Tag Archives: travel

Craziness Part 1-Driving

 

Here are the 13 craziest things I’ve noticed

other drivers doing on the road lately, all whilst in motion:

1) Woman using an eyelash curler then putting on mascara.  Not lipstick. Mascara, that entails putting a very pointy wand near the eye, not to mention the need to stare closely into a mirror. Not the road. A mirror!

2) Men, speeding up, then slowing down, speeding up, slowing down….oh! they are on the phone and unable to take in information, process it and respond while maintaining the same speed.  Cut to me, accelerating, slamming on my brakes, accelerating, slamming on brakes, cursing, slamming on my brakes. Gotta love the narrow corpus collosum and inability to multi-task.

3)  You knew texting would be on this list-I see people looking down, looking up, looking down longer than looking up and getting the full effect of my horn which beeps more than bellows when they regularly cross the double yellow line and are heading right toward me.  Daily occurence this.

4)  People holding a cigarette in one hand, and phone in the other. Others hold coffee cup in one hand and ciggie in the other.  What is driving the car? And, you’re “driving” behind me!  That’s comforting.

5)  Man driving glacially slow in front of me.  Why?  Well I found out as I passed him at the earliest convenience, dirty look at the ready. He was patting down and trying to brush his very messy bedhead with his little stubby fingers. He then proceeded to whip out his electric shaver. Sigh.

6)  A maddening 30 minute drive behind a woman who put on a full face of makeup-from foundation to mascara. Her car was slowly drifting off to the shoulder and I prepared myself to have to maneuver around her when she finally went off the road. So, should I make out my will because she’s running late?

7) Woman driving slowly because she’s talking to her kids in the car- reaching behind her to get “things”, pulling “things” out of a bag, hoisting bag from the back to the front seat, passing “things to said kids in backseat. I never understand why these parents don’t have a problem putting their kids lives at risk.

8) Older gentleman driving ridiculously slow.  Why you ask? Because, he was thoroughly enjoying watching his lap dog enjoy the wind in its hair. At 8am in the morning? Are you trying to give me a stroke?

9)  I was driving behind a man who was there one minute and gone the next as his head popped down and then stayed down! Where did he go?  Uh, hello? Who is driving the car!?!  Did he check into an alternate reality?  Was he hungrily fishing around for old french fries? Sending a fax? Let me guess, he dropped the cell phone while texting and putting all of our lives at risk while he attempted to retrieve it!   I’m sorry, that gets an automatic beep from me.

10) Woman, um, teacher? Marking papers on her steering wheel while driving to work during rush hour.  What a sterling example of those setting examples for your children.  Just thought you should know.

11) As I approached a left turning lane and proceeded to steer through the intersection, I noticed that the woman to my right was holding a china dish in one hand and flatware in the other, eating what appeared to be an enjoyable meal with not a care in the world.  Again, what was driving the car?  The all-seeing knee?

12)  A couple of weeks ago,  I witnessed a  woman driving as she took a picture of herself.  She was drifting all over the road, then decided the first pic wasn’t good enough so gave it a good smile and took another, at speed. Surely you can finish off your online dating profile when you get home…if you get home, I should say.

13) I was waiting at a light to make a left hand turn. The light turned yellow (amber for my Brits) and something told me not to go. Sure enough, a man ran the light that had turned red, as his head and neck were facing the back seat. That bears repeating. The man drove through a busy intersection, through a red light facing the opposite way! Gobsmacked!

I find myself beeping at people to help them from hurting themselves. I’m more afraid for them than I am for myself in most of these scenarios. To paraphrase the captain in Hill Street Blues, for the love of all that’s holy, let’s be careful out there!

