Hey – we may as well have fun as we go sliding into old age, right?

Posts tagged ‘driving’

Tempting Flying Fate

I just returned from a week in North Carolina.  It was ridiculously lovely weather, and we had a great time.  Since Hubby had been there for more than a month with his truck, I planned on flying down and then driving back with him.  Seven hundred sixty-three miles from door to door.  We drove it in eleven hours and fifty-five minutes yesterday.  Last weekend, it took me twenty-two hours to fly there.  Not a misprint, folks.  Half a day to drive.  Nearly a full day to fly.  What’s wrong with this picture? 

“Traveling adventures” are drawn to me like moths to the light.  Think of something that can go wrong, and it surely will when I’m flying.  Missed connections.  Freak storms.  Presidential visits that close down airports.  More freak storms.  Getting to Boston from Kansas City via Minneapolis.  Did I mention freak storms?

But it wasn’t an act of God that waylaid me last week.  It was a brutal combination of mechanical problems and holiday travel.  And, most importantly, a jinx.  I jinxed myself.  I knew it as soon as the words were out of my mouth – I invited disaster, and disaster accepted the invitation. 

You know how that works – like when someone says “wow, we’ve painted the whole room without getting a drop of paint on the carpet!”  Jinx!  Within five minutes, you are guaranteed to spill half a can of paint, or drop a loaded paint brush, on the carpet.  “I can’t believe we got the baby to sleep so easily!”  Jinx!  Two minutes later, the little one will be screaming non-stop.  “The last few times we’ve left the dog alone, she’s been great – I think she’s over that anxiety problem she had.”  Jinx!  Half the sofa and most of the door frame will be destroyed when you get home.  And, of course, the ultimate jinx question… “What could possibly go wrong?”  Just dive under your desk when you hear that one – fate will be happy to provide the answers fairly quickly to anyone foolish enough to ask.

So what did I say that stretched a two-stop flight into an ordeal?  While being driven to the airport by a great friend, I mentioned that I had a couple of hours of layover time in both DC and Charlotte, making for a long commute.  That was safe.  And then it happened – before I realized it, I was saying the words “but the good thing about the extra time is that if there are any delays anywhere, I’ll have plenty of time and I won’t have to stress about it.  And the weather’s gorgeous.  Gee, I hope I didn’t just jinx myself!”  So, not only did I invite fate with my bragging about all my spare time, I also said the “j-word” out loud, and laughed.  I can’t believe I was that stupid. 

But I forgot about my carelessness after an easy flight to DC.  I spent a relaxing few hours in the US Airways Club enjoying free coffee and snacks and a great magazine (how does Cher manage to look so hot at our age?).  All was calm.  I leisurely strolled to my gate, priding myself on the wisdom of purchasing that day pass to the Club, and I was looking forward to seeing Hubby after four long, long weeks.  I felt just a slight chill when I saw that the flight was delayed an hour, but I wasn’t too concerned – after all, I had all that buffer time in Charlotte before my next flight.  Still feeling smug, I walked back to the Club room for some more free coffee.  By the time I got there, the flight had been canceled. 

Canceled?!?  What do you mean, canceled?  There’s no weather anywhere.  How can the flight be canceled?  Excuse me, did you just say there are no more flights tonight?  It’s only 7:30 – how can there be no flights to your hub in Charlotte?  Oh, there are flights, just no seats? Thanksgiving travel.  College students.  DC emptying for the week.  Yeah, I get it.  So, first thing in the morning, right?  Excuse me, did you just say I can’t get to Charlotte until tomorrow night?  And can’t get to my final destination until almost midnight tomorrow?  What the hell?!  Okay, how about the next closest airport?  No good.  How about the next one past that?  No good.  How about Raleigh, almost two hours away?  Nope.  But you can get me to Greensboro.  220 miles from Hubby.  And you still can’t get me there until tomorrow morning.  Well, isn’t that special.  The tears mount, but they don’t fall.  No sense crying over something I can’t fight.  And I know the whole mess is my fault for incurring the jinx.

