Meeting Your Freeway Neighbors

I ran into this truck the other day as I was driving.  Ok, not literally, but you know what I mean.  Check out the back doors…smoke, handprints…really unsettling.  I mean, what the hell!? Was there an exorcism going on back there?  I can see it now, the priest, clinging onto a side wall for dear life as the truck careened through traffic – with his Bible upside down, spilling Holy Water all over the back as the demonically challenged victim, restrained in an office chair, kept rolling just out of reach.

 

The truth is, every day we are surrounded by people on the road that we don’t know, will never meet, and never think about again.  What is going on in those cars?  Who are these people?

Let me enlighten you about your fellow drivers.

Bertha Katz:  Bertha is a sweet lady who embellishes her bumper with stickers that she doesn’t fully understand.  She has a PETA sticker next to the one reading, “Beef.  It’s what’s for dinner.”  She is blissfully unaware that the reason she gets rear-ended so many times is that people are trying to read that tiny, peeling one in the left corner that reads “Honk if you…” something.  Damn it, Bertha, we want to know if we should honk!

Hank Hughes:  Hank is driving that gigantic, 1970’s Air Stream in the right lane.  And the left lane.  And a little over into the far left lane as well.  His tags are from a state on the opposite side of the continent.  Just what the hell does he want to come here for anyway?? The RV looks ragged and well used.  He has actually hidden a fortune in slot machine tokens in the yellow polka dotted cushions of the bench seat in the back.  Hank is wearing sunglasses and propping his overly tanned left arm out his open window while singing along to Willie Nelson, his untanned right arm balancing a cup of cold coffee on his lap.

Henry McFadden:  Beware the Henry McFaddens of the highway.  You can spot them a mile away, wearing sporty caps on their grey heads.  He is in the fast lane, doing 25mph with his hazard lights on, cursing all “you young whippersnappers” that tailgate him, horns blaring in frustration before finally passing him in a final barrage of honking.  He thinks that 55 mph is a suggestion, and a gosh-darned dangerous one at that.

Ellen Fitzgerald:  She is the soccer mom in the over-sized, overly priced SUV in front of you.  Until now, you didn’t know that Lamborghini made an SUV. Considering your state has absolutely no mountainous areas whatsoever, and therefore no reason to kick it into 4-wheel drive to overcome treacherous terrain, the purpose of an SUV of this size is unclear.  Not that this SUV would ever see a mountain … or know what mud is. The otherwise pristine vehicle has a back window full of those stick figures…two adult men, three adult women, eight children, seven dogs, five cats, and what appears to be an iguana.  You will never know anything more about her, but you will obsess over who those stick figures represent the rest of the day.

Michael Mitchell:  Ah, Mr. Vanity Plate himself.  You can admire a clever plate when you understand it. “I M Gr8” or “2 GUD 4 U” are some of the classics that make you smile.  But Michael’s tag, proudly proclaiming “Y RST U” is an enigma.  You ponder it for miles, saying it out loud, trying it backwards and forwards, all thoughts of Ellen’s stick figure family gone from your head as the new obsession strikes.  You think you almost have it, the solution is so close!  Little do you know; Michael’s tag means nothing, and he only got it to mess around with his fellow drivers.  Well played, Michael. Well played indeed.

Mandy Smith:  As you drive up next to Mandy, you see her frantically shoving a candy bar into her mouth with the wrapper still on, chasing it with a Red Bull, death metal guitars screaming from inside her car.  You may initially judge Mandy’s unkempt pony tail and stained sweatshirt, but then you see the back seat lined with three car seats and the sullen teenager in the front passenger seat.  As you pass her, you realize that she isn’t listening to death metal at all; those screams are from her three toddlers in the back.  Her eyes are haunted as she shoots you a pleading glance; you give her the universally accepted grim lipped smile of the overwhelmed (and overworked) mother, and head nod as your eyes meet in understanding.

