My Biggest Driving Pet Peeve

During rush hour traffic today, I waited at the head of a line of cars for the signal light. And waited. And waited.

Success! -no, a left turn for the other direction.

Suc- no, a left turn for our turn lanes.

Two lines of cars, trucks, minivans on each side pulled out to the intersection then off to the north- and south-going lanes whilst we idled. Then, finally, we did get our light! -no, the intersection still filled with those drivers bending the Yellow Light Rule. And more drivers. And more.

At about the fifth or sixth car turning in front of me, the minivan with the green light, I drove forward. And yet, two or three more cars came on. I employed a trick I’d learned from driving in California and New York, and laid on the horn as they eked past the oncoming horde.

And was reminded of my main driving pet peeve: red light rushers.

I know driving during rush hour can be tricky. In heavy traffic times, I’ve been a left-turner frustrated by a long wait. I’ve been further frustrated by the traffic light allowing four cars through after a five minute delay. I’ve been further further frustrated by no turn light after two five minute delays.

BUT I do not see any reason to squeeze fifteen cars through a red (YES, it was red!) signal against heavy, oncoming traffic. Do they all have a death wish? Surely they aren’t all selfish idiots.

Right?

On some occasions when I’ve complained about red light rushers, my friends have hinted to lighten up. Two of my friends even admitted to the practice.

I think I draw reasonable lines. What do you think? Do you experience people driving like this, or do you experience more heinous practices? Should I live and let die; or continue my righteous crusade, aided by my trusty horn?

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I’m calm. Really. And I wrote the following:
Wednesday, August 21: Wrote “Why Vacation if You’re a Stick in the Mud?” after a ‘fun’ family vacation.

Thursday, August 22: Nothing

Friday, August 23: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest. Congratulations to Gary!

Saturday, August 24: Announced the 40th Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. The theme is Shakespearean laments. PLEASE ENTER!

Sunday, August 25: “Old World Customs,” in odd response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt.

Monday, August 26: An inspirational thought from the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes.

Tuesday, August 27: “Wilhelmina Winters, One Hundred One.”

Wednesday, August 28: Today.

I also posted all this week at my motherhood site. I wrote “Picture Imperfect,” “The Beauty of Telling Children, ‘No,’” and “Mother, May I?

 

Photo Credit:
Image by methodshop from Pixabay

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

Hallowe’en Serial: Final Night

Continued from #6.

*Bhrmmmm* *Bhrmmmm* buzzed the phone. Carol kept glancing at its screen to see if Miss Ziegenbusch had picked up yet.

She even knew where the woman lived, as Carol also did the job of Payroll Clerk and Human Resources Department. She did everything except attend pointless meetings, glad-hand clients, and look pretty at the front desk.

Hiring the current secretary, the woman she was now trying to reach, had not actually been Carol’s decision. Nor had retaining her.

“Hello?” said the phone. Carol’s car wobbled in its lane as she fumbled to answer.

“Hello?” –What was her name again?– “Um, Shelly?”

“It’s Cindy. Who’s this?”

“Cindy.” Right. “This is Carol Carter. Um, from work.”

…. “Oh.” …. “Uh, this isn’t the best time right now, Carol-”

For some reason, Carol felt she needed to be completely honest. “I’m being chased by something!”

She heard a gasp, then, “You are? Wait -is it that werewolf thing?”

Carol took a turn gasping. “How did you know?”

“Out of curiosity,” Cindy asked, “Has your radio also been playing songs based on what’s happening?”

Carol felt she was seeing herself from far away. Someone else was driving her car at dangerous speeds down the highway. Someone else was holding a cell phone with a grip like a vise. Someone else, surely, was doing all of these things at …she checked the clock on the dash…

At midnight. It was now Halloween.

“Carol?” Cindy’s voice called from the phone.

“I- I’m here,” Carol answered, pressing her phone closer to her ear.

Cindy sighed. “I thought so. Hey, I’m sorry for any bad feelings between us; but I really need to tell you something -something big.”

Carol wasn’t sure what Cindy could define as ‘big’ after her other revelations. “O…kay?”

“Um,” Cindy began. “You know that werewolf thing?”

As if on cue, Carol heard the tell-tale, Owooooooooo! She realized it had come through the phone, from Cindy’s end. “Cindy?!” she asked, in a panic.

“Oh shit.” Cindy said. “Um, sorry for swearing. I gotta go. …Basement…”

“Cindy?!”

