The Joy of Driving

Standard

Writing about self-driving cars last month got me thinking about what it would actually be like riding around in a car that thinks it’s smarter than me.  I imagine it couldn’t help but have an attitude.  I don’t think I would like it.  Yes, it would be nice to be able to fill out a deposit slip for the bank without having to drive at the same time.  You could send a text message or get a Kleenex out of the glove box to blow your nose without almost having a wreck, eat a cheeseburger or read a book, but I actually like driving. Nothing beats the experience, enjoyment and autonomy of driving. For me the perks of getting behind the wheel of a car has always been about freedom. It’s fun and I especially like being in control.  For instance, if I am behind an old man in his 82 Buick Lesabre driving along at 27 miles per hour on a two lane highway will the self-driving car swerve into the next lane, floor it and zoom past him like I would?  I doubt it.  I would be stuck there, powerless, lumbering along behind Mr. Pokey Pants trying to meditate on the virtues of tolerance while my blood pressure rises to dangerous levels. I have to say, there is something very satisfying about flying past a slow poke driver and then skidding back in front of them yelling something like, “Eat my dust sucker,” as you disappear over the horizon.  I don’t think I could take it.

 

And what if I want to drive through my neighbor’s yard?  (Hey, don’t judge.  I had my reasons.) What I don’t need is some smart mouth on board computer telling me I’m off course.  I’m on MY course smarmy computer, you can just mind your own business. Can it tell if the car is sliding down the driveway on the ice right toward a lady in a white Chevy Cruz who is looking at you in slack jawed horror as your smart ass car is advancing toward her at an alarming speed?  Would it have the presence of mind to figure out that it can turn the wheels just in time to slide off into the grass and avoid plowing into the side of her car, no I don’t think so.

 

Will it honk at the lady with the “I Believe in Fairies” bumper sticker to go when the light turns green?  And what about that Yaris in front of you that has been driving along for ten miles now with its turn signal on? Would the car that thinks it knows everything be able to conclude that it’s more than likely just someone, perhaps like me, that just doesn’t realize their blinker is on and has no intention of turning any time soon? Will it have the nerve to make an illegal U-turn? No, no and no.

 

Will these cars open and close the door for you so you no longer have to struggle with the door that wants to close on you while you are trying to unload groceries, but then refuses to close once your arms are full forcing you swing at it with your leg, pulling a groin muscle in the process after which you hobble off towards the house mumbling bad words under your breath? And if they can manufacture a car that drives itself why can’t they make a trash can that will take itself out to the curb?  Now that’s something I could really use.

 

And this is something disturbing to think about… As self-driving cars become more the norm, the idea that a friend or family member may arrive dead at your house will be a reality…yeah I know, creepy isn’t it?  And it’s only a matter of time before there will be a country song about some guy’s truck that left him. People who trust self-driving cars have obviously never had an automatic toilet flush while they were still on it.  Until they can fix that problem I think I will stick with my car and the glove box that pops open every time I hit a bump or the sun visor that won’t stay in the holder which was a source of embarrassment to me just the other day as I was sitting a four-way stop on Ashland. I spotted an ex-boyfriend of mine at the intersection. I smiled and waved coyly. He smiled and waved back. Then it was my turn to go. In my attempt to appear like a had something going for me, still waving and trying to look cool, I took off too fast in first gear and squealed the tires. My car lurched forward into the intersection which made the sun visor come loose and just as I was doing my best ‘come hither’ look, it swung around and hit me right in the face. I’m almost sure he wants me back now more than ever.

 

 

Advertisements

Self Driving Cars…Really, What Could Go Wrong?