Bill Jones:  Bill’s bumper sticker proudly proclaims that he “brakes for turtles.”  Yay, Bill.  Unfortunately, he also brakes for nonexistent bumps, red cars on the opposite side of the road, commercials on the radio, trees, and just to see if his brakes still work or if he needs to use the gift certificate to the local brake repair shop his friends gave him for his birthday.

Lila Hirsch:  Lila is frantically arguing with her invisible friend.  Both of her hands are off the wheel, at inopportune times, gesticulating wildly to make her point as her car swerves into your lane.  You tell yourself she is probably on Blue Tooth…but can we really be sure?

Johnny Miller:  Johnny picks a car at random, then begins to target it for his own freeway fun.  He tailgates it, passes it, cuts it off, slows down, speeds up, lets it pass again, and so on in a game of cat and mouse with rules that only he knows and which he keeps changing as he goes along.  At some point, he apparently wins his game and will drive up casually next to you, looking over at you in distaste, shaking his head, before speeding off.  You will never understand Johnny’s game, but you feel sort of honored you were chosen to play, and thankful you survived.

Next time you are on the road, look out for these drivers.  Now you know a little more about them, so they are no longer random strangers in a car.  If I missed any, let me know; I’d love to hear who you “met” on the road today!

To Mom, with Love

I’ve apologized and I’ve waxed somewhat poetic and throughout it all, I’ve tried to be completely honest about my hand in the plot to drive my mother insane.

my mother’s look from 1963 on

Oh, she did get me back for some of my shenanigans, although it may have taken a few years…but her curse worked. Worked very well, indeed.

Despite our demonic childish antics — and indeed, those that have continued into our adulthood, my mother has loved us through it all, my brother and me. And you know, I don’t think it’s because she had to. I think she just liked us. Still does, apparently. I can tell. I’m just not sure why.

Motherhood is the only job where your subordinates can do everything in the world to undermine you, yet you still excel in your career…still have a passion for your work…still have pride in your venture. If that’s the case, then my mother deserves some kind of a service award. What will she get on Mother’s Day? Us. She gets us. Maybe cake. Definitely a houseful of love.

Trust Issues, Or Random Ramblings

So as you may remember, I live in a small town.  There are two roads you can navigate to get through our town, both are one-way – one going into town and one going out of town.  What does it say about my neighbors that I look both ways before crossing either of those one-way roads? What does it say about me? And I know I’m not the only one!  You guys do it too! But what exactly does that imply about our collective trust in our fellow humans that we feel the need to look both ways before crossing a one-way street? That those sharing the world and the road are inherently untrustworthy?  That they’re incapable of following simple directions?  Or have we become so jaded that we can’t even take the most basic things for granted?

The thing is, you know damn well the one time you don’t look both ways, some lone car, having missed the signs and the general traffic flow, will come meandering down the wrong-way and flatten you…well…flatter than a pancake. And now. Now, I want pancakes. Damn.  Oh, back to the issue at hand…so yeah, it’s a sad world we live in people. Sad, sad world.

Wheels on the Car Go Round and Round

So I got all new tires a month or so ago.  Mine were old and the last time I had a flat fixed, which really wasn’t all that long ago, the tech told me the treads were “getting a little bare” so I should maybe consider thinking about new tires at some point…so I knew it had to be done.  I’d been waiting for my tax refund to afford them — so with that and a little help from the tire fairy, I was set.

When I was finally able to take my car in (different place than where the flat was fixed), the very nice mechanic who looked over my car to check it in kindly informed me that up until that point, in his humble opinion, I’d likely been getting by on angels’ wings and a prayer.  Upon closer inspection of my tires, I’d say he was probably right.

I’m just now getting over all the “what if’s” that immediately popped into my head and am able to breathe normally again. Whew. Wing and a prayer indeed.

I’m curious though. If this was “getting a little bare” to the other repair shop…just what the hell is “you need new tires now” in their viewpoint?  When you’re dangling in your seat belt upside down off the overpass because of a blow-out at 65 mph?

