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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Not So Much Road Rage As It Is Road Irk

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For most of my life, I detested driving. It seemed impossibly dangerous and a terrible responsibility. There was so very much to look out for, and all at once! How could one, single person be expected to keep her eyes on the road, be aware of the speedometer, look out for other drivers, be conscious of hazards on the roadway, and remember everything she was supposed to know, including the directions of how to get where she was going, when and how to apply the brake (And what in the hell does it mean to imagine an egg under the pedals anyway? Why on earth would that ever, ever happen?), and holy crap, let's not forget the turn signals and Assured Clear Distance.

But I finally did get my driver's license at eighteen, and I used it only when necessary. I commuted to and from my classes at the local community college and thence to my part-time job at the bank. Happily, everyone else in my life loved to drive. I started to wonder if I somehow chose my friends and even my husband based upon their willingness to drive. Even my teaching job was only two and a half minutes away, from driveway to parking spot.

It was a lifestyle less than ideal, however, and I really felt as if my wings were clipped. But my discomfort with driving coupled with my lousy sense of direction made it Just One Of Those Things. Where would I go, anyway, that I wouldn't want to go without Rick or one of my friends?

My regular readers may recall that when I retired, Rick's present to me was a GPS. Since that day almost four years ago, I have made great use of it, taking solo trips to Virginia, Maryland, and lots of places here in Ohio. My little Prius is on the road almost every day, and driving is No Big Deal to me anymore.

And while I can't claim to be an expert driver, I have driven enough now to have noticed some things. I'm presenting them here, and I'd like to see if you've noticed them, too.

1. Buicks go more slowly than other cars.
2. Men wearing hats drive very, very slowly.
3. Vans are not allowed to go the speed limit.
4. It is a myth that red cars speed.
5. Old, green Ford Tauruses go slowly, and they cannot change lanes.
6. The bigger the pickup truck, the more slowly it goes.
7. The larger the vehicle, the greater the chance that I will get stuck behind it for eleventy hundred miles.

As you can perhaps determine from this list, I am often in a position wherein some cars are, as St. Patsy would say, "puddleducking." I am not often in a hurry, but Patience is still something I work at, and it irks me to no end to have other individuals impede my progress.

Buicks, for example, have no exception to their rule. The other day, I was behind a sporty-looking, black Buick two-door, brand new. Its windows were so tinted that it looked like the Batmobile. It actually revved its engine at the light. "Yes!" I thought. "This is one Buick that will let me get my ice cream home before it becomes a milkshake." Except...no. The car daintily crept away from the green light like a moribund snail. Could I neatly veer into the other lane? Of course not. Everyone else behind me was doing that. Even a red Ford Aerostar.

Sometimes, like the red Aerostar example, you get a terrible combination. This is what I fear when I am on a No Passing Zone two-way highway. Inevitably, I experience a 6/7 Combo or a 3/4 or even the Dreaded 1/2/4/7. Sometimes, The Hat Thing is a Thing All Its Own, and it is a Wildcard that can complicate any of the above. Toss in a few other variables (bumpersticker sentiments, cellphone usage, presence of DVD screens) and I can pretty much determine whether or not I'll be on time/serene/growling/needing to reach into the wine fridge.

It is not simply a question of Me Leaving Earlier, for often, I'm not due anyplace by a certain time. It is just that I want To Get There. Expeditiously and efficiently. I do not want to sightsee. I do not want to feel as if I am appearing in a slow motion sequence about traffic patterns in a Highway Department documentary.

Or, is that wrong?

Today, I laughed and laughed as my Prius and I finally passed the bigass flatbed truck going 43 mph in a 65 mph zone on the state highway. There was no one else on the road, but this hat-wearing guy was in my way and I was tired of looking at his ugly back end. That was a 7/2, for those of you scoring at home. I still had twenty more miles to go, and I wasn't going to stare at him in slo-mo the whole damn way.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Roadside Religion

http://www.conggiao.info/
Now that Spring is finally dawdling along to Ohio, Rick and I are weekending at the lake, which is in Ashland County, about a forty-five minute drive for us through small towns and farmland. And, apparently, judging by the yard signs we see, Proud Christians.

