Construction Ahead

I want to say Happy Father’s Day to my Dad. And I’m sure my children would like to take this time to thank him for the inside joke that I constantly throw out, even though they weren’t even born when the joke originated, and it’s one they don’t really “get,” but they laugh along with me anyway. Of course, their laughter is likely just a way to placate their eccentric mother since we’re always in the car with me driving at the time of said joke, and they do have their safety and well-being to consider.

I’ll share a bit of nostalgia with you and let you in on the inside joke – there are actually two. And which joke gets repeated on which outing depends entirely on which road construction sign I happen to see at the time.  I know, I know, make jokes about construction signs, you say? Who on earth can come up with jokes about road construction signs?  Well, my Dad can. And little did he know they would drive off into the future at full speed to infect his grandchildren.

I have no idea if these happened all on the same long family trip, though I think they did. I think my Dad just happened to be on a “roll” during this one lengthy excursion with a Great-Aunt in tow – honestly, it all happened so long ago that I can’t remember exactly.  There are a great many parts of my childhood that I remember only in fragments, not getting the whole picture, but rather just fractured bits. I believe on this particular occasion, we were taking my Great Aunt Bunny to West Virginia with us, and both the long drive and the looming visit itself would have made her an anxiety ridden nervous wreck, such things always did. Which would make sense – IF that’s the trip I’m remembering – because my Dad would have been doing what he could, in his own silly way, to ease my Aunt’s nerves. The jokes I’m going to tell you about, however, those stand out in my mind.

The trip to West Virginia from our house back in those days took a solid 8 hours, and more often than not, there was road construction along the way. Going through an area of construction, with all of its delays and issues, during an already 8-hour trip – with two pains in the ass children, can never be an easy thing, but on this particular trip in question, my Dad decided to take his comic show on the road, as it were, and lighten the mood.

Coming upon a section of road construction that required rerouting of the lanes, there was a safety sign duly posted informing all and sundry of a “flag man ahead.” Now most people would slow down, follow the “flag man’s” direction and just move on, right? Not my Dad. He stopped, rolled down his window (this was in a time when you really did roll down a window) and cheerily greeted the guy: “Hi, Mr. Man!”  After we drove on, and I suppose due to the looks of confusion from all of his passengers – except my mother, I don’t even what to know what look she was giving him – he says, “Well, I don’t know him well enough to call him Flag!”  Rolling eyes and groaning laughter ensued. And the joke has lived on into infamy. Although, my version keeps the window tightly closed, with me just shouting through the glass, but in a good way, not like when there is an errant jaywalker or a driver who has apparently never heard of a turn signal.

The next sign that encouraged my Dad to act was a bit more hearty and enthusiastic, or rather, his reaction was at any rate. For seemingly no reason whatsoever, and certainly with no warning, my Dad threw out his hand and grabbed my mother by the top of her head. I wish, for the life of me, that I could remember the look on my mother’s face at that instant, but what I conjure (based on personal experience with the woman), it would’ve been a hoot, and not exactly a look of adoration towards my father either. In his defense, he pointed to the “Stop Ahead,” sign we were passing…I mean, he was only following directions, right?

My kids are 25 and 18, and I kid you not, they know exactly what is going to happen when we pass construction or road work that has one of these signs posted. Oh, they may forget in the moment as they text or watch videos on the phone, but whoever is in the front passenger seat is sure to have their head accosted, or to be startled into thinking we’ve seen someone we know, each and every time…and when they search the surrounding area for the sign and find it, they smile a pacifying smile and then go back to their business.

It makes no difference to me if my kids don’t share in my joke. I think it’s hilarious and sometimes, dammit, I just do things because they amuse ME, not necessarily those around me. And more than being amusing, it reminds me of family, of times gone by, and while I can’t grasp the full memory of that road trip from so many years ago – only bits and pieces remain, what does stick in my head is the fact that my Dad was on a comedic roll for the entire drive. Who knew his Dad jokes would get passed down through the generations? I guarantee you that while they may not repeat the jokes themselves, till their dying day, my kids will never be able to pass road construction without at least going over those wisecracks in their head. And maybe, just maybe, when they have kids, this bit of Dad-silliness will live on.