 

Tire_1

yeah, so you see that squiggly white stuff there at the top? according to the mechanic, those frayed threads are the steel cords of the tire making an untimely appearance and apparently that’s a very, very bad thing…

 

Tire_2

Riding in Cars

The other week my mom and I were discussing one of the more volatile controversies that continually divides this country. Yes, I’m talking about two-door vs. four-door cars. Who cares how we got on the subject? The question brought before the panel (me, I’m the panel) was why is insurance higher for two-door cars. Before I know it I’m explaining to her that insurance rates are lower for people who own four-door cars because the insurance companies tend to think that the people who own them are more family oriented, less inclined to take risks (like drag racing with friends, taking dares on the number of donuts they can do in parking lots, or driving every day like they’re the getaway car from a massive bank robbery and the entire Sheriff’s office is on their tail), and overall just safer. Two-door car owners are more reckless, at least in the insurance company’s eyes, and, hence, more likely to get into an accident, so they get the higher premium.

My Mom interjected that despite the higher priced premium, she always insisted that our family have a two-door car when my brother and I were growing up. I will take a small detour here (ha! pun intended!) to say that you could not find a more stable, down-to-earth, no-risk-taker, family oriented kind of gal than my mother. But the inflated premium was worth it to her, or so she said.

I personally couldn’t understand why she opted for the two-door car. It seems so logical to me to upgrade to four doors when there are kids involved. I mean, it’s easier to get them in and out of the back seat in general, easier to buckle them into the car seats when they’re small, and we didn’t have to deal with that awkward climb into and out of the car over the folded down seat (with elbows to the head of whoever is in the front seat). It just seemed practical.

Then my mom explained her point of view. First of all, car seat? Ha! Not part of the equation back in those days. Yeah, okay, that makes sense. Second, only having two doors meant that there was no chance my brother and I could throw each other out of the car. Third, having only two doors meant we couldn’t carry through any brilliant ideas of jumping out of the car ourselves. That reasons 2 and 3 were likely scenarios to pop up in my mother’s head sort of sums up my childhood.

Looking back, I can easily envision both of those hilarious tragic events happening if we had the luxury of back seat doors. My brother and I were basically a live-action version of Spy vs. Spy. Take our constant battling, stuff it in a confined metal cage for a few hours, hurl it down a highway at 60 miles per hour, and one way or another one of us would find a reason to pop open that back door to show the other one the exit. Unfortunately, I mean, luckily, yes, luckily, my mom could imagine this too and preemptively put an end to that.

Each summer my father, with the whole family in tow, would navigate over the precarious road that led to my grandparents’ house. Well, this road, barely wide enough for a vehicle, ran snugly along the tall mountain on one side and on the other side was nothing but air. I’ve brought this up before…how my brother and I tried to drive my mother insane by jumping up and down on one side of the car trying to make it flip over the edge. If we had a four-door car for these treks! Oh my goodness how things would’ve changed!

I can see my brother now, swinging from the car door, legs dangling wildly in mid-air, hanging on for dear life. My parents would look back and wonder: did he jump out thinking he could fly? Did he think he could hop from the car onto the branch of a passing tree? Then, they’d look over to the other side of the back seat, where little ol’ Wendy—with her angelic doe eyes and impossibly cute grin—is sitting peaceful as a fawn, and they’d wonder to this day if something more menacing had happened to send my brother flapping in the breeze. I mean, really…who’s to say? Knowing us, it could’ve gone either way. Either scenario is equally plausible, but thankfully no one will ever know.

All because my mother had the supreme forethought to buy a two-door car.  You’d think the insurance company would’ve given her a discount for her smart car choices given the money she surely saved them, but no. I guarantee you though, had they known her little bundles of joy, they would have.

Parking Lot Problems

I realize the pedestrian has the right of way. That being said however, is there any point at all when a car is actually moving that the pedestrian should just look at it and say, yeah, umm…I think I won’t walk out in front of it, or behind it. I mean really, is there no responsibility (or common sense) on the part of the pedestrian at all!? Good grief.

Needless to say, I went to the pharmacy today. It ended well. But only because I’m a better driver and quicker on the uptake than some people are at being pedestrians.