Monday, August 29, 2005


Is it just me, or are there way too many cars on the road filled with way too many solitary drivers talking on way too many cell phones, all while changing lanes, yelling at the driver in front of them and of course, juggling a sandwich (make it a Big Mac) with their free hand?

Not that I'm being judgmental here, cause see I'm one of them, cell phone, sandwich and all--though in my case the sandwich is likely to be a veggie rollup. (Aren't I virtuous?) Yes, I'm out on the road with all the other stressed out, bird flipping drivers trying to negotiate the new millenium, or just get to work on time.

But I'm here to say I don't like it. And from the one-step-from psychotic rage reactions you get in ordinary traffic, I'm starting to suspect that a lot of people aren't having much fun either.

Then the other day, I had just returned from my two day seaside retreat and was feeling totally calm and zen-like. After I got off the bus, I found my happy little Honda Civic, put in my favorite CD, checked my cell phone messages one more time, and contemplated the shortest way home from the bus station. Though I'd only been away a couple of days, I was eager for the sight of the rooms where I live my life, and the people and pets with whom I live them.

However, as I was driving down the road that led from the bus station, a car abruptly pulled out of a parking spot--and crash! right into the rear door of my pristine little vehicle.

Since I'm not all that good with the practical realities of life, I tried to think of what I was supposed to do. The first thing that came to mind (probably from watching various movies and TV shows) was that I was supposed to get out and yell and wave my arms and call the other driver a MORON with a few choice epithets thrown in. But really, I'm not all that good at that sort of thing, and besides, as I said, I was in a particularly tranquil state of mind.

"Excuse me, but it seems as if you've just smashed up my car," I said politely approaching the other vehicle.

The driver was a teenage boy around my son's age. He even sported a rock shirt that looked like one I've laundered many times, and an impressive collection of tattoos. My sympathies were immediately aroused.

"I looked, but you weren't there!" he said hopelessly.

To which I could only explain that it seemed, in fact, I was there.

"Well, you were in my blind spot," he said, rubbing his goatee nervously.

"Maybe," I said, not wanting to be so rude as to point out that I was actually right in front of him.

I, too, stroked my chin, and tried to remember what they did next on the TV shows and movies.

"I think we should exchange information," the young man said, as if he'd just realized he was dealing with a less than fully functioning adult. He kindly offered to loan me a pen.

Well, that's when my trusty cell phone really came in handy. I could call my husband at work! Being better at reality than I am, he told me to get the license number, and then call the police.

Unfortunately, there was some kind of major action going on in town and every officer was out on a foot chase. The kid and I, trapped in our little mishap, would have to wait. Demonstrating an impressive awareness of the importance of first impressions, the kid promptly changed from his angry looking rock T-shirt to a plain grey one.

We stood and leaned against our cars, pretending to be the strangers we were before our fates suddenly connected us.

"Are you in school?" I finally asked, already wondering what the accident would do to the boy's car insurance premiums.

"Nope," he said, cocking his head in the direction of a nearby gas station. "I work over there. What about you?"

"I'm a waitress," I said. "But I want to be a writer when I grow up."

"You look pretty grown up to me," he said. By then, he was eyeing me suspiciously, obviously wondering what kind of whacko he'd gotten himself mixed up with.

Around that time,the officer arrived and relieved us of our faltering small talk.
Turned out he was a particularly kind man as well. He immediately reminded us that though the accident was unfortunate, the only thing that mattered was that neither of us had been hurt. A philosophical cop! I was loving it.

I then told him what happened, as plainly as I could.

"And what's your side of the story?" he said to the young man in the grey t-shirt.

"I looked! She wasn't there!" he said. "And I wasn't going fast either." I was a little disappointed that in nearly an hour of waiting, he hadn't come up with anything more inventive.

"I see, but it seems you pulled out and hit her car," the compassionate cop was forced to point out.

He went into the cruiser to fill out the accident report while the boy and I sat on our hoods and felt the breeze of a late summer evening on our faces.

In the end, the philosopher cop was right. The only thing that mattered was that no one had been hurt.

But I still think there are too many cars.

And I still don't like it.


gulnaz said...

wow, what a story! :)
thank god, nobody was he said that's all that matters. :)

Patty said...

"You look pretty grown up to me."

That's a classic!

Melly said...

Way too many cars with way too many solitary drivers. And there's no excuse for talking on the phone while driving. Many countries have already outlawed that.
And then, as if nobody can figure this out for themselves, everybody also complains about the price of gas while they go fill up the second or third car, or better yet, SUV.

Patry Francis said...

Thanks, Gulnaz. I'm wondering how the traffic is in Southern India. Is the entire world dominated by vehicle madness or are there sane spots?

And what about Qatar, Patty? Meanwhile, in answer to your comment,I, too remember being 17 and thinking that once you reach a certain age--say 30, you are already fully grown and everything you are going to become. However, the older you get, the more the age keeps getting pushed back. Hmmm...maybe by the time I'm 65, I'll be all grown up. Nah, probably not then either.