So, thank you Dad…it’s not enough that you’ve had my back since I was born or that you constantly watch out for me. Your casually tossed out pieces of comedic genius have stayed with me over the years and have been the source of great joy, in so many ways. Here’s to family road trips from back in the day. Here’s to lasting memories. Happy Father’s Day! I love you.

dad in his element

Reflections of the Road

Mankind has invented many horrendous torture devices throughout his stay on this earth.  A few that come to mind are those virtually invisible Bluetooth phone earpieces that cause you to assume the user is talking to you but of course they’re not – only you don’t realize this until after you’ve already held a 5 minute conversation with yourself, those automated voice response systems on help lines that force you to say words until you are screaming at a robot which only makes things worse…both for your self-esteem and getting the department you so desperately need which is why you called in the first place, and self-checkout lanes with overly sensitive scales that proudly announce to everyone that you have an unexpected item in the bagging area…a dozen times.

No other device, however, can cause as much horror, anger, embarrassment, and fear as a car horn in a traffic jam. I. Hate. Car. Horns.

The victim of the car horn is usually some unsuspecting person who ended up on the wrong side of a red light, trapped in an intersection with nowhere to go while the traffic he is blocking begins playing the well-known symphony, “The Cacophony of Horns,” on their steering wheels.  The victim has few options and can either respond with the “embarrassed grimace, hands thrown up in helplessness” ploy or the famous “I need to change my radio station right now for the next five minutes while pretending I can’t hear you” trick. And it’s not as if the hapless victim wants to be doing what he’s doing…he doesn’t want to be there either.

The other day found me in a particularly crowded shopping district.  Things were rolling pretty smoothly and I could see the lights lining up in perfect harmonious greenness.  Gotta love it when small miracles happen.  Imagine my surprise when, instead of rolling through this rare alignment of roadway perfection, I found myself reading the bumper stickers on the car in front of me as we all sat at a complete stop.

From where I was sitting, I could see the green light in front of me. There was more than enough time for the cars to siphon through.  The light just beyond my own, the next one in line that you might think would be holding up traffic, was also green, and still we sat.  It really only ever takes one person to wreck your traffic day, and I am sure there was someone daydreaming of God knows what behind the wheel or more likely, talking on their cell phone that was snarling the smooth flow of cars.  The sea of cars stretched through the intersection creating a virtual parking lot at a line of green lights.

I can easily imagine the actions of the drivers in the middle when the inevitable happened and the light turned yellow.  First, they threw their hands up and made a show of yelling something at the cars in front of them. They exaggeratedly leaned over to peer up at the now yellow light, and then to their companion, if they had one, with a show of complete exasperation.  The light turned red, as yellow lights do, and now they were stuck.

These hapless drivers were now in the Traffic Trap of Doom.  Packed in tight, they couldn’t pull to the side, they couldn’t move forward, and backing up was not an option.

The drivers who were trying to cross the road to get to the shopping center on the other side (a joke about a chicken comes to mind, but I digress) take this as a personal assault on their driving freedoms.  The rally cry of “Let’s wait patiently for the light to turn green so the traffic jam can clear up” rang forth.  Ok, not hardly. Wait for the light to change?  Who has time for that?

The honking started innocently, as it always does.  A single frustrated tap from an unknown car to the left.  Like a wolf pack on the prowl, that honk was taken up by another driver.  And another.  And another.  Soon, the symphony lifted to the sky and magically, nothing happened.

Not a thing.  Despite their best attempts, traffic was still sitting exactly where it was before they started their raucous assault on those of us with ears.  The hard lesson learned this day was that a car horn does not summon a traffic fairy to come lift cars out of the way, no matter how loud and long you blare it.  Did the honkers expect that their efforts would somehow create an opening, like Moses parting the Red Sea?  The only thing these frustrated drivers accomplished was to give everyone a headache.

