Archives for category: Driving

Today, February 21 is the 91st anniversary of my father’s birth. I have missed him more than I thought possible since he succumbed to a cerebral hemorrhage 15 years ago. I want to share one of the lessons he allowed me during our time together.

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My father was known through family, friends, and neighbors as a laconic gentleman. He was a man of few words but an observant eye, ready to help anyone in need, anytime.

My mother, to this day, is more impatient and quick to criticize.

With these credentials, my father became the de facto driving instructor for his six children.

My lessons started in the spring of 1967. I had turned sixteen the previous December, but mom acted as principal of the driving school and would not allow winter driving lessons.

In those olden days, the Sunday “blue laws” were in effect. Those laws meant that no stores were open on “the Lord’s day.”  So, Dad and I took advantage of the Miracle Mile Shopping Center, making it the track for my driving lessons.

The lessons started with dad driving the roads to the shopping center’s parking lot where he turned over the keys and steering wheel of the 1958 green Oldsmobile 98. That car was so big some of my siblings called it a boat. With its fashionable-in-the-late-fifties fins, I preferred calling it the green dragon.

Over time, my lessons progressed. I became the dragon driver, chauffeuring us both over the quiet streets to the shopping center to practice parallel parking between dad-made wooden poles.

My most cherished lesson came after a Sunday afternoon of parking practice followed by my confident drive back home. The journey ended with a left turn into our single car driveway.

It was a narrow drive past a side screened-in porch that ended in a much wider surface that always reminded me of a map of the United States. To leave we drove through “Florida” and to get to the house we walked through “California” and the Baja peninsula.

Almost home, I engaged the turn signal as I got to Metzger’s house, two doors up from ours. The indicator blinked past Crowley’s and the breadth of our house. Fortunately, no one was proximate to see me turn into the drive and continue turning until I was stopped on our front lawn, parallel to the driveway with the grill of the Olds a very few feet from the entrance to the side screened-porch.

I felt like a complete failure. How could I mess up such a simple maneuver? I must have been shaking—especially since my hero, my father saw my mistake. I could have injured him!

My dad’s reaction allowed one of the best lessons of my life.  He asked the perfect parental and instructional question, “Do you want me to move it or do you want to?”

My dad still trusted me? Wow!

I quickly deduced that I was not always going to have my father to get me out of trouble and that I was going to need to fend for myself. “I’ll do it.”

I not only said, “I’ll do it.” I did it.

That was not the last mistake of my life. It was not the last time my father supported me. It was and is a lesson that I’ve kept close to my heart for fifty years.

I hope I’ve been able to pass it down to my son.

Almost 24 years ago when our son was born, my friend Mary, who had been my matron of honor, looked at our infant and commented, “Bill will never be able to deny this child is his.”

I had given birth to a miniature physical replica of my husband even to a cleft in the chin I was not aware my bearded husband had.

Over the years there have been instances when Son exhibited behaviors obviously learned from his mother. I laughed the first time he talked to grandma on the hard-wired-to-the-wall phone while he passed back and forth – exactly the way I talked on the phone.

Another incident that caused me pause was seeing my pre-schooler straighten the stripes of a bath towel draping a wet picnic table bench. “Oh, son! Don’t get that from me.”

Today another sign of our connection – granted it has been a hectic week. On Monday, leaving for work at 4 p.m. was the fifth time I’d left the house that day. It wasn’t the last time I left the house.

Wednesday was a flip flop of Monday. I left the house once but made six stops throughout Dayton, Springfield and Urbana.

For the Fourth, we drove more than 3 hours to spend the afternoon with my family to get back in the car for another 3 hours. It was a good visit, but we were all exhausted.

Husband and I were able to nap this afternoon. Son worked a full day.

I picked him up at the end of his shift, but had him drive home. Shortly after getting home, he came to me for the car keys. I didn’t have them.

A few years ago, I had so many instances of calling Husband to get me into a vehicle that I finally put reminder labels on the steering wheel and door.

It only took about 15 minutes to locate the missing keys today. After checking his pockets, the dining room table, the bathroom, the kitchen, and the front porch he located them safe and sound in the ignition of the locked car.

After the busyness of this week, I’m happy to stay home, reading and writing until Husband gets off work so he can once again get keys out of the locked car that I drive.

Yep! He’s my son, too.