Standard

Like it or not self driving cars are here and I don’t think they going to go away like the Corvair or that gull winged DeLoren car.  I just hope that technology hasn’t accelerated faster than our human brain’s capacity to use it safely. Up until now I would say, the worst thing that ever happened with technology was the invention of the automatic flushing toilet. I wish nothing but the worst for the loathsome hack who invented those abominations. I always get the possessed one that flushes 14 times in the five minutes I am sitting there.  One of my worst fears is that I will drop my phone or perhaps my car keys in the toilet bowl and I won’t be able to get them out because I will set off the censor if I move and it will suck my keys down into the abyss never to be seen again.  My favorite thing however, is when the automatic flushing toilet decides to fulfill it’s dream and become a bidet where it flushes with such force that my hindquarters are bathed in poo water. That’s always fun.  Raise your hand if you have ever been personally victimized by an automatic flushing toilet.

 

I’m still waiting for an automatic paper towel dispenser that outputs a sufficient sized paper towel in one try.  Every time I try for a second square it just hangs there on the wall silently mocking me and I have to invent several new ninja moves to get it to dispense another square.  Sometimes I just give up and wipe my hands on my pants.

And don’t even get me started on the automatic faucets.  I am convinced that behind every public bathroom mirror there is a clown who turns the faucet on when I don’t need it and off when I do.  These things are so so prevalent now that I hardly ever look to see if the sink has handles on it.  When it does I, oblivious to the handles, stand there waiting for the faucet to come on. I wave my hands around. I get annoyed.  A baffling amount of time passes.  I contemplate my life. I slowly realize that this is not an automatic faucet and mumble some profanity under my breath ruminating about the old days when plumbing was controlled by the user and not some soap smeared electronic eye.  You can tell a lot about a person by how they interact with an uncooperative automatic faucet.

 

But self driving cars?  They say they will save lives, but I don’t know about that.  My luck, someone with an ax to grind would hack into my car’s system and reprogram it to just nonchalantly drive me off a cliff or something.  Perhaps a disgruntled student or an old high school rival, that kid at the drive-thru at Wendy’s who is always looking at me funny.  You just never know.

 

My first thought was, “Well drinking and driving would no longer be a problem.” Except can an extremely drunk person really program their car to go home?  Or anywhere else? Who knows where they might end up.  Pass out and hit the wrong button and you could end up out of gas on the side of the road somewhere in Iowa.  What about black ice or a blizzard or when a squirrel runs out in front of your car?  Will the road be safer with a bunch of drunks programming their self-driving cars?  I just don’t know.

 

I read this week where a self driving Uber mowed down a pedestrian in Arizona.  She didn’t make it. The problem?  She was not walking within the crosswalk.  She was outside it, so the computer did not recognize her.  And don’t get in the Google Self Driving Car’s blind spot or might take you out.

 

A couple of years ago two hackers pulled off a demonstration that shook the auto industry, remotely hacking a Jeep Cherokee via it’s internet connection to paralyze it on a highway.  To turn the Jeep’s steering wheel, they tricked it into thinking it was parking itself…even if it was moving at 80 miles per hour.  I fear this is just the tip of the self driving iceberg.

 

So many things could go wrong with this.  I mean, it’s all fun and games until a sensor wire comes loose or there is a system meltdown and then you become it’s prisoner.  Heaven forbid they gain self awareness.  And can you imagine being on hold with tech support for an hour trying to figure out how to get your car to stop going in circles in the parking lot at Chick fil a?

 

Thanks but, I think I will stick with my Honda that is maneuvered by my own brain even though it is impaired at times I still think I’m a safer bet.

