear non-axial systems.
Distance-based and grid-based systems carry out their numbering in slightly different ways, but get after the same general concept: conveying information about distance from a point of origin with numbers in an address.
In distance-based addressing, a potential addressed can be assigned in incremental distances — every 5.28 feet, every 52.8 feet, etc. This allows for a certain number of potential addresses per mile (often 1000, as based on the 5.28 feet method) that increase the further they get from the point of origin. A lot of times, this point of origin is the middle of a town or the beginning of a road. It also usually results in pretty high address numbers outside of town. The reason for this is that a number like 3000 or 4000 in this system would give emergency responders an immediate idea of how far away from the point of origin they’ll be traveling to respond to a call at a certain address.
Grid-based addressing is the same idea, but applied on a grid rather than radiating from a point of origin. In grid-based addressing, addresses are formed using the a coordinate system. It’s common in cities, which are typically organized in blocks, so this method likely doesn’t have much real bearing on 10 Cloverfield Lane.
Axial and linear non-axial Address Reference Systems (ARS) are terms used by the Federal Geographic Data Committee. An Axial ARS is essentially just the distance-based and grid-based systems under a different name. It just refers to the method of using axes and a point of origin to describe distance numerically. Pretty easy stuff, and unless 10 Cloverfield Lane is damn near the said point of origin (again, somewhat unlikely because this seems like a secret bunker in a rural area), 10 isn’t a likely address.
Linear non-axial addressing, however, makes way for a somewhat plausible explanation for 10 Cloverfield Lane’s address. In linear non-axial addressing, properties on a street are numbered independently of numbering systems on other streets. This means, essentially, that numbering begins at the beginning of a street and ends at the end. Here 10 is a totally plausible address. However, linear non-axial addressing is usually reserved for use in uneven or otherwise restrictive terrain. While it’s possible that this system was used because 10 Cloverfield Lane is so far out in the middle of nowhere that there’s not much to base it on, the poster certainly doesn’t indicate that “uneven terrain” is the case.
By most of the addressing systems we use in the United States, 10 Cloverfield Lane probably isn’t a place where Americans live. Because it’s rural, these systems dictate that the number would probably be quite high. This is because addresses are designed to convey information, particularly to emergency responders. The number ’10’ isn’t efficient and doesn’t really convey anything other than “this address is quite probably very close to the beginning of Cloverfield Lane, wherever that is.” Not especially useful for ambulance or firetruck drivers who cover large chunks of rural area and don’t exactly have time to pull out maps. It’s unlikely that this address would’ve been used simply because it isn’t helpful.
That said, cities like Salt Lake City — with its brutally efficient but totally baffling grid system — prove that cities are largely wont to do as they please. NENA Standards lay out best practices, but there aren’t exactly laws governing addressing. So long as all properties have addresses, it’s up to counties and cities how they want to organize their numbering. It’s also worth noting that cities are lazy and people hate change. If 10 Cloverfield Lane’s address pre-dated NENA Standards, it very well could’ve stayed that way with a bit of stubbornness from the owner and some totally characteristic idleness on the part of local government.
Finally, private roads are another matter entirely. While NENA Standards say that private roads must be named, addressing on said roads isn’t controlled by counties. So if Cloverfield Lane is, in fact, a private road, 10’s owner could’ve numbered it whatever the hell she or he pleased. 4813, 314159, 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42, etc.
So where does that leave us?
If 10 Cloverfield Lane were to exist at all, we’d be looking at a relatively unlikely case of linear non-axial addressing on flat land, a private road or a very old address. While certainly plausible, any real-world existence of a real 10 Cloverfield Lane is pretty damn unlikely.