Sometime in late 2008 or early 2009, I discovered a podcast called Books on the Nightstand. I subscribed and quickly became hooked by the discussion about books that the two hosts, Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness conducted.

The podcasts first episode was in March, 2008. Originally the podcasts were every two weeks, but, due to popular demand, by July, 2009 the podcast became a weekly must-hear-podcast.

Michael and Ann also promoted discussion on Good Reads where many BOTNS devotee left messages about books. An obvious comaraderie developed between the listeners and the hosts and amongst the listeners, too. Wouldn’t it be nice if some of us could meet somewhere.

In June, 2010, Ann and Michael, prodded by their audience, announced a book retreat in Manchester, Vermont for the following April. I was so grateful, then, that they announced 10 months ahead. I would have time to save the money.

I invited a local friend to accompany me. She too was thankful for the long notice.

On Thursday April 7, Ruth and I left our small town in a rental car (the punch line ended up being, “how many Ohio does it take to operate the windshield wipers in New York state?). We arrived after the festivities started in our Inn.

About 75 listeners, 9 authors, a number of publishing professionals and two nervous hosts took over the Inn at Manchester and two other bed and breakfasts for an experience that someone (not I) “Booktopia”.

The experience kept me emotionally high for months. Remembrances of books, new friends, the marvelous sheets at the Inn (rumors had circulated prior to the experience), the marvelous independent book store, for some that it was an outlet town, and the meals (oh, Frank’s pancakes!) almost kept us content until take two.

Another April, another Booktopia. But, also, two more opportunities, June in Oxford, Mississippi (and I thought I didn’t do heat) and then Santa Cruz, California last October (where the earth literally moved).

Each time, I met old friends (some had been the cyber variety), made new ones and hardly slept. I didn’t want to miss anything. A different friend accompanied me to Mississippi and now she has the Booktopia bug.

This week, she, Anne, and I are going to infect another friend, Deeann. The trip to Vermont starts Wednesday.

The Booktopians have been filling the Vermont Booktopia thread with comments about arrivals, the sheets at the Inn at Manchester, which author sessions they will be going to, the sheets, Frank’s cooking, the sheets, and how many of the books of the presenting authors have been read. Oh, yes, and the sheets!

My stomach ached earlier today. It truly brought a smile to my face as I remembered that every year for at least three years, I would end up in the doctor’s office just before school started because of a stomach ache. I would so excited (in a good way) about going to school I telegraphed my enthusiasm to my stomach. School is starting on Thursday.

I’ve been counting down, making Ann and Michael nervous, since day 10 by putting book covers on my Facebook page with the appropriate number of days to go in the title (yesterday’s was The Six Wives of Henry the VIII).  (And, Ann and Michael, I thought of it days before I started doing it, so I was very kind to you.)

Tonight, I also changed my Facebook photo to one that was taken last year in Vermont. I quickly received several comments from fellow Booktopians, so I shared my stomach story. I quickly received a reply from Dawn, who prescribed, “Read two books, and call us in the morning!”

How can I not love this whole experience!

Did you notice it?

It wasn’t among NBC’s tape delayed reports. In fact, the news organizations didn’t mention it on any of the programs that I watch (and I am a news junky).

For several weeks the gas in Urbana, Ohio has been $3.34 or so a gallon (sorry, you east coasters). The city 12 miles south of us has had higher priced gas for most of this time. A week ago when I went to Springfield I noticed that the BP on the northern edge of town was in the $3.50s.

always notice the price of gas, so when Husband and I ran some errands in Springfield on Wednesday, I noticed gas had risen to $3.65ish.

I even had a discussion with a man (yes, I do talk to strangers) in Aldi’s. We had gone there knowing we were going to get “cheap” milk. A man proximate to the milk wall was flabbergasted by the price of $2.29 a gallon for milk. (I informed him that the week before the price had been $1.99 a gallon – again, sorry, cousins).

It turned out the man was from Alabama. Because of my earlier travel to the deep south in June, I knew what he was comparing. Milk had been over $4.00 a gallon when I was in Oxford, Mississippi in mid-June – but gasoline was lower than I’d seen for about a year. I had seen $3.10 a gallon shortly before I needed it and paid $3.25.

The man agreed that gasoline in the south (near the off-shore drilling) was less expensive.