“Yeah…?” Her breathing was more rapid. Carol could hear a door slam and hard steps on echoing stairs.

“What was the ‘big’ thing about the werewolf?”

Cindy paused. A cupboard from her end creaked, then Carol heard the unmistakable sound of a large gun being cocked. “Carol,” Cindy said, “That werewolf is Carl C. Carter. Your husband. I gotta go.”

And Carol was left alone, with the dead sound of a disconnected phone.

Hallowe’en Serial, 6th Night

Continued from #5.

Carol’s sharp, hasty turn brought her inches from a semi-truck approaching in the opposite lane. Its blaring-horn *Mruuuuuwwwmph!* trailed off behind her as she continued down the road at breakneck speed.

*Oh the werewolf, oh the werewolf / Comes a-stepping along* ♪

Her eyes flitted to the radio; back to the road. Werewolf? she thought. And, How in the heck does the radio know?

♫ *…Once I saw him in the moonlight, when the bats were a flying….* ♪

She chanced another look in the rearview mirror, yet could not see anything. The road was dark and ill-populated. She’d chosen to head East, away from the storm and towards the highway. She hoped to outrun the werewolf -or whatever it was- or at least discourage its following her.

The song stopped and “Thriller” began playing. “I’ve already heard that one,” she muttered, and switched to a new station.

“We’re here with Sergeant Riding to get the latest on this breaking story…” a businesslike female voice said. Carol’s hand, which had been hovering over the controls, slowly drifted back.

“Well,” a gruff male voice began, “We can’t say for sure what’s going on. We’ve had a lot of different reports. What we can say is that everyone ought to stay inside until we have a lead on this case.”

“Sergeant,” the female voice again. “Are you saying we’re on lockdown?”

The man laughed a short, humorless snort. “Now, we’re not trying to scare anybody. It’s more the advice that, if you want to stay safe, you’ll stay inside right now. Oh, and get your pets in real quick, too.”

“We-e-e-ell, I’m sure that’s all we have time for now.” The female reporter sounded worried to Carol. “Be sure to tune in next time for -Eeeeeeeaaaahhhh!”

*Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee*

Carol sat in shock. She was hurtling down a city road at 50 mph, but still felt numb. Slowly, she reached up and pushed Power Off on the dead radio station. She didn’t know where to go or who to contact; it sounded like the whole world was going crazy.

Slowing enough to multi-task, she pulled her phone to within visual range.

She had never, ever in her life used her phone while driving, a minor point of contention between her and her missing husband. But she was already finding herself breaking all sorts of personal and written laws in the face of potential death and dismemberment.

Scrolling carefully down her Contacts list, she tried to think of who she could call on a night like this. Anyone she was close to would not be awake to answer, nor would believe such a ridiculous story as she would tell if he or she answered.

“Gardener, Lawrence, Schwartz, Warner… Ziegenbusch.” At literally the end of her list, she paused over the last last name. Was she really desperate enough to try her nemesis, the front desk secretary?

Taking a deep breath, she pressed her finger on the Call icon. And waited.

Continued and ended at #7.

Hallowe’en Serial: 3rd Night

Continued from #2.

Carol noticed nothing, the image of a few bent window blinds storing itself cozily into her subconscious as she listened to her new favorite radio station.

♫ “You hate your boss at your job…” 

She sang along, though she didn’t hate her boss. Her boss was her husband. They were happily married, and had been for twenty-two years this November. No kids, of course. Carl hadn’t -well, maybe it really was Carol’s fault as he had suggested.

Miss Tight Skirts was expecting, probably from some discount store clerk. That’s where she got the ugly decorations from. Ugly decorations that could move…

No. Carol pushed the thought from her mind. Ceramics didn’t move, desks didn’t move, blinds didn’t -a black sedan pulled out into her lane and she had to jerk the steering wheel sharply to avoid impact. They honked at her and sped away into the night.

Her breathing almost matched her rapid heartbeat. This was the second time in one day she’d been scared enough to worry for her health. She tried to drive straight as she slowed her panicked breaths. Now, what had she been thinking about? Things looking at her?

♪ “Well, if you hear somebody knocking on your door / If you see something crawling across the floor / Baby, it’ll be me and I’ll be looking for you” ♪

Carol hadn’t heard the song; it sounded old, but still good. Catchy. Jerry Lee Lewis, perhaps… Her mother had kept a record.