Melly, I agree with you completely--both on the cell phones while driving and on the fact that with all our gas and oil shortages, no one ever seems to think of conservation.

Perfect Virgo said...

What a rude awakening after your break away!

Patry you are a lady of letters. I simply cannot envisage you letting loose with a volley of expletives at the young transgressor. Well, maybe from the safety of your Civic?

(I'll be grown up soon too!)

rdl said...

We'll be in our jeans in the rockers at the ole folks place makin big plans.

Vickie said...

Welcome back to reality. Isn't it a shame that reality likes to announce its presence with a bang? I think you are probably quite capable of handling reality under normal circumstances. The problem was that your brain and body were still on holiday. Better the car suffer the damage than you. Take care of yourself and ease back into the real thing...

Dale said...

{{{Patry}}} Glad you're still with us!

Patry Francis said...

diana: Glad my invisibility made you giggle. It's given me a few laughs too--as well as a few panicky runs to the mirror to see if I was still there.

p.v. and R: Yes, I think the three of us definitely have to agree to enjoy our second childhood together.

Vickie and Dale: Your compassion and concern is balm. Thank you.

Sharon Hurlbut said...

I'm glad you're okay, and hope your car isn't too banged up.

I lived for 12 years in Mesa, Arizona - land of sprawling streets and freeways and home to some of the most aggressive drivers in the world. I was plowed into by a hit-and-run driver who literally tore the front bumper off his car and left it dangling from the mangled side of my Dodge Dakota truck. Luckily he hit the passenger side and I was fine. On another occasion my husband and 10 month old daughter were rear-ended very hard as they stopped for a fire truck with full sirens and lights. Our PT Cruiser would have been considered totaled except for the fact that it was brand-new. My husband ruptured two disks in his back and still suffers from it, but thanks to the infant seat, our daughter wasn't hurt at all.

After those accidents, I was a complete wreck in any moving vehicle for a very long time. Since moving to Oregon I feel much more relaxed, as the drivers here are slower and more laid-back, though still prone to talking on cell phones. And I take the light rail whenever I can.

Yes, there are too many cars, too many cell phones, and too many people in too big a hurry.

e_journeys said...

Glad to hear you emerged unscathed (even if invisible). And I'm thankful for compassionate philosopher cops.

I keep a disposable camera under my passenger-side front seat in case of a collision; after a year I swap it out for a new one.

gulnaz said...

i live in northen india and here the traffic is crazy and the drivers boorish! I think people in the south of our country are more cultured, so i guess their traffic sense must be more evolved too. the farthest south i have been is mumbai and it crawls with cars. actually cars are everywhere now, went to srinagar, that is in kashmir, a disturbed area but the traffic is exploding there.

Patry Francis said...

I guess it's everywhere. I know the car gives people great independence, but I think living in a village setting where you can walk or bike for most of the things you need is better than the sprawling suburban mess many of us live in. I also wish there was more public transportation. Many people in cities who have access to that find the maintenance of a car more trouble than they're worth. Maybe the increasing cost of gas will change things. Until then, e-journey's suggestion of carrying a disposable camera is an excellent one.

One thing I've learned from these comments is that I'm staying away from Mesa, Arizona! Sharon, your stories caused the hair on my neck to rise.

Dave said...

If the philosophical cop had known more about you, he might've continued: "The insurance will pay for it; you'll get a great story out of it; and someday, when the price of gasoline goes over five dollars a gallon, maybe there won't be quite as many drivers on the road!"

P. A. Moed said...

Well, the cop is right. In the end, despite the aggravation, the most important point is that you weren't hurt. But it's still upsetting and frustrating to go through something like that.

When we were driving home from a mini-vacation in July, we called in for our messages at home and got one from a neighbor saying, "I guess you haven't looked outside at your car." Turns out the car that was parked the whole time in our driveway was rear-ended by a landscaping truck and required $1800 in repairs!! Why do these things always happen right after a wonderful respite from the stresses of life? Maybe the moral here is that there isn't an escape?

Patry Francis said...

Dave: it looks like we may hit $5 a gallon sooner than we thought.

And P.A. (Patricia, right?) You're right, it was frustrating--and all too common. I had my estimate done today, and the it was very close to yours.

But as the full scope of the disaster in New Orleans unfolds, everything is put in perspective.

I was just there recently--such a beautiful city, so many wonderful people. Though the evening news gives us cause to weep on a daily basis, it takes something like 9/11 or this to break through the walls we build to keep the sorrow and madness of this world out.

leslee said...

Oh, I'm so sorry for your mishap. But at least no one was hurt. I laughed out loud (sorry) - he changed his shirt, you want to be a writer when you grow up, etc.

"looks like we may hit $5 a gallon sooner than we thought." Well, that might keep 'em off the road. Um, make that keep me off the road.

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