I am continually fascinated by this sort of Roadside Religion, this blaring Bible-thumping. My mother, St. Patsy, and I had a chat about it once when she accompanied me.

Nance: These God signs are ridiculous. Who puts a bigass sign full of religion in their yard?
St. Patsy: I know.
Nance: It's pretty lazy evangelizing, if you ask me. What if other people, like doctors, did their jobs like that? What if a doctor merely put up a sign in front of his office that said, "Take two aspirin and lie down" and that was it? What if I, as an English teacher, had simply put up a sign in my yard that said, "Apostrophes don't make plurals and go read the classics"? Those God Warriors are just taking the easy way out.
St. Patsy: (laughs; shakes head) Oh, Nance. Just ignore it.

My mother's stock answer for most things that annoyed me throughout my life has always been to Ignore It, from my siblings' torments to the sometimes hurtful retorts from my children to runs in my pantyhose to the random pimples on my chin. But I think it's pretty hard to ignore this:


And here's the other side of it, shot from the road parallel, the only place I could grab a decent photo:

As you can see, this is one bigass, preachy sign, the wording of which still escapes me. Exactly how does one Believe ON something/someone, anyway?  (St. Patsy assures me that this is Old Timey, Bible wording that she recalls from her Pre-Catholic Days.)  This sign is along a residential driveway, bordered by evergreens, and when I drove into said driveway to get the shot, it was peaceful and parklike, even eerily so. The other side's sentiment, stating that only Grace/Faith saves you, not Works, is a very Puritan sentiment. It goes all the way back to Predestination, that confusing doctrine that said your Final Destination (Heaven or Hell) was already decided at your birth, so no matter what you did, it didn't really matter. I still don't know why any Puritan bothered to behave at all. I'd have sinned myself ragged. (Of course, many did but the social and real costs were high.)

Lest you think that sign is the only one, let me present Exhibit B:


And its reverse:


This sign is much more subtle, of course, but is again in a rather nice and tranquil setting (the dead Easter plants notwithstanding). Across the street (where I parked to get out and get the shot) is a junky used car lot, and nearby is a railroad track. It is about two miles away from the bigass sign. And yes, that comma is killing me there.

This enormous and rather scary sign appeared over Easter. The bloody red paint presents a rather interesting and ironic contrast to its message:


Unfortunately, you cannot clearly see the small, also hand-lettered sign next to the bigass one. It reads "Do Not Come To The House." (Something the newspaper delivery person clearly took to heart, as you can tell by the newspaper lying in the grass.) This presents a wonderful paradox for me. JESUS LOVES YOU, but DO NOT COME TO THE HOUSE. Hey, they are into Jesus, but not so much what He was into.

The lakehouse is smack-dab in the middle of a large Amish enclave.  Right at the entrance to the lake community is an Amish farmhouse, and across the road is another one.  Several more are down the street.  They are easy to spot; they have no electric lines running to their homes, and their buggies and horses are often in view.  Once a week, their familiar black and deep blue clothing flutters on clotheslines next to white aprons and caps.

But the one thing you never see is overt signs of their devotion to their God.  They are quietly devout, silently living their Christian ideology. Their farmstands are shuttered on Sundays.

I'm a recovering Catholic; I am not religious, so I don't understand evangelical religions.  One thing I do understand, however, is that I don't like being preached to about pretty much anything, especially passive-aggressively.

A long time ago, someone passed this along about religion--I forget who--but I think it's a great analogy, however crude:  Religion is like a penis. It’s fine to have one, it’s fine to be proud of it, but please don’t whip it out in public and start waving it around...and don’t try to shove it down my throat.



Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Money Isn't Everything, And We're Worth Way More Than Twenty Bucks


Forgive me, Dear Readers, for this is certainly Old News to all of you, but I am only now hearing of the Campaign To Put A Woman On The Twenty-Dollar Bill. (I know; nothing gets past me for long.) Certainly this is something we need to talk about, and I haven't even sorted my own feelings about this yet. It's all terribly Grace Bedell-esque, isn't it?