Plan A, Plan B – Just Winging It

Standard

When I was young I just always assumed there would come a time when I would have it all together.
During my twenties I didn’t worry so much that I owned a car with a burnt out starter that I had to park
on a hill wherever I went so I could kick start it and that the passenger door was held shut was with a
rope tied around the gear shift. There was still time. I was gonna make it big. I was convinced that I
would be a successful architect or maybe an airline stewardess traveling around the world. I would
love my job regardless of financial reward, have a family and attain internal peace. I was young and
full of crap. The letters I found in my father’s things after he passed away that I wrote home during my
college years were a testament to this. I burned them in the backyard in a flower pot afraid someone,
years after my demise, would find them and read them. They were that obnoxious.
Of course my life did not turn out they way I had planned because it never does. I’m okay with that,
but I really thought I would get to a point in my life when I could own a piece of furniture that didn’t
come in a box that I would have to put together myself. Like my parents before me, I pictured driving
to Gerald Ray’s Colony House where I would spend a sufficient amount of time perusing the goods and
selecting perhaps a nice buffet or a credenza. Meanwhile I would go home and wait while my
purchases were wrapped securely in padded blankets, loaded onto a truck and driven carefully from
Gerald Ray’s the 1.2 miles to my house where two nice clean cut men with their names sewn onto their
Colony House shirts would gingerly unload my furnishings, carry them into my house and set them up.
I would give them a tip and perhaps some freshly baked cookies for their troubles. I really did not
envision myself dragging a big heavy box from Amazon off my porch into the living room like a bear
dragging a dead deer into it’s lair where I would then sit for the next seven hours with an Allen wrench
and a poorly produced sheet of instructions trying to figure out which of the 196 screws I need to put
part B together with part C. I don’t know about you, but I never get it together right the first time. I
inevitably put the wrong two pieces together or put something on backwards or upside down and after
taking it apart for the third time I eventually just leave it that way and go drink a glass of wine content
with the thought that there is a reason behind it all and have faith that someday it will all make sense.
In the end I did not become a globe trotting stewardess and I have yet to achieve internal peace, but I
really do believe that the universe is always conspiring for my highest good even if I may not be able to
see it at the time. Now if I could just convince my mother to stop worrying about me. I am 59 and she
still worries that some day I may end up living down by the river in a van and licking discarded candy
wrappers for nourishment. I do my best to assuage her concern. I'll be fine Mom. Say what you will,
but a van down by the river is still waterfront property.

Getting Zen at the Senior Center

Standard

I have advanced to that age where I am now considered a senior citizen which qualifies me to participate in all the fun activities that the Joyce Raye Patterson Senior Center has to offer. Exciting things like blood pressure screenings, rip-roaring bridge games, line dancing lessons, shuffleboard and yoga classes. Adverse to regular yoga classes with young twenty and thirty somethings where I always pale in comparison I figured that even I, with my sloth-like tendencies, could keep up with the folks in a yoga class designed for the elderly. Boy was I wrong.

My first course of action was to find something to wear. Because as we all know 98% of yoga is finding something ridiculous to wear. Anymore, you can’t find workout pants not made of spandex that completely encase your body so that not a single molecule of air can reach your skin. Seriously, does a person really need vacuum sealed pants to do the downward facing dog? Scuba divers need airtight pants; so do Olympic bobsledders. The rest of us could use some breathing room. So I pilfered through my dresser drawers and made my selection. Due to the condition of my nearly 60 year old thighs I long ago gave up wearing shorts and opted for a pair of brown yoga pants that I bought at Ross for $5.00 which may have had something to do with the fact that, stretched to maximum capacity over my cellulite, they made my legs look like those Brown and Serve Breakfast sausages. Long gone are the days when when I used to get compliments on my legs. Come to think of it, that time in ’81 when someone honked at me because they thought I was attractive is probably still the highlight of my life.

Thirty minutes later I arrived at the Senior Center ready for action. As I unrolled my yoga mat on an empty spot on the floor, I sized up the competition. Most of the other participants were women and appeared to be older than me, Most were regulars who knew each other like the ones next to me, Esther and Judy. “I can hold my own here,” I thought. The only thing I was really worried about was whether or not I could make it a whole hour without having to pee.

As we started our routine our instructor seemed nice enough, a Lululemon clad priestess walking among us giving gentle encouragement like a nurturing earth mother. “Just breathe. Meet your body where it is,” she would say. By the time we were half way through I hated her. I was keeping up until we got to the warrior pose, that forward lunge with your arms out to the sides. Easy enough…for the first minute until my muscles start to burn, legs quivering, skin growing clammy and yoga pants stuck to my legs. That’s when I learned that gravity is a cruel mistress…lean too far in any direction and you might find yourself closer to the ground than you expected.

