Sunday, April 13, 2014

Stuck In The Middle With You (Hundreds of Drivers)

I used to have an art teacher that spoke of tilling the soil of your mind. She insisted that if you begin doing things differently like opening doors with the opposite hand you normally do, trying a new restaurant instead of that same old place or taking a different route to work, it tends to stir up the imagination and stimulates the mind to create. I can’t say I totally agree with that when considering the recent changes in my life.

I would like to talk about exploring the wonders of the human mind when it has been freshly oxygenated with a good tilling but I’m not.  I want to talk about what happens when the mind has been caught off guard with unexpected situations. I moved recently. Not unexpectedly, happily. My husband and I found a house we love just forty miles north of where we were.  It took a good year for us to find exactly what we were looking for and going through the escrow was like being on the wrong end of a rusty plow, but it’s kind of like childbirth, once it’s over you tend to forget about the pain. Heh. Till, till, till.

With all the out-of-the-regular activity going on in my life you would think my mind would light up like a searchlight scanning the sky with bright ideas. Instead, it was more like Novocain being injected directly into my creative center. My frontal lobe is still numb but I am starting to feel a noticeable tingle as the reactivation occurs. To add to the dead zone, notifying everyone of our address change was nothing more than added anesthesia.

Businesses are so complex these days that they often don’t communicate with themselves. Just before we moved we changed our information at the bank we deal with. Our debit cards were successfully updated but our credit cards with the same bank were not. When I tried to download a free app on my phone I kept getting the message that my card number didn’t match my bank records. This moronic bank shall remain nameless but rhymes with Mel’s Cargo.

The app I wanted to download monitors traffic and alerts you of accidents and advises alternate routes. A co-worker recommended that I check traffic daily because my commute home is a good thirty-five minutes north on Interstate 5 otherwise known as the grapevine and is well known for its closures and gridlock. Well, I couldn’t download the app so I thought I could get by without it for a day or two.

Have you heard of the idiom, ‘Baptism by Fire’? If not, I’m sure you’ve had a very difficult first experience with something.  Sigh, I’m spoiled. For the last seventeen years, I have enjoyed an eight-minute commute to work. Most people would think 35-40 minutes is a drop in the bucket and some would trade me in a heartbeat but it has been an adjustment.

I have now had the pleasure of being trapped in a traffic jam for six hours. I am truly sorry for the victims of the accident that caused the gnarly congestion but I have never experienced being held captive that long between two semi trucks.

To my left was, Three Amigos Tequila, organic, prize winning, 100% de Agave and produced by the Gonzalez family in Jalisco, Mexico. Of course my mind wandered to the movie, Three Amigos, and I was able to recall the song that Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short sang in the desert, Blue Shadows on the Trail. I tried to remember the words but it’s hard to sing the harmonies without Lucky, Dusty and Ned. 

To my right was a Dos Equis semi.  The logo brought an image of the most interesting man in the world to my mind, Jonathan Goldsmith, the ruggedly handsome character in the Dos Equis TV ads. I imagined him slapping the Three Amigos across the face in Three Stooges style, back and forth, over and over, eyes rolling, hats spinning. That actually provoked an out loud laugh. Wow, I had managed to occupy my mind with that scenario for a whole ten minutes.

It was the flash of an eight-foot-wide chrome mud flapper on the back of an RV that sported the name, Country Coach that snapped me into the moment. Why would anyone need a mud flapper across the whole back end of their RV? Do they know that every time they hit the brakes that flap swings and reflects EVERY SINGLE DAMNED headlight behind them?  It’s blinding! I felt like I was being tortured with intermittent third degree…for hours! I would have given up my darkest secret for relief. If I only had a crane and why wasn’t my car equipped with a coloring book?

Yes, I survived the ordeal, got to recognize my fellow travelers, watched as they indiscriminately relieved themselves on the side of the freeway, played their radios too loud, cursed and pounded their steering wheels and tried to drive past the whole mess on the shoulder of the road. Then, five and a half hours later, just past the site of the accident, a heartbreaking mess, the traffic thinned considerably and then magically disappeared. Where did everyone go? After all we had been through not so much as a goodbye kiss blown, not a one? I got home from work at 11PM.

You can be sure I called Mel’s Cargo bank the next day to give them a piece of my mind. Of course it wasn’t that poor soul’s fault that our records were not updated and she apologized profusely. I calmed down and asked her if she had ever been in a 6-hour traffic jam. She admitted she hadn’t. I pressed her for more, I felt smug and justified. What was the longest time she had been stuck in traffic? She humbly reported that she had been in the Birmingham, Alabama gridlock for 19 hours in January.
I only had two words for her before we hung up, “You win.”

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