Driving Miss Percy

by Calendar Hacksaw

Lately, we've been thinkin' about gettin' granddaughter Persephone her Motor Vehicle Operator's Permit, so's Betty and me can grab a few more ZZZs on those trips down to Food Stamp and Discount Liquor.

Percy's processor is "missing some code," if you get my drift, and our efforts to learn her the ways of the road have mostly fallen on deaf ears.

"Where's that thingy that I'm supposed to hit when I want the little light on the right side of the back of the car to go blink-blink-blink?" she'll ask, in a hurried tone.

"It's called the turn signal," we'll say. "It's on the..." But by then it's way too late; she's sailed past the corner, and all we can do is hope and pray there'll be another opportunity to hang a right turn somewhere farther on down the line.

The idea of bringing a new driver into an already overcrowded intersection caused me to reflect a bit on the wisdom, skill and superior knowledge that have combined forces to make ol' Calendar one of the nation's truly safest drivers. I would be remiss, I thought, in passing on to Percy this vast reservoir of intellect without also sharing a good deal of it with Walker Basin's motoring public. So herewith are a few tips designed to keep you alive during your next pilgrimage to Ridgecrest, the liposuction and hemorrhoidectomy capitol of America.

1. On any freeway with three or more lanes, the number two lane is my friend. I occupy it for as long as I can, traveling at a constant 5 m.p.h. under the posted speed limit. As a result, I'm not tailgating anyone, and I have a clear path of asphalt ahead of me for at least a quarter mile most of the time. This allows me ample opportunity to anticipate and react to the variety of freeway flotsam I encounter each day, ranging from aluminum ladders to airborne sheets of plywood. Sure, some people get on my tail and become impatient, as if that might influence my speed or choice of lane, but you and I both know that isn't likely to happen anytime soon. Eventually they tire of the effort, pull around in front of me and speed away, once again leaving me staring at a long ribbon of virgin blacktop.

2. The number one reason people cite for subscribing to cellular telephone service is "safety." And the number one reason offered for not subscribing is "no damned money to pay the bill." Well now there's good news, and no reason not to have one of those handy little devices right by your side as you head over to the Country Girl in Castaic for a well-deserved night-on-the-town. The Federal Communications Commission issued a little-known order last December as part of Common Carrier Docket No. 94-102, mandating that all wireless carriers forward 9-1-1 calls "...without regard to validation procedures intended to identify and intercept calls from non-subscribers." What this means is that you can pick up a used cellphone at a flea market and use it to report emergencies to 9-1-1 without signing up with a cellular carrier. Caveats: the cellphone's technology must be compatible with at least one of the carriers serving the area; it'll need a battery or cigarette lighter adapter, calling 9-1-1 to "test" the phone can result in criminal prosecution in many areas, the phone is no good for anything else unless you subscribe for service, and most likely will be worthless for calling 9-1-1 or anyone else while traveling through Walker Basin, Caliente Canyon, and the Greater Twin Oaks-Loraine Metropolitan Trading Area.

3. I'm always irritated when I'm stuck at a stoplight in rush-hour traffic and some pea-brain coming out of a gas station on the near side of the intersection wants to "politely" re-enter traffic. Sorry, Chuck; you shoulda thought about that before pulling in there in the first place, because I know you were counting on some sucker to take pity on you. Well, I'm no sucker; I'll let you sit there idling your gas away until you need to back up to the pumps again. Why won't ol' Calendar let you in? Well, because I don't have the right to let you in. You see that long stream of cars and trucks lined up behind me? If I give you cuts in line, at least one of them poor fools ain't gonna make it through the next green phase, and I don't have the right to act on his or her behalf. So there; deal with it and choose a different gas station next time, loser.

4. You see these kids drivin' their trucks around with that "NO FEAR" decal in the rear window? Man, I feel sorry for them! "Fear" is a great survival instinct, when properly managed. The sticker on my window says "DRIVER POSSESSES FEAR, BUT IS HEAVILY ARMED AND MAY RETALIATE."

5. My uncle gave me some advice when I was learning to drive. "If the police pull you over," he instructed, "always get out of the car right away and hurry back to the patrol car before the officer gets out. He'll appreciate your desire not to inconvenience him, and might let you off without a ticket." The first time I tried this technique, I learned the meaning of the words "Glock" and "fear."

6. If you're in a hurry to get through town and you have a choice of getting behind one of the following at the next stoplight, which one would you choose?

A. Kid in hot rod
B. Taxi cab
C. Vehicle with out-of-state plates
D. Motorcycle

The correct answer is anyone but "C." He's in unfamiliar country and has no idea where he's headed, whereas the other three have the means, motivation, and/or attitude to waste no time when the light turns green.

I certainly hope that the insights I've been kind enough to share will keep Percy safe and sound while she navigates America's highways and byways. A person can never get too much knowledge, you know. And if just one new driver can prevent a potential charity case from exiting a gas station on the near side of a traffic signal during work-week gridlock, I'll have done my job.

Here's the keys, Percy; take Betty's Expedition for a spin, and don't get any scratches on the cowcatcher.

Calendar Hacksaw's e-mail addresses are <calendar@usa.net> and <twistedsisters@hotmail.com> and he'd love to hear from you if you can estimate how many tax dollars will be forever lost to Kern County's coffers if our roads are not adequately repaired in a timely fashion. Failure to correct a bad decision only serves to compound the original. Go ahead: prove me wrong.

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