The highlight of our routine however was the shoulder stand. Once I got into position I couldn’t move thanks to the enormous weight of my thighs in the air above my head and rolls of fat on my stomach cutting off my air supply. And I have to tell you, the view looking up through my legs was so repellent that it comes back to me sporadically even now despite heavy medication. The depression induced by the jellied oatmeal texture of my thighs was indescribable. Our instructor yammered on, “Yoga is great for letting go of those things that no longer serve you,” and that’s when it happened…somebody’s hindquarters ‘exhaled’ if you know what I mean. And the instructor says, “That’s okay, it’s okay to fart. A fart is your body letting go.” I looked over at Judy and we burst into laughter. I thought I was going to choke to death or have a stroke. There was no way I was getting up off the floor now without assistance of some sort.

When class was over, the teacher said something like, “Take a moment to thank yourself for committing to your practice,” which made me intone the prayer, “Please God, make me less fat then I was an hour and a half ago. Amen.”

Goodby 2017, Hello 2018

Standard

One thing I did for myself over Christmas break this year was get a massage. With nothing else to do as I lay there in the dim light, enraptured by the sounds of Indian flute music, my face squished into that padded ring I started thinking… At first it’s the usual, trying to guess what must be going through my therapist’s mind as she applies the massage oil over my rolls of fat. “Geez, somebody needs to lay off the cheesecake,” came to mind, but soon those thoughts faded out, and in floated thoughts of the impending new year and all the things we are leaving behind with 2017. Of course, with the way my mind works all the bad stuff came through first. It was the year that social media brought us a Twitter showdown between the leaders of the United States and North Korea with threats of nuclear devastation and schoolyard taunts like “dotard” and Little Rocket Man (scary), and also an FBI investigation into Russian interference in last year’s presidential campaign (sigh). It was the year that gave us four monster hurricanes all within a three week time span ravaging Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. There were mass shootings, devastating forest fires and more accusations of sexual misconduct than anyone not named Harvey could count.

And then my mind said, “Stop, that’s enough,” as it tends to do, “find something good to think about.” And it really wasn’t hard. Inspired by my favorite Christmas movie, “Love Actually” I began to think about what I know is true…There is good all around us. And there’s nothing like a disaster to bring out the best in us. In 2017 we saw a ragtag group of good Samaritans calling themselves the Cajun Navy caravan from Louisiana to Houston towing boats of all kinds to rescue their Texas neighbors trapped by rising floodwaters. And a guy in Las Vegas who made it to safety, but went back into the gunfire to pull others out being shot himself in the process.

It was the year Southwest Airlines flew a plane full of stranded puppies to safety after Hurricane Harvey. We watched as 10,000 firefighters, tired and bloody, continued to fight to save the lives and homes of those in their community. Along side them were nearly 4000 California inmates who volunteered to fight the wildfires, with many on the front lines. Hundreds came from all around to help round up wild horses saving them from the blaze. And don’t tell me we are not a compassionate bunch when I see a guy run into a flaming forest to save the life of a frightened bunny rabbit. If that doesn’t get you right in the heart I don’t know what will.

This year gave us the first Total Solar Eclipse since 1979, and my favorite thing that happened this year ­— A veteran Virginia state legislator who proclaimed himself the state’s “chief homophobe” lost his bid for re-election in November — to a transgender woman. It was the year a snowstorm stranded two U.S. congressmen (one Democrat and one Republican) in Texas unable to reach Washington by plane for an important vote, so they decided to rent a car a drive there…together. During their trip they took questions via Livestream talking about hot-button issues face-to-face. According to NPR, they arrived in Washington in time for the vote with about “15 minutes to spare. See folks we really can get along. Was that so hard?