The advantage of being over 50 is that you have a firm understanding of how to tell the difference between things we can change and things we can’t.  May as well make the best of it.  I take my meal voucher to Five Guys at the airport and order up a fabulous cheeseburger with grilled mushrooms and A-1 sauce.  I take it with me to the shuttle that whisks me to the Sheraton Suites in Alexandria, Va.  The burger is still toasty warm after waiting in a long line of Charlotte-bound travelers trying to get rooms. 

My beautiful room at Sheraton Suites in Alexandria, Va. And I deserved it.

And the room is a delight.  A true suite, with a couple of flat-screen TV’s, french doors opening to the fluffy, white, down-comforted bed.  Off go the shoes, on goes the TV, and down goes the best burger in the world.  Lemonade out of the lemon I handed myself.  Morning wake-up call is on time.  Morning flight is on time.  Hubby made the true sacrifice, skipping a golf tournament and driving more than two hours to be there as I walk off the plane in Greensboro at 9:30.  We take a leisurely drive across half the state to our NC house, with a stop for breakfast.  At long last, I reach my destination. 

And the trip home to NY yesterday?  In a four-wheeled vehicle on America’s highways?  We pulled out of the driveway in NC right at 5AM.  At 4:55PM, we pulled into our garage in NY.  Two gas stops and a couple of rest area stops to change drivers.  No hassles.  Minimal construction.  No traffic to speak of.  Great weather.  Why?  Because I was smart enough not to say anything stupid before we left that might have jinxed us.  Lesson learned, mouth wisely shut (for now).

Stupid Things I’ve Done While Driving

Driving home from the gym this morning, I heard the radio DJ talking about an accident somewhere in Pennsylvania, caused when the driver tried to change his shoes while driving.  Basically, anything one does while driving a vehicle, other than the actual driving of said vehicle, is stupid.  Propelling a several-thousand-pound hunk of steel down a highway at 70 mph is a pretty serious responsibility, and it deserves more than a fleeting amount of attention. 

But we’ve all done it – we’ve all “multi-tasked” while driving, putting ourselves and everyone else on the road at risk.  Here’s my list of transgressions.  It should be noted that most of these were done well in my past, and I’ve learned a thing or two with age.  Or maybe I just can’t multi-task as well as I used to.  Can you add any tasks I haven’t thought of trying?  Hey – keep your mind out of the gutter – I’m not THAT stupid, and hopefully neither are you!

