January 28th, 2009

Drive My Car

Song Info (from Beatlesongs):”Drive My Car” is on the Rubber Soul album and was 70% written by McCartney and 30% by Lennon. Not much else to say about it, really, so here’s a link to the song.

If you’ve read my blog more than, say, three times, you’ve probably read about how much I don’t like driving. I’m not entirely sure where it comes from. It’s kind of like sleeping, I guess, one of those things you have to do that requires your full attention. You can listen to music (or an audiobook, if you’re so inclined), and that’s about it. Can’t play Scrabble or watch a movie or knit or whatever else. Then there’s the fact that cars are small enclosed places, and the fact that no one is a good driver (even though everyone thinks they are), and, well, it’s a recipe for nervousness on my part.

I passed my driver’s test the first time I took it, which I remember being a while after I turned 16. Not sure what the holdup was, other than the fact that I didn’t really need to get my license any sooner. The very first night I drove by myself after getting my license, I ran over a rabbit. I was on my way to help a family in the church hook up their VCR and it hopped out in front of me. All these years later, and I can still hear it. Poor rabbit :(

My dad’s been a mechanic since forever, and I grew up never knowing what kind of car might be in the driveway. My first car was a 4-door two-tone diesel Buick Century. It wasn’t speedy, by any stretch, and it’s hard to drive crazy in a diesel. It was a reliable ride, until February 1989 when I put it in a ditch. From then on, it never drove exactly right again, and had a weird thing where I had to keep more than half a tank of fuel in it or it wouldn’t work, especially in winter.

I’ve often wondered if having a “family” car as my first vehicle set some of my driving habits. I have only gotten one speeding ticket in my life, and that was in the fall of 1990. It was a construction zone on a weekend, and I was doing the normal posted speed. $74 later, I learned that construction zone speed limits count on weekends, too. To this day, people call me “slowpoke” and “grandma” when I drive. I have two thoughts about that: a) I’ve got other things I’d rather spend $74 on and b) Speeding’s breaking the law like stealing is breaking the law.

I spent five summers in a van with 5-6 other people while I was traveling for college. We spent 12 weeks a summer traveling to churches and schools to sing and perform dramas. The 7 of us and all our luggage fit into a 15-passenger van with the last row of seats removed, and it was a pretty tight fit. I’m not sure why I kept signing up for that, but I must have used to like traveling. Perhaps traveling all over most of the 48 contiguous states got my traveling bug out of me in a serious way.

Driving through or even around big cities stresses me out like very little else does. There’s too much going on with 4+ lanes of traffic all going at once, and my brain doesn’t apparently deal with it well. If there’s any kind of traffic jam, well that just makes it worse. There’s something about stopping and starting that have an effect on me, both physical and mental. It wears on me much like painting seems to.

I can drive a stick shift if I need to, but I’m not very good at it. One of the first times I ever had to drive a stick shift – a huge pickup – I was stuck at a stop sign on a hill for twenty minutes or more. Folks in the Midwest are usually fairly friendly, but the kinds of waves I got during that 20-minute stretch as people went around me were not the neighborly sort.

These days I drive a Saturn station wagon. It’s a good car and hasn’t needed much work. My only complaint is that it sits a little too close to the ground, and I have a hard time getting up out of it some days. That…might be more a function of my getting older than the car being too low, I suppose.

I doubt I’ll ever like driving, but having someone along for the ride usually makes it nicer. I feel guilty asking them to drive, as I figure if I hate it so much, it doesn’t seem fair to ask them to do it, especially if I’m going to enjoy my not-driving by sleeping or reading. Here’s what I figure, though: GPS is the first step towards self-driving cars. If the car knows where it is and where it needs to go, it should be a fairly simple prospect to have it get itself there. Once self-driving cars are commonplace, driving becomes riding, and I’ll get a lot more reading and sleeping done.

Hurry it up, scientists! I ain’t getting any younger, and I’ve got places I need to get to.

May 18th, 2007

A Tale Of Two Trips

On Tuesday I went down to Indy to meet my brother (and Dr. S.) for dinner. They were in town for a two-day training seminar and Tuesday night was the best night for us to get together. Michael (mi hermano) emailed me where they were staying, so I Googlemapped it and printed out the step-by-step instructions. I studied the route a few times and obsessively looked at it every few seconds once I got to Indy, on the off-chance that I had missed a turn. I arrived at their hotel without incident, and Dr. S. knew the area well enough that we found the mall and places to eat without too much trouble. After dinner and walking around the mall a bit, I dropped them back off at their hotel and Dr. S. gave me directions back to the interstate.

In, out, no problem. Home by 11:30.

Now rewind to last week…

A friend of mine (who shall remain nameless) put up a “Hey, I’m going to Indy to get some camping gear, anyone want to go along?” post on his blog. “Sure, sounds fun,” I said. “Hey, while we’re there, can we stop by this one other store?” Sure.