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The Middle of Nowhere

Country Road

Country Road (Photo credit: freefotouk)

When I’d drive from New York to Florida or back, I’d often stop somewhere in the middle, the middle of nowhere that is. As far as I was concerned, there was New York, there was Florida. That made up the east coast.  Then there was California on the west coast.  I made weekend trips into Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and down to Washington but that was pretty much it-my America was made up of bookends really.  My road companions agreed and if I got a call from someone checking on my status and they asked where I was, I never offered the name of the town or the handful of historical sites that I had passed. My answer was always the same. I’m in the middle of nowhere.  Usually the caller would understand and express concern and offer the same advice. “If you get pulled over, don’t argue with the police there. Just say yes sir, no matter what. And get the hell out!”

Anyone who has made this trip knows about the signs for South of the Border. Pedro bombards you with billboards that start about 100 miles before you get to it and by the time you do get there, your expectations arThe Strip  - South of the Bordere through the roof.  Wow, what is this South of the Border place? What’s going on? What a let down! It is a little place off  the I-95 highway that is terrifyingly plastic with a mish mosh of plaster sculptures that don’t make sense. They have souvenir and firework shops.  I never made the Mexican connection with this remote area of South Carolina but after all the signs one must at least stop in to check it out, especially when road weary.  I remember getting out of the car and into an eerie stillness that was disturbing on many levels, especially when fake Mexicans and apes were staring me down.  I wanted to scream and get back in the car.  Apparently SOB has a website now, very high-tech, and they explain that they have several restaurants and motels. An added bonus is that they can host conferences and weddings. No thanks. If I want a Mexican wedding I’ll go to Cabo thank you very much.

Back to the point at hand, again, here is this Mexican hot spot, in the middle of nowhere with hardly a soul in sight. The other main attraction on this route is Cracker Barrel. When you are tired and cranky and hungry, this place is an oasis.  Home cooked food, homemade desserts and a shop with interesting things to buy-from old-fashioned candy to picture frames, seasonal items and Christmas decorations. I love it.

Kids looking through bins of Webkinz at a Crac...

Cracker Barrel in Pueblo, Colorado, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have since moved to the South and after leaving a Cracker Barrel one day and driving from one country town to another, it hit me. I have moved to the middle of nowhere! Oh my God, I’m one of them!  One of these people who seemed like aliens to me before.  People who didn’t live near the ocean, museums, ports or places where they make books. You know, civilization of any kind.  Then horror of horrors I realized that any of the patrons at Cracker Barrel, who had done the same as I had years ago and exited the highway while en route to more exciting places, thought I was one of them too!  Aw bless, she doesn’t know what a Broadway show is or what the Hudson looks like, poor thing!

They do have Barnes and Noble, oh I made sure of that before I came.  And, as long as there is a Barnes and Noble in the vicinity, I can handle just about anything else. When the Bible Belt goes to church, I pop in to a quiet B&N and sip on a Chai Latte while flipping through books and magazines at my leisure.  When the whole of the South is watching college football, I can meander through empty aisles at my favorite shops or enjoy not waiting at favorite restaurants.  They also have Publix grocery stores here and anyone from Florida knows that once you’ve been in one Publix, you’ve been in all Publix (Publixes?) and it feels like home. Ok the pizza and bagels are crap but it is nice to drive with little to no traffic and to have open skies and green vistas.   We even get Broadway shows. The road company but still Broadway.  It’s not the same, no one could mistake a little country town for New York City, but it’s quiet for the most part.  I have more than a postage stamp sized garden and I see birds that aren’t pigeons.  We have outdoor symphonies and poetry night at the coffee place-come on! Would I move somewhere where there are Neanderthals? Many barbecue year round and take trips to the beaches and lakes in the summer.  Even Starbucks and Trader Joes have found us.

Yes I do miss the mom and pop shops of New York and finding one of a kind items. Though what one loses in the unique and new one gains in not being in the rat race and not feeling the pressure to be ahead of everyone else; on the train, with fashion, news and art (Oh! You didn’t know they were showing Elizabethan toothbrushes at the Met? All my friends have seen it. You must go. You didn’t see Rent? That is a travesty, how could you not have seen Rent? You don’t live on the Upper West Side? That’s where all the good restaurants are now. Any one who says it isn’t is just lying to you. You haven’t been to Cannes?). Blah blah blah.  People are neurotic because the city never sleeps. New Yorkers are bombarded 24/7. What am I missing? What’s going on? What happened, I have to know!!!  The worst thing in New York is not being in the know. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you are rich or poor. If you know something before everyone else, you have cachet. But it’s so exhausting!

