Miles To Go

 

 

The other day I was on the road and I looked down and saw my car’s odometer was about to hit a string of twos. I was in traffic, so not only was I dodging people who think the zombie apocalypse is upon us, but also old lady drivers, kids on skateboards and pedestrians. Basically, driving took my full attention. But I persisted, kept glancing down, and when the last two rolled into place, I pulled over and snapped a pic.

 

For those not playing along at home, the mileage on my old Volvo is not 22,222. It’s 122,222. I feel pretty good about the old gal, if you must know. I mean – she’s 50 years old! Of course, being a Volvo, her miles could very well be in the 200,000 range, which would be terribly impressive. But that’s not the way she rolls. She is what she is and her miles are her miles.

 

I know nothing lasts forever. My old Volvo won’t be mine for all time. At some point, she’ll belong to another and that person will (hopefully) marvel at her milestones. At their milestones. And that’s as it should be.

 

For now, the old gal and I have miles to go. Together. And we’re doing just fine.

 

Stuck In Hot

 

 

Yesterday found me back behind the wheel of my old car, cruising all the hell over the place. Not for fun, mind you. I had bid-ness to tend, and it took me to Holly-weird and The Valley, including points in-between. It was good bid-ness, so I didn’t complain. Not when I hit traffic, and not when I got stuck in hot.

 

Here’s what happened… I was adjusting the vent lever in the old Volvo and I felt something snap. This has never happened before, and somehow I knew it wasn’t good. It only took a few seconds to realize how right I was. It wasn’t good. The vent control had somehow broken and was stuck in hot. As in – the fresh air side of things was no longer accessible, and instead the heat from the car’s engine was pumping - hard – into the car. Ugh. I thought I could handle it. I rolled down the windows and opened both front wing windows for what some of us call 2-35 air conditioning: 2 windows opened while driving 35 miles per hour. It should have helped. But that hot-ass air floating up from the floor vent was killing me. So I did the only thing I could. I drove straight to my mechanic’s. He man-handled the vent’s control cable and locked the danged lever into fresh-air mode. And he didn’t charge me. Have I mentioned how much I love my mechanic?

 

I got back into the old Volvo and it immediately felt cooler. I drove home, comfortably, and all was well. Now that summer’s here (and it is), I’m thinking I’m gonna be okay, being stuck in cool.

 

Dear god – please don’t let there be a cold snap.

Student Driver

 

 

Yesterday I let a potential buyer test-drive my car.

 

Just kidding. I was visiting with friends and Master Ben climbed in the front seat of my old Volvo and started “driving.” He couldn’t have been any cuter. I adore that kid. His parents are pretty keen, too.

 

In a couple of decades, when he’s all grown up, I might consider selling my car to Ben. Maybe…

 

Just Be Cool

 

 

Because I live in Los Angeles, driving is part of my reality. And while I do my best to maintain a certain level of calmness while behind the wheel, I have been known to cuss till the angels blush from time to time.

 

Well, this brand-new summer has found me trying something different. I’m endeavoring to chill out a little more when driving. I still get frustrated, mind you, but now I’m saying something else to the other drivers who can’t hear me, no matter how loud I may be. My new mantra is “Just be cool, fool.” It began with me calling everyone “fool.” (Actually, it began with me calling everyone “Dummy,” a la Fred G. Sanford. It then evolved.) So far, I’m staying calmer. I guess it’s working.

 

I can’t fight driving. It’s a necessary evil. And I can’t control bad drivers in the world. But I can control my reactions to them.

 

Hopefully.

In. Slow. Mo. Tion.

 

 

Yesterday I was out and about in L.A. On a 2-lane surface street, I was in the right-hand lane and this white Prius was a car-length in front of me, in the left-hand lane. A motorcyclist was in front of him and the Prius slammed into the biker, sending the motorcycle and its rider straight up into the air. The rider and the bike crashed onto the ground, and both were motionless. I grabbed my phone, dialed 9-1-1 and kept an eye on the scene.

 

Because my friend Betro was recently the victim of a hit-and-run accident, I immediately scanned the Prius’ license plate and committed it to memory. I was placed on hold by the 9-1-1 operator (I kid you not) and watched as the Prius slowly moved to the side of the road. A woman wearing a lab coat (a doctor?) got out of her car, grabbed some first aid supplies from her trunk and began helping the motorcycle rider. About 17 cops pulled up (again, I kid you not) and I decided I no longer needed to wait on hold with 9-1-1. So I hung up my phone and walked over to one of the police officers. He asked me about what happened, and I told him all I’d seen (including the license plate of the Prius). He asked about that car, and we both looked around. It was nowhere in sight. After a couple of minutes, he told me he had all he needed and thanked me for my time. I got in my car and drove away.