  1.  EATING:  I know, this one’s a no-brainer.  Is there anyone who hasn’t eaten while driving?  That’s why they have drive-through windows, right?  I’ll admit, this is one I haven’t given up, especially on long trips.  The key is to find something neat and well-contained to eat while driving.  Keep the wrapper on half the burger, and start eating on the side where the ketchup is already over-flowing to avoid having a lapful.  Try to find something that doesn’t require a lot of eye contact – I’ve never thought that ice cream cones were a good choice, because you have to watch what you’re doing. 
  2. MAP-READING:  It’s always a better idea to stop the car to read the maps, assuming you don’t have a passenger that can handle being the navigator for your trip.  Generally, my husband drives and I tackle the maps.  This task may be going the way of the Dodo bird though, as everyone embraces GPS technology and paper maps start becoming obsolete.  I’ll miss them.  There’s something very comforting about unfolding a map and seeing your entire journey laid out before you, rather than seeing it in small bites of data.
  3. MAKE-UP APPLICATION:   Ladies, if you’re a non-morning person like me, applying make-up in the car can become a flat-out necessity.  There have been times when I habitually put all my make-up on during my morning commute.  I’ve never worn a ton of make-up, but it was still quite a process.  I’d try to focus on maximizing my time at stop lights, frantically brushing on blush and mascara.  As long as I wasn’t the first car in line, I didn’t need to watch the actual traffic light.  I just had to keep the brake lights of the car in front of me in my line of sight.  When their brake lights went off, it was usually a signal that the light had changed and I needed to apply at least a little of my attention to the road.  And on mornings when the traffic lights didn’t cooperate?  Yes, I confess…I drove down the road while watching the rearview mirror or vanity mirror on the back of the visor, and I applied blush, mascara and lipstick at 50 mph or more.  The biggest risk of harm (disregarding the risk of causing an accident) was mascara – one little bump and the mascara brush is in my eye – ouch.  The biggest risk of comical disaster was lipstick.  A good-sized pot hole could leave my lipstick running right up the side of my face.  I retired from make-up-while-driving a while ago, with the exception of lipstick.  But after all these years, I don’t even need a mirror for lipstick, unless I’m wearing something uncharacteristically dark or bright.  I can generally put on my lipstick without a glance in the mirror, and then, when I finally get to a light or my destination, I just check to make sure I haven’t done anything too embarrassing. 
  4. CHANGING SHOES/CLOTHING :   I don’t think I’ve ever tackled changing my clothes while driving, with the exception of shedding a coat or jacket.  But I have to admit I’ve changed shoes while driving.  For a couple of summers, I did it regularly.  My husband and I were in a couples golf league on Friday nights, and the course was over 30 miles from my place of employment.  The highways were always busy on summer Friday nights, with everyone headed north (the direction I was headed) to camp and boat for the weekend.  I was always the last person to get to the golf course (does this sound like a list of excuses?).  My husband would often be waiting in the parking lot with the golf cart fully loaded, barking at me to “get in!”  So yes, I changed shoes while I drove.  How?  Well, I’d remove the right shoe quickly, and drive with a sock, then quickly slip on the right shoe.  Then do the same with the left foot.  Could I tie them as I drove?  Uh, no.  As foolish as I was, I wasn’t that crazy.  But, if I caught a long traffic light along the way, I would certainly take advantage of it to tie my golf shoes!  That long, hectic, stressful commute was the primary reason we dropped out of the league after two summers.  It generally took me three holes just to settle my nerves from the mad rush to get there. 
  5. CELL PHONES:  Ah, the bane of the 21st century.  How did we live without them?  And how can we get back there again?  Today we are forever tethered to the world at large through our cell phones.  Don’t get me wrong – I adore my Blackberry(s).  I love having email and internet access while I’m traveling.  But I do seriously try to avoid using it in any way while driving.  For one thing, it’s illegal in New York.  For another, it’s really irresponsible to think you can look at a phone screen and drive a car at the same time.  Far too many people have died trying.  I’ve been behind the wandering vehicles of people who are clearly looking down at their phones instead of up at the road.  With all that said, I have, on rare occasions, used my phone while driving.  I use a hands-free device to  talk, and I don’t think I’ve ever typed a message while driving.  But I have read messages while driving (I know, I know).  And I have pulled up internet weather maps and GPS maps on occasion as I drove.  There’s just something so compelling about smart phones, and we convince ourselves that we MUST have access to information immediately.  But is there really anything that can’t wait until we reach our destination?  Or that we couldn’t have done before we got behind the wheel?

The older we get, the smarter we get, right?  Which means we should be smart enough by now to just drive, and pay attention to what we’re doing.  I’m going to really, really try to cut back even more on distractions while I drive.  Lately, I’ve been leaving the Blackberry in my purse, instead of pulling it out where it’s handy, “just in case”.  I want to go sliding into old having fun, but not on a hospital gurney!  Let’s all try to be more careful out there, okay? 

If you can think of anything silly you’ve done while driving that I haven’t mentioned, please share!

NOTE TO MY SUBSCRIBERS:  You may have noticed I skipped nearly an entire week of posting.  Sorry, but I’m slowly moving my normal posting day to Sunday/Monday.  Trying to publish a post mid-week proved to be a bit challenging with a full-time job.  The natural solution, of course, would be to write them ahead of time, but I’m a deadline-driven gal, and I’ve spent too many bleary-eyed Tuesday nights frantically finishing a blog.  Thanks for understanding!

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