Just then, a bright pair of headlights entered the road at her left side and she swerved to avoid yet another collision. “What is with the maniacs tonight?” she wondered aloud. She glanced over to at least glare at the driver. She couldn’t see anyone, so faced forward instead. Her mind did a double-take and she looked back.

No one.

It’s probably just a really short man or his seat’s set back really far, she told herself. The night was cloudy, too. The road was dark. She was tired. The driverless car drove off.

Carol slowed and turned onto her own suburban street, noting the tacky inflatable jack o’lanterns and grim reapers and Charlie Browns on her neighbors’ lawns. She’d forgotten Halloween was coming -in just one night, she realized. She’d have to pick up some candy and watch all the children. All the sweet children she’d never had to dress for Halloween nor take trick-or-treating.

Sighing, she drove up to their house. It was dark. Carl often forgot to leave the lights on for her, but he was never to bed this early. She opened the garage door and stopped in the driveway, engine idling.

Carl’s car was not there. The garage was as empty as a tomb.

Continued at #4.

Who’s Driving?

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I was supremely confident as a child that I could drive a car. All I needed, I’d say, was the green flag from the government for seven-year-olds to operate a vehicle and I’d be off!

Oh, I had experience: My parents occasionally allowed me sit-on-their-lap steering privileges home from church on Sundays. And at fifteenish, I pulled a few turns unassisted in that same church parking lot.

Man, I was set!

By the age of nearly-sixteen, however, shift got real. My mother may have realized this, as I was enrolled in Driver’s Education at school and had grown tall enough to look her in the eye. One day she took me to a quiet neighborhood side street, steered herself for the worst, and told me we could switch places.

Even on the best of days (as in, post-op heavily-medicated) my mother does not handle other people driving. When my annoyingly patient and meticulous father is navigating the roads at a rate that would put a sloth to sleep, she’s frantically kicking the floor of the passenger side in phantom braking actions.

Turning the wheel fully over to me is on my mother’s list of Bravest Things She’s Ever Done.

For my part, I was counting on my first time driving as heading the list of Epic Life Adventures or Most Awesome Experiences Ever. Right? Instead, as I sat in front of the wheel completely on my own, I was gripped with terror. The awesome power of everything I was now in charge of washed over me and my mind blanked. My foot convulsed at the pedals the same way it did when I tried to navigate a sewing machine. The wheel was strangely hyper-sensitive. All of the cars parked calmly at the sides of the street were trying to leap out in front of me.

“I thought you knew how to drive!” My mother screamed as we jerked along and sashayed from right to left.

I thought I did, too, I told myself. I felt sad, confused, surprised, and hopeless. We pulled over and returned to our former roles. My confident plans of self-dependency and road freedomness dissolved forever. Maybe we should’ve used an automatic.

Luckily, my driving actually improved from there. I throw that out, in case anyone has determined to never set wheels on pavement when I’m out and about.

This morning, however, I was thinking about life. Specifically, if at all, I was pondering on my decades-long feeling of directionless discontent.

I kept thinking, Who’s driving, anyway?

I have been a stay-at-home mother for thirteen years, ever since being fired in the first trimester of my first pregnancy. I have felt motivated some days more than others. Lately, however, my life has felt completely out of my hands. My children cannot legally drive (yet), but I’ve put them and my husband in the front seat, crawled back over Cheerio crumbs and Hot Wheels cars to the dirty back of the car, and wondered why I keep getting car sick.

And yet, I don’t move.

What do I do?

Well… I pretend to be useful. I hand around a few snacks, break up fights, give the pretense of modeling good behavior, and pick up loose wrappers now and then. Oh, and sometimes I tell the person steering exactly what’s wrong with his driving.

As the tension in the car rises, I withdraw to less activity. I tell myself I am not sleepy when the suns sets over our dented hood, intentionally tiring myself to a state of drunken drowsiness when that same sun rises over that same hood. I eat the bad car snacks. I forget to shower at camp sites. I wonder why the floor cannot stay clean even though I’m snapping at everyone to please pick up your garbage!

Who’s driving, anyway?

Shortly after that first, fateful day at fifteen when my mother gave me full control, I attended the driving portion of Driver’s Ed at school. Perhaps because I was the tallest female, our instructor picked me for the first turn. I don’t learn well by going first; I’m an observer.

The rest of our small group piled into the small sedan, buckled for safety, and waited for me to start the engine. I gulped. I adjusted everything I could think to adjust: seatbelt, steering, seat, side mirrors, rearview mirror, headrest. We’d been walked through this in instructional videos during class, and I was determined to get all the steps right. Then, ignition -with foot on brake pedal, of course. My hands flew to 10 and 2 like boot camp soldiers. I looked forward through the windshield, and waited for whatever hell the instructor at my elbow would direct me through.