New York will always be my city and I love it like a family member but the middle of nowhere gives me a break from all that and lets me be me. Don’t mind me as I wander aimlessly for a while in the here and now, in the I’m OK, you’re OK. You get back on the highway and catch up with your friends. I’m going to have my little cotton socks blessed while I sip on some sweet tea. Y’all come back now, ya hear?

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High Anxiety

I arrived at JFK airport, excited to return to Florida for a spot of R&R before embarking on graduate school. Thoughts of  going to the beach, floating around the family pool, sun-kissed skin and casual dinners with family and friends were enticing.

I spotted a skycap thinking great! I can beat the rush and get checked in. He took my bags and I was sure to tip him generously to ensure my bags were not re-routed to Germany.  He checked me in asking for ID and proceeding with the usual security questions:

“Did you pack your own bags?”  Yes.

“Did anyone give you anything to carry? Oh just a bomb.  We both laughed. Laughed. Innocent days before September 11th and a couple of years before my run in with British airport security.  I giggled to myself thinking I had an anecdote to share when I landed.

I made my way to the gate and watched the plane glide up to the jetway. Boarding was uneventful and the captain pushed back on time.  The plane meandered this way and that allowing me to catch glimpses of New York City in my window until it reached the runway.  What is it about take off that is so exhilarating?  The roar of the engines, the intense power of the moment, feeling my body being pinned against the seat, the plane bumping and swaying, nose up then ahhhhhh as the plane rushes into the sky.

We were on a bigger plane than usual for this New York to Ft Lauderdale route and the seats were laid out in a 2-4-2 configuration.  I was seated in the middle with one person next to me and a couple to the right in the cozy 2 seater section. The flight was probably about half full.  Having made this trip dozens of times I knew the plan-fly out over the ocean, turn right, straight line down the coast then right hand turn and into Ft Lauderdale airport. It’s a 2 hour 20 minute flight, tops.

Being the New York City girl I was and having been baptized by the New York City Transit System, I gathered my things during our final decent with the idea of being as close to the front door as possible when the seatbelt sign went off. The captain made that famous right hand turn and we flew into Ft Lauderdale alright however this time he didn’t take it in for a landing. I watched as we flew over neighborhoods and streets I knew very well.  Hmm I thought, must be a holding pattern. It was 1995 and unlikely as Ft Lauderdale airport was still small and I’d never encountered a holding pattern here before.  My curiosity was piqued and I was paying attention.  The couple to the right who I had all but ignored during the flight was beginning to annoy me. They were drunk, laughing loud and I needed to focus.

I continued to watch our progress and noticed that we had left the comfort of Ft Lauderdale and were now flying over the Everglades. Highly unusual-never done! No word from the flight deck and the flight attendants seemed to be going about their business.  I continued to watch South Florida slip out of view as we flew into the Gulf of Mexico.  Now I was alarmed and the first thought that occurred to me was that the plane had been hijacked. Conversations and murmurings stopped and I noticed that we were encountering a lot of turbulence all of a sudden.  What the hell is going on! Why aren’t they talking to us?  Say something!!! Forty-five minutes passed as we floated around the Gulf.  People glanced at each other but said nothing.  The loud-speaker came on and a voice stated simply, “Uh, folks?  We have a problem.”  A wave of fear ran through me and I hung on this strangers-with God knows what kind of qualifications-every word.  He continued, “we have no landing gear, we can’t land the plane.”  I instinctively grabbed the arm rests and raised my feet off the floor as if this was going to help me.  I felt as if I’d been cut free from the world, floating in a heavy metal tube.  “Now, we have 3 options.”  Oh my God are we going to vote?  “We can make a soft landing-fly out to sea and dump all the fuel and make a water landing.”  Sharks, certain death.  “We can dump all the fuel, coast back in to the airport and make a hard landing.”  What are the chances we will reach the airport after we’re out of gas?  “Or, we can keep doing what we are doing now which is to force turbulence to try to jog the landing gear out, get them unstuck.  We will get back to you in a few minutes.” My mind was racing, my own mortality smacking me in the face repeatedly. From the right side of the plane came, “what did he say?”  A red drunk face staring obliviously at me. WE HAVE NO LANDING GEAR AND WE’RE GOING TO DIE, was my immediate response.  Red face just shrugged and went back to his girl and conversation, obviously not believing me.