Even though we lost Tom Petty and Chuck Berry this year, it was the year Fiona the baby Hippo was born six weeks premature at the Cincinnati Zoo, weighing just 29 pounds. But against tough odds, Fiona survived, making her a fitting avatar for all things good about 2017.

It was the year Heinz gave 22,000 workers the day off after the Super Bowl instead of paying for an advertisement spot during the game. The number of hate crimes dropped at about the same pace as smoking and hundreds of volunteers formed a chain in New Zealand to prevent a pod of pilot whales from beaching themselves. Meanwhile, a Florida couple noticed nine people, including two children, caught in a rip tide and in danger of drowning. They swiftly gathered 80 others on the beach, forming a human chain that reached to the trapped swimmers and made it possible to pull them to safety.

Yes, we humans are not so bad. This year A Pittsburgh woman lost 40 pounds so she could donate her kidney to a friend in need. Florida high school students started a club so that no one has to eat lunch alone. A woman donated all the food from her cancelled $30,000 wedding to feed the homeless and a Secret Santa paid for over 8000 toys that were on lay-away at Toy’s R Us. And something else that made us smile...Britain’s Prince Harry is engaged to Meghan Markle. She is divorced, biracial and American — Something that could not have happened a mere decade ago. We’re making progress.

So whenever I become convinced that the world is going to hell in a hand basket I remember part of the opening dialog from my movie “It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”

If I have the back of my skirt tucked into my pantyhose… Somebody please tell me, Okay?

Standard

I don’t know what possessed me to try and eat a crunchy taco in the car today, but there I was regardless, driving down the Belt Highway, taco crumbs everywhere, meat juice dripping down the front of my white top (of course it would be white – isn’t it always?) and there was shredded cheese everywhere. I managed to soak up most of the meat grease with one of the 50 napkins thoughtfully provided in the sack with my one taco. I picked the shell pieces off my shirt and ate those, however I was still covered in shredded cheese. I decided to wait until I reached my destination to brush it off because I didn’t want cheese all over my car. It hadn’t been that long since I’d had a similar incident in the car involving chicken and noodles. The aroma of rotting poultry was still a vivid memory and so I wasn’t willing to take any chances on ending up with another rancid odor in my car that wouldn’t go away without professional intervention.

It was not until I had traversed the entire square footage of Kohl’s and had stopped to talk with old friends and the parent of one of my students that I realized I had forgotten to shake the cheese off my clothes when I got out of the car. I was at the check-out counter applying for a credit card, so I could get the 30% discount, when I noticed a substantial amount of shredded cheese still clinging to the embroidery on the front my retro hippie peasant blouse. I said to the cashier, “Oh my, it appears that I still have cheese all over me from trying to eat that taco in the car.” “Really? She replied, “I didn’t even notice.” I knew she was lying, but I appreciated the effort.

“This is so embarrassing,” I said to the lady behind me in line who was precariously balancing her merchandise on her arms because I had sprawled my belongings out across the entire counter top. “Oh, I’m sorry, I said, “My stuff is taking up all the space.” “That’s alright she replied. “Here let me get this out of the way,” I told her then proceeded to grab my purse and billfold with such velocity that the secret compartment came unfastened and launched my Aldi’s quarter into the air. The coin’s trajectory followed a perfect arc, bounced off the lady’s shoulder and onto the floor. If I wasn’t sufficiently embarrassed at first I was now. Not only was I making her wait while I applied for a credit card, I had assaulted her with loose change. Thank you dear sweet baby Jesus that she had a sense of humor and she, along with several others in line, helped me capture the wayward quarter that had gone rogue on the marble floor. The cashier joined in and we all had a good laugh. I mean what else are you going to do in line at Kohl’s? It was one of those real bonding moments. I do what I can.