The victims in the Traffic Trap of Doom continued to pretend they couldn’t hear the honking, cheeks flushed with embarrassment, silent prayers lifted to the traffic light gods that the light would change soon and their five minutes of fame would be over.

Normally I would be just as frustrated as the next person to see a blocked intersection, but in this case, I could see from my position that there was no way the stuck drivers should have expected the cars ahead at the first green light to just stop.  It wasn’t a matter of mistimed lights or people pushing to get through a yellow light. They saw the alluring vision of two green lights ahead and assumed they would shortly be moving forward, flowing as smoothly as the rum they would later be pouring into their coffee as they retold the harrowing experience to their family later that night.  It’s a natural assumption.

Who knew a distracted driver could back traffic up into the next state just by glancing at Map Quest or porn or whatever it was he was doing up there?

Of course, it didn’t stay backed up for long.  The distracted driver got his shit together, and life resumed normally for all involved.

The horn blowers duly patted themselves on the back for the role they played this day; for without them, however would we have survived?

Well played, anonymous horn blowers.  Well played.  We thank you.

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.

The Best Thing Ever

It is of Uber that I would like to speak to you today. Have you ever heard about Uber? It’s a relatively new, and revolutionary, type of car service where average people with cars offer to be chauffeurs to perfect strangers – all for about the cost of gas (unless there’s a rate surge and then you get screwed, but this is a dog eat dog money making world, so what can you expect). But in general, it’s a relatively cheap way to get around. Can you imagine how much that saves on taxi fares? Or on the cost of renting a car, not to mention the stress of dealing with mass transit or the wear and tear on your mind of driving in the city?

Unknown traffic patterns that change seemingly at random, weird one-way streets, exits five lanes over from where you need to be with a gazillion cars in between you with no time to get over there and certainly no-one willing to let you over may not prey on your mind, but they certainly do mine! Big time.

I used Uber for the first time just recently, when my daughter and I went into the city. And it’s a big city. You may have heard of it. We’ve sort of been on the news lately. And not in a good way.

I have a difficult time driving in crowded cities, especially when the road system seems to have been designed by someone with a sadistic desire to torture drivers.  It’s especially nerve-wracking when you have to make split second decisions to get into the correct lane to get to the correct exit if you’re not sure where you’re going.  And if you miss your exist…how the heck do you get back to it? Even with GPS, it drives my anxiety wild.

Because of this anxiety of mine, I usually either re-route our way thru a scenic area (which is never a bad thing, admittedly) or I have to find an alternate way of transport to get there (like the light rail train if it’s the city, but I have to say that that’s not always safe if it’s at night and it’s just the two of us.  And of course they don’t run everywhere a person wants to go).

My other alternative is to rely on people – friends or family – to get wherever it is I need to go, if it’s an anxiety inducing location, and sometimes that involves people I’d really rather not have to rely on.

Well, enter Uber. This is the greatest invention since sliced bread. It’s like having a friend with a car on call willing to take you anywhere for the price of gas and maybe a pizza. Did I mention that it’s way cheaper than a taxi? And they’re only like 3 minutes away at all times. It’s, quite simply put, perfect.

I tell you what, there is just no holding us back now! On our trip back from the city, Sarah and I were conspiring on just where we were going next! We plan on using the hell out of Uber now that we’ve tried it the one time! And with promo codes galore online, my frugal little heart is in heaven.

Sure, I suppose I have some gung-ho readers who think I should just bite the bullet and work my way through my anxiety of driving in hectic, jam-packed cities, but to you I say…well…no, I won’t say it. Unless you want to pay my insurance when it skyrockets due to an accident caused by either my road rage (just barely under control at the best of times!) or bad split-second decision-making skills while being harassed by hundreds of other drivers who’ve never heard of the “courtesy of the road” and expect everyone to know where they’re going at all times.  Believe it or not, road rage notwithstanding, my driving record is pristine.  I’d like to keep it that way.

Uber – you are my hero!