This is it! That’s it! It’s over! I should pray.  I can’t think of the words.  I sat paralyzed. The woman next to me looked over and we both had tears rolling down our cheeks. We held hands.  Please God please, please God please. I couldn’t make the prayer come.  That’s all I could think to say.  The mind is a funny thing and voices in my head were battling it out. We could survive a water landing couldn’t we? How could we survive that?  Too many variables.  Please God please, please God please.  How long have we been up here? We’re going to run out of fuel, oh my God we’re going to die. No, there has to be a way, even if we have to crash land?  Please God please, Please God please!!!!

As if this scenario wasn’t bad enough. The loud-speaker came on again. This time it was a flight attendant.  “Folks?” she implored, voice cracking. “Folks, we have every confidence in our Captain” voice trembling and tearful. Another shockwave through my body. Oh no! this is really it.  She knows we are going to die. Please God please.  Oh my God!!!!  I heard an almighty bang and huge rush of air.  “Folks! That was the landing gear!”  The plane erupted in cheers. “Uh, folks, this is the Captain, that noise you heard was the landing gear, we will be making an emergency landing. Please stay in your seats.”

The thought crossed my mind, how do we know the landing gear is working properly?  Is it all down? Is it stuck halfway? Will it collapse when we hit the runway?  This last thought remained.  We were back in Ft Lauderdale in no time and the flight attendants prepared us for a crash landing.  As we flew into the airport I realized the captain must have thought the same thing as I could see lights flashing everywhere; fire trucks and ambulances as far as the eye could see.  Oh my God, they are waiting for us to crash, I thought.  We flew over the runway and wheels touched down, nothing happened. We landed! We landed!! Thank you, thank you thank you thank you God!  The passengers erupted again.  The woman and I hugged.

I rushed off the plane, right past baggage claim and ran outside hoping to see my father who had been waiting for me.  I saw him smile and wave then his hand and smile dropped.  At that moment I began hyperventilating.  I think I stopped breathing when I saw the fire trucks on the runway from my perch in the sky.  I could hardly breathe and grabbed at the cars as I passed them trying to make my way to my father. He ran toward me, grabbed me and squeezed hard-which although comforting-didn’t help my breathing situation. He cried “my baby, my baby” and I continued to gasp for air almost collapsing.  It’s funny when I look back as I wonder what he had seen. I must have been white as a ghost. He cried as he held me not even knowing what had happened yet.  I suppose it was written all over my face. I still get choked up when I think of his reaction.

Although the outcome was good, it took me a few days to recuperate and my trip was ruined by the thought of having to get back on a plane to go home. Until this time I’d never encountered a problem flying. Since then I’ve had other hiccups but am still here to talk about them.  Routine plane sounds were seared into my brain on that trip and I’ll never forget them:   The dinging of the bells telling the flight attendants to be seated and when it’s ok to get up and start serving, the sound of the flaps moving and when we are climbing in altitude. Then there are lovely sounds especially that beautiful bang and rush of air when the landing gear comes down just before landing and when the plane’s speed goes from 150 to 30.  I especially love the sounds of the seatbelt sign being turned off, the clinking of unbuckling seatbelts and the door being opened to let me out!

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Glorious Italy-Lake Como

Pictures from my last trip to Italy:

Alps

Lake Como

View from Varenna

Another view of Varenna

Bellagio

All photos property of Serene Scribe: www.serenescribe.wordpress.com

Copyright Serene Scribe 2012