So on Thursday I find the address to my store and print out the directions, making sure to get the phone number, just in case. He (let’s call him “L”) and another fellow (“B”) picked me up around 7 and we headed out.

About ten minutes into the trip, I ask L, “So, what’s this store we’re going to?”

L: “Oh, I’m not really sure.”

Me: “I’m sorry, what?”

L: “Well, I know it’s on 86th Street near the mall.”

(It should be noted at this point that there are about a grillion stores on 86th Street.)

Me: “Um, so you don’t know the name of the store?”

L: “It’ll be fine. We’ll find it.”

Me: “. . .”

L: “And if we don’t, it’ll be fine. We’ll be fine.”

Me: [strangled noise emanates from throat]

L: “If you’re so worried about it, call W. and have her look it up.”

Me: [dialing W. before he’d finished the sentence] “Okay.”

At this point, the conversation becomes downright surreal.

L: “Have her search for xyz.”

W: “Nothing. Oh, wait – is this it?”

L: “No… that doesn’t sound right. Wait, have her search for abc.”

W: “Is this it?”

L: “No… I don’t think so. Here, let me talk to her.”

Me: “You keep driving!” (We were, as they say, making good time. I didn’t want L. to be distracted.)

L: “Oh, wait, I remember. I went to the site and used their Site Locator!”

Me: “This information could have been handier twenty minutes ago.”

W: “Here is the address and the phone number.”

Me: “Bless you. You may have saved L.’s life and me from a lifetime in the joint for murder.”

Whew. That was a relief. Now to call the store to confirm their hours and where they are.

Disconnected. No alternate number given.

At this point, I am, of course, envisioning that we will be lost forever and I’m wondering how long it took the Donner Party to take extreme measures and I am kind of hungry already…

L: “Hey, we’ll just go to this other store. It’ll be fine.”

So we ended up going to the other store. And they didn’t have the stuff he was looking for. But then we went for Italian food and came back home and everything was fine. And we had a great time, to boot.

I’m not sure when I turned into this guy, but the idea of driving without a specific destination in mind just about killed me. I don’t do so well with the “no plans” parts of life, but not in every “no plans” part. That’s the part I really don’t get – why am I so OCD about some stuff, but not all stuff?

May 3rd, 2004

“…Only Less Personal.”

Well, folks, you are reading the ramblings of an idiot, and I have proof.

I ran out of gas on the way home from visiting some friends. I was 30 miles north of Lafayette on I-65 and my car just stopped running. I drifted off to the side of the interstate and was able to restart the van and go for about another mile before it died again.

I called the State Police to let them know my van was going to be there while I went in search of some gas, and they said, “Please stay with your vehicle. We have someone on the way.” “Great!” I thought. “They’ll bring me gas and I’ll be on my way!”

About twenty minutes later, a trooper shows up. “Are you sure you’re out of gas?”

I was. He had me put it in neutral and pushed me farther over to the side of the road, then pointed me to a spot between his vehicle and mine. “Stand right there, sir.” I learned long ago not to argue with people who are a) helping you out, and b) carrying guns, so I stood where he pointed. I watched as he went to the front passenger seat of his car and moved some things to the back seat. As he came back towards me, he was putting on a pair of gloves.

“I need to pat you down.”

“Pat me down?”

“It’s like frisking, only less ‘personal’.”

He had me interlock my fingers behind my back as he checked to make sure I wasn’t carrying anything dangerous. To anyone driving past, I’m sure it looked like your standard everyday bust of an idiot in a minivan. When he had ascertained my biggest weapon was my sheer stupidity, he let me get in the car. He drove me 5 miles to a gas station and left me there with some business cards for tow trucks in the area. “I’m not allowed to transport fuel in my vehicle,” he said. The smart aleck in me immediately thought, “What does your vehicle run on then?” but I was able to suppress him.

The lady at the gas station was more than happy to let me use their gas can, but her husband had the car and she didn’t know when he’d be back to give me a ride.

Then a customer walked in, and I did a dumb thing: I asked him for a ride.

After much pleading on my part and reassurances that I was not a lunatic and that, yes, I would gladly give my information to the nice lady behind the counter, he agreed and took me and my little gas can the five miles back to my van. Well, he took me to the north-bound side of the road opposite my car, but that was fine. I played my own personal game of Frogger and got over to my van safely, put the gas in, and drove back to the gas station to fill up and retrieve my driver’s license. It cost me $30, but I didn’t care. I also bought a bottle of Nestea Lemon Iced Tea, an experiment for me, as I normally only drink raspberry iced tea. They didn’t have raspberry, and I was thirsty.

I got back into my van and headed down the road, happy to be on my way. I opened the tea…and it spilled all over me. Did you know that tea stains jeans? I didn’t, but I do now.

But you know what? That tea was pretty good.