 

Traffic really is terrible in L.A. I’ve lived here long enough to know this. But it still never ceases to amaze me when I witness a bone-headed move by a distracted driver. It’s unsettling and it’s hard to process. Take yesterday’s incident, for example. The brake lights of that Prius didn’t shine until after impact with the motorcycle. We all make mistakes, but come on. What was the Prius driver doing? Certainly not focusing on the road.

 

After witnessing the terrifying and ugly accident, it took a while for the adrenaline to leave my system. And during all that anxiety, I kept seeing the crash over and over again. The car hitting the bike, and the motorcycle and its driver flying into the air. In slow motion. It took about an hour, but my blood finally cleared the zoom-zooms from my veins and I calmed down. Then I realized I’ll never understand the driver of that car, or why he fled the scene. And I don’t have to. The accident didn’t happen to me, after all. I was merely a witness. And if nothing else, the event caused me to drive a bit more vigilantly for the rest of the day. And to appreciate home, when I finally pulled into my own driveway. Without injury. Without harm. There truly is no place like it.

The Perils of L.A. Freeways

 

 

Remember when I wrote about a globe jumping out of a pick-up truck and nearly taking us out as we drove an L.A. freeway?

 

The other day, Mister and I were out on that same freeway, covering the same route even, and just as we merged onto the 5, the pick-up truck in front of us lost a wheel. Not the tire alone, mind you, but the entire gal-danged wheel. It happened quite suddenly, and as the pick-up’s driver struggled to maintain control of his tilted vehicle (at 65 miles per hour, I might add), Mister did an amazing job of dodging that bouncing wheel.

 

I need to take a moment to praise Mister, if you please. Seriously – not only was the pick-up veering and the unattached wheel bouncing wildly, but while avoiding both those things Mister also had to brake suddenly and maintain control of our car. His command was stellar and I’m simply amazed. And grateful. For reals.

 

We pulled over in front of the pick-up, just as the rogue wheel bounced across 5 lanes of traffic and collided with a big rig. In only a few seconds, traffic had come to a stand-still. Then a miracle happened: that stopped traffic included a highway patrolman. He got the naughty wheel off the road and to the shoulder, where he pulled his car over, then loaded the blasted wheel into his trunk and began slowly backing up to check on the driver of the pick-up. By that time, I had already gotten out of our car and checked on the driver (and his young son, strapped into the pick-up’s backseat). The guy was clearly shaken, but he and his son were okay. He was freaking out about possibly having caused a major accident, but once the wayward wheel was cleared from the freeway and all 5 lanes of traffic began to flow once more, he relaxed a bit. I made my way back to our car, Mister merged into the resuming traffic and the highway patrolman continued his slow back-up to the stranded pick-up. As we passed him, he gave us a friendly wave. We waved back and headed home.

 

It didn’t take long for Mister to remember the last time we were out on that same freeway, and how the globe had come right at us. With that in mind, I am seriously considering writing off that entire section of highway. I mean, 2 incidents, 2 pick-ups? If that freeway is trying to kill us, I do not want the third time to be the charm.

The Whole Wide World

 

 

I’ve had this one earring since the ’80′s. The 1980′s, that is. That’s when “Melissa” used to wear mismatched earrings on thirty something. Remember that? Anyhoo, this little orb reminds me of a recent experience that was just cray-cray. Seriously.

 

Mister and I were out for a drive. It was just a drive, the sort of thing absolutely no one does, so of course we were doing it. We were flying down a highway in the dark. Traffic was moving at a medium density, which for L.A. is awesome. I was driving, and we were talking. There was a pick-up truck in the lane in front of us, about 4 or 5 car-lengths away. I guess they’d been shopping, because they hit a bump and a cardboard box bounced right out of their truck and onto the freeway. It was a sizable box, about 2 1/2 feet cubed. It jumped around a few times, then popped open. At that point, a globe rolled out and started doing a highway dance. As all this transpired directly in front of us, and as we were moving at a pretty fast clip (around 65 miles per hour), I had to think fast. I dodged the box just fine, but the globe proved a bit more tricky. There were cars on either side of us, and I told Mister to brace. I managed to barely clip the globe and we moved on. We were fine. Not a scratch on the car (as we would later learn). It was a non-event.

 

But what about the folks in the pick-up? They had clearly intended to take that globe with them on their journey. I imagine them getting home, looking in the back of the truck and realizing their purchase was missing. “What the hell?” The money. The trip. The effort. Bye-bye globe.

 

As Mister and I were only out for a drive, we turned around pretty soon after “The Whole Wide World” incident, and headed back the other way, toward home. At about the same spot as the globe encounter – on the opposite side of the road – officials were clearing up the debris from an ugly accident. A smashed-up car was turned around backwards and was clearly totaled. Mister wondered what had happened. I said that maybe a globe had jumped the median and someone else hadn’t been able to dodge it. Truth is, we’ll never know.

 

We managed to survive the world. In fine fettle. The significance wasn’t lost on me.