In case anyone else has been similarly Out Of It, a little girl wrote to President Obama last year after doing a report on Anne Hutchinson, a Puritan woman who audaciously believed that God could speak to individuals, not just ministers, and who was termed a Jezebel by the local clergy for holding prayer services in her home. When this nine-year old student, Sofia, was watching other students give their reports, some of the others used paper money or coins as illustrations of their historical (male) figures. Sofia could not; neither could any of the other students who chose women. (Apparently no one chose Susan B. Anthony or Sacajawea.) She decided to write to the President and see if he could do something about this.

President Obama wrote back, albeit rather belatedly, and the Interwebs are now all aflutter with a campaign. Replacing President Andrew Jackson was the easy choice because of his tarnished reputation with Native Americans. ( The fact that he adopted two American Indian sons is not enough of a neutralizing factor.)  I'd rather we replace Benjamin Franklin because of his reputation as a known plagiarist and terrific bore, but no one asked me. (His reputation as a Big Deal among the French, especially their women, still amazes me, but then the French are quite fond of Jerry Lewis, too, so I have to say that they have historically Bad Taste In Men. Only their cuisine and wine save them. But I digress.)

Anyway.

The Interwebs got up a bigass poll as to which Historically Notable woman we want passed around by consumers in exchange for goods and services instead of President Andrew Jackson, and therein lies my Big Issue.

Obviously, I'm overthinking this. But the Principle Symbolism of passing around Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, or Chief Wilma Mankiller in exchange for stuff is ... icky to me. I feel as if it defeats the Purpose of the thing. These women didn't traffic in a currency as low and mean as money. They stood for principles much more meaningful, much more important. They worked for Freedom, Equality, Rights, Dignity. I hate the idea of putting any of them on money.

Yes, I'm aware that my own Personal and Revered Hero, President Abraham Lincoln, is on two kinds of currency, coin and paper money, and for the most part, I've never given that much thought. But I do cringe at the commercials that use his likeness to trump sales for insurance in an undignified way, and caricatures or other likenesses on Presidents' Day. I hate it. It's sad when historical figures have no control over their names or likenesses (Don't get me started on the TV show "Salem." They should be ashamed and in court.) If I had my way, President Lincoln wouldn't be on money either. No one would be. Put the flag, the eagle, the purple mountains majesty on there. It's more dignified all the way around. (Look what happened in Canada with Spocking Fives.)

It's not that I'm against money. I like it, and I hope to see a lot more of it. But money should not be a monument. (To some people and political parties, it already is.) Money doesn't increase awareness of the people whose image it bears. That's easy enough to prove. Grab ten people off the street and ask them if they know whether Hamilton or Franklin was a president of the United States. (For the record, neither one was.)

Sofia, the letter-writer herself, seems to be unaware that we already have two women on currency. How much awareness of Susan B. Anthony and Sacajawea did those coins raise? And while a good argument can be made that the dollar coin is an unfamiliar and rarely used form of American currency, is a twenty-dollar bill really a teaching tool? Ask any nine-year old like Sofia to name who is on the nickel and who is on the quarter and see if she or he knows that they are two different presidents.

President Obama's response to Sofia is lovely and encouraging in just the right way. The response of the Interwebs is, in the words of William Shakespeare (not Benjamin Franklin, although he would steal them outright for his "Almanack"), "full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing."

Speaking for myself, I'd rather not have my life commemorated by appearing on currency. Its value goes up and down; it is passed around to hands of varying repute. It is used for things that I may never have foreseen or sanctioned. I would rather, if a person of note, leave my life in the hands of careful and kind teachers and historians.

Sofia can learn more from her report on Anne Hutchinson by following the example of Anne Hutchinson than she can from envying the lazy posters of her classmates. Become a keeper of the flame by teaching about notable women and become a Notable Woman herself. She has a lot of examples already to follow.

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