Before he left the store, I informed him of the $3.34 a gallon price of gas 10 miles up the road. He asked where and I told him. He said he was going that way “tomorrow” on the way to Michigan (Detroit and Fremont). He opined the price would be higher the next day. I assured him that the price in Urbana had been consistent for two or three weeks.

On the way home, I was surprised to see the overflowing gas station at the southern edge of Urbana. This is usually the last station in town to increase the price of gas. Lines at the gas pump portends more expensive fuel ahead.

I strained to check the price of the Marathon a block from our street. Nope, still $3.34. I had been fooled earlier in the week when I saw lines at one of the Speedways which is usually the first to jump in price. (Just to make sure, I circled around that day and filled my tank at Kroger’s using my rewards and therefore paying only $3.04 a gallon.)

At 10 p.m. Wednesday night, I got off work and drove past four gas stations (this meant I had been past every Urbana gas station that day but one) to pick up Son from work (he worked the gas at Kroger’s that day). The UDF, the Clark, the fooling Speedway and the Kroger’s were all $3.34 a gallon.

Thursday I stayed in the house until about 8:30 p.m. I went out for a quick errand which took me past the non-fooling Speedway. Whoaaaaaaa! Whiplash! Three dollars and eighty-nine cents a gallon!

A fifty-five cent a gallon spike! That is more than one-and-a-half times what a gallon of gas cost when I started driving (32.9).

With a spike like that, I could call this new sport gasoline volleyball.

I think a better name is the gasoline high jump.

Unlike his parents who champed at the bit to earn our driver’s license, Son has waited until the ripe, but still young age of 22 to get his learner’s permit. This, of course, requires a licensed driver to be occupying the passenger seat of the vehicle in which he is in control. Sometimes I am that required  licensed person.

Most of the time, occupying the passenger seat licenses me to read. In fact, normally, I love to be driven so that I can read. Being the teacher of a future safe driver does, however, trump the reader. I need to be as alert or more so than the student driver.

On a recent trip between Springfield and home, Son was driving, the radio was on so low that initially I was not listening. But as any good teacher knows, repetition eventually filter into my gray matter to hear a commercial as redundant as a scratched vinyl record album:

“If you are a male over 25 and have at least 30 pounds to loose listen to this offer for Sensa for Men. Sensa for Men is the most reliable form of weight-loss…So, if you are male, over 25, and have at least 30 pounds to lose, hurry and take advantage of this offer for Sensa for Men.”

Possibly because of my own body image I began to ponder, “Why men? Is there something in it that would be lethal to women? I wonder what would happen if I would take Sensa for Men.”

After a few minutes, I gave voice to my thought process, “I wonder what would happen if a woman took Sensa for Men.”

Son’s return was as quick and sure as one of Roger Federer’s, “She’d probably leave the toilet seat up.”

Where does he come up with this stuff?

Does everyone who drives a car complain about the drivers from an abutting state?

My driving life started in northwest Ohio where it was not unusual to hear “those darn Michiganders” from friends who’d had a close call with another auto.

In my middle years, I relocated to southwest Ohio where the phrase became “people from Indiana don’t know how to drive.”

This past weekend, I flew to Albany, New York, secured a rental car to spend my weekend in Manchester, Vermont.

Returning Sunday, I adhered to the speed limit on the mostly two-lane winding rural road back to Albany. Occasionally the road widened to allow slower traffic to cling to the right lane so faster traffic could pass, usually as if the passee were standing still.

The few cars that I had passed displayed Vermont plates. The ones flying past me had New York plates. I wondered if the difference was a comparison of way of life. The seemingly slower less stressed life in Vermont compared to the fleeting New York minute.

Less than five minutes after I crossed the southern Vermont boundary into New York, a pick-up truck trailer combo (an outfit I’ve seen roofers drive) was stopped on a side road that ended at the route I was trekking.

No observable traffic ahead of me because of the curves of the road. In the review mirror, only empty road.

Then, alone in the car, I said out loud, “Oh, no!” when the vehicle pulled out in front of me. I had to brake to avoid rear-ending the tandem unit.

Identifying the state represented by the license plate was easy. I laughed and knew I had to share with someone. My youngest brother in Toledo answered his cell.

I explained that I had just crossed from Vermont to New York and that a tandem work-truck had pulled out in front of me. I was rewarded by hearty laughter when I asked, “Did I really have to travel this far to be cut-off by a driver from Michigan?”