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
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
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
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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.