My turn didn’t last long then, either. Another boy in the class took over after a few blocks and did marvelously. He drove better than the instructor! It turned out that he’d been allowed to man tractors on his grandfather’s farm since thirteen years old. Cheater.

Who’s driving? Floats through my mind when I wake up and get ready for the children’s day. They need to dress for school, eat breakfast, sit up at the table, not punch their brothers, pick up their shoes, do their homework, eat right, not talk back, feel loved, and then understand that I am a person and I love their father and our relationship is the most important of all.

Yeah, we’ve been seeing a marriage counselor. She’s a good driver.

Who’s driving? My mind recalls the sappy Country Song “Jesus Take the Wheel.” That’s a subject for a few pages all its own, so I’ll summarize with: I may not be in a great place discontentedly backseat driving, but I trust that spot a lot more than the places He might take me.

I know others in a similar state. Their reactions have varied from meekly asking for a turn at steering, to pushing the special Eject button James Bond-style and parachuting irresponsibly to a new adventure.

I’d love to end this personal reflection with a determined statement; a wonderful aphorism on life to pass on. Unfortunately, all I’ve got are chocolate almonds, yesterday’s clothing, and criticisms.

Perhaps you know a good solution? Anything’s better than here.

Maybe.

Wilhelmina Winters: Seven

Wil left for school with her father, as usual. They’d left Jakob staring moodily into his cereal, as usual. The car had needed some coaxing and choice words under Rob’s breath, as usual. The morning was dark and mysteriously misty, however, which was refreshingly unusual.

The world outside their dirty car windows was nearly invisible. They traveled through familiar streets and landmarks, unfamiliar and quieted.

Perhaps made bold by the awe she felt traveling through floating land-clouds, Wil looked over at her father and asked, “Dad, can you tell me about when you and Mom met again?”

The brief disturbance her words made in the air was filled again with the sounds of car tires slushing over winter road debris as she hoped he heard and thought about her request. Rob sighed, as usual, but then began talking.

“Well, I had just started working at the factory and had a swing shift.” He cleared his throat a bit, to clear the cobwebs of disuse.

“I had a short break, so I thought to go get some food. It was late at night, and the only nearby place that was open was a truck stop.” He paused a bit, getting his memory going.

His eyes focused distantly past roads, traffic, and fog; to see instead the neon signs of an unfamiliar, dirty truck stop late at night in August. The night had been quiet; he had been anxious over his new job and mounting life responsibilities.

To Wil, though he knew she liked details, he was only able to elaborate with, “I was tired and didn’t know anyone there. The neon sign was broken on the building, so I wasn’t sure it had a restaurant.” He smiled a bit.

Wil caught the smile, and that he had felt some hopeless humor that night. Always impulsive, she asked, “And she was working there?”

Rob looked over at Wil briefly, quieting her questions and fidgeting with a pointed look. He didn’t like talking for a long time. He certainly didn’t like interruptions.

“I went through the doors that were under this broken sign, and saw that it was a restaurant. And there,” he paused, knowing this was Wil’s favorite part, “There stood the ugliest and scariest person I’d ever seen.”

Rob smiled at Wil’s giggles. It reminded him of her reactions when he would relay this story to her at bedtimes, so many years ago.

“You couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman,” Wil prompted.

Rob cleared his throat pointedly, then continued, “I couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman. It nearly scared me out of the restaurant.”

He smiled again, and said, “Then, I saw the only other worker at the restaurant. She was mopping the floors.” This was his favorite part. “She looked up at me and our eyes met. I think we smiled. She had blonde hair and I thought she was beautiful.”

Wil sighed with satisfaction. Sometimes, Rob envied her ability to express whatever she felt.

“I think I ordered something from the counter. I must have. I do remember that I decided I’d have to talk to her.” He paused, as they paused at a traffic light. “So, that’s why I went back so many times to eat at such a scary place.”

They had reached Wil’s school. Rob eased the car near the curb and waited. She grabbed her backpack, then leaned over to kiss her father quickly.

“Thank you, Dad.” She said. Before he could reproach her, she opened the door and skipped away.

He watched Wil dancing into the fog with her scarf waving goodbye behind her. He tasted bittersweet memory: she reminded him so much of her mother.

 

Continued from Six.
Keep reading to Eight.