The whole experience got me thinking. Why don’t people tell you? I must have stood talking to at least four people during my shopping spree and not one of them mentioned the cheese all down the front of my shirt. So I’m asking you to do humanity a favor and be brave. I know it’s awkward, but have some compassion and tell a person when they have something stuck in their teeth or a stain on the back of their pants, when their zipper is down or toilet paper is stuck to their shoe (or anywhere else for that matter) and for Pete’s sake how can you not speak up when someone has accidentally tucked the back of her skirt into her pantyhose? This happened to me my freshman year of high school. I went walking through the commons area completely unaware that my posterior was exposed smiling flirtatiously at all the boys lined up on the radiator where they sat perched most days. God bless Brad Morrow who jumped down and followed after me tugging at my backside despite my attempts to slap him for being fresh. The moment I realized what he was trying to tell me was one of the most embarrassing moments of my young life. I’ve had so many others since then it has paled in comparison, but at the time I was horrified.

So please do me a favor and tell a person if they have ink on their face, lipstick on their teeth or need to…well…blow their nose. They’ll thank you for it later, even if they slap you first.

Warning: Don’t be a victim of perm-icide.

Standard

While we Baby Boomers aren’t ordinarily in the business of public service announcements, perms are a subject upon which too many of us can speak from experience. We still remember the salon perm plague that swept the nation in the 1980s, the memory of it still strikes a nerve. Ask anybody who lived through it and you will hear no end of horror stories from ’80s perm victims, but few are willing to provide photographic evidence – the memories are still too raw.

The last time I got a perm I remember saying to myself that I would never get another perm in my hair, but memories fade and a person forgets that perms never look as good as you think they will which brings me to my most recent encounter at the beauty salon.

My hair looked acceptable when I left the salon, but as the evening wore on it started to grow, like those sea monkeys we used to order off the back of the cereal box when we were kids.  So, I wet it down, conditioned and let it dry on my head, no blow dryer.  Before bed I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror expecting to see that “Julia Roberts in Mystic Pizza” look, which was, in my day, the envy of young women everywhere, but instead I looked more akin to a very large standard poodle, even my bangs were kinky.  Put a diamond collar on me and a little bow in my hair and you could call me Fifi.   Not to be discouraged I went to bed thinking, “It will be okay in the morning.  I’ll curl it or flat iron it.”  

The image staring back at me this morning in the mirror was one I had seen before. It was Roseanne Roseannadanna and I could just hear her saying, “Well, Jane, it just goes to show you, it’s always something — if it ain’t one thing, it’s another.  I know what you’re talkin’ about, because, I, Roseanne Roseannadanna, once had the same thing happen to me and I thought I was gonna die!”

I don’t know what happened.  I can’t recall a perm ever looking this bad.  My hair was fried and I thought I noticed a bald spot right in the middle of my head above my now frizzed out bangs.  I began to frantically snip away at my bangs with the kitchen scissors in a fruitless effort to add girth and disguise the barren spot so I wouldn’t look like an old bald woman. Not to mention this whole process bleached my hair into a very unbecoming mottled shade of brown that reminded me of a stained couch we used to have back in college, a kind of sepia tone with rust stain highlights and undercurrent of burned tree bark.  

As if this was not bad enough, I smell like a walking bottle of perm solution that no amount of hair product or perfume can neutralize. Looking like one of those cartoon characters that stuck their finger in a light socket, I seriously considered calling in sick. I just could not go out of the house looking like this, and for those of you who know me, that would have to be really bad. It was that bad.

I love the honesty of kids.  My adult co-workers were very supportive saying things like, “It doesn’t look that bad.” Or It will loosen up, just give it a few days.”  However, the kids in my classes were more forthright.  When they asked, “What did you do to your hair.” And I answered that I’d gotten a really bad perm, they didn’t argue.  One replied with, “Well, you’re all set for Halloween.  You can go as a witch.”

I was so hopeful as nowadays the “experts” in the perming industry claim that new techniques not only yield more natural-looking results, but are also less damaging to the hair shaft.  Don’t believe them.  Nothing has changed.  I can attest to this fact. So let this serve as your warning. Wherever the winds of hair trends may blow, whatever you do: Don’t get a perm.