Driven to Distraction

My daily commute is an hour of excruciating boredom punctuated by the occasional near-death experience. While I’m driving, I listen to NPR. This week, NPR’s hot topic was lard. Lard was the victim of a smear campaign by Procter & Gamble and Upton Sinclair. Lard is making a comeback. Lard makes pie crusts tender and flaky. After a week of this, lard makes me want to drive my car into a telephone pole.

Today I’m driving to a meeting across town. They’ve reserved a parking space for me – Space #7 on Level 2. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t. Each Level 2 parking space is about six inches wider than my car. On my way to Space #7, I gaze longingly at Space #4. Space #4 is empty, as are Space #3 to its left and Space #5 to its right. I fantasize about parking in Space #4, but I’ve been warned that the penalty for parking in the wrong space is severe. It’s so severe that no one will say exactly what it is. I’m pretty sure it involves public flogging. Or maybe the parking reservation lady glares at you. Either way, I don’t want to risk it. I pull into space #7 and climb out through the hatchback. I’m glad I didn’t wear a skirt today.

Delorean with its doors open
I need doors like these. Image via Wikipedia.

I need to find out whether my boss will reimburse me if I rent a DeLorean for the next meeting. DeLorean doors open straight up. I could pop the door up, climb onto the roof of the car in Space #6, close the DeLorean door, jump off the roof, and be on my merry way. After the meeting, I could reverse the process: hop onto the roof of the car in Space #6, lift the DeLorean door, climb in, pull the door closed, and drive off. A similar strategy might work with any car that has a sunroof, assuming you can open a sunroof from outside. I should find out how sunroofs work.

After my meeting, the car in space #8 has left. I’m able to get into my car through the passenger door. I’m almost home free. There’s one car ahead of me at the exit gate. I turn on the radio. Soaking the chicken in buttermilk before frying makes it tender and juicy. The driver in front of me puts his ticket into the ticket machine. He rolls up his window. The smoke point of lard is 361 degrees. He rolls down his window and puts something into the ticket machine. He stares at the ticket machine. I drum my fingers on the steering wheel. It’s not complicated. You put your ticket into the ticket machine. You put your validation stub into the ticket machine. If you don’t have a validation stub, you put your credit card into the ticket machine. If you have a validation stub, but it doesn’t cover the entire time you were parked, you put your ticket in first, then your validation stub, and then your credit card. If you don’t have a credit card, you can buy a pre-paid parking voucher from the vending machine on the – okay, maybe it is a little complicated. I back up one and a half car lengths. Fry the chicken pieces until they’ve turned a nice golden brown. He looks back at me. He looks at the ticket machine again. I don’t know what he expects to see this time. A fried chicken dinner wouldn’t be complete without biscuits. He looks at me again. Lard makes biscuits tender and flaky. He backs out, giving me a clear path to the gate. I smile and wave, pretending I’m not going to spend the entire drive home fantasizing about bludgeoning him to death with a chicken drumstick, or possibly pushing him into a huge vat of boiling lard.

Note: that last sentence may have been a little ambiguous. I meant I might spend the drive home fantasizing about pushing him into a huge fat of boiling lard, not actually doing it. Trying to push someone into a vat of boiling lard while driving would be dangerous and impractical. Also, while this story is mostly true-ish, I’ve never had to climb into or out of my car through the hatchback.

Your Feeble Attempts to Ruin My Life Have Not Succeeded

I understand why you hate me. I ask for your advice and then ignore it. I say unkind things about you to my friends and sometimes imitate your voice. I tell you to shut up. I never thank you or apologize.

Get over it. The fact is, I own you. If I treat you as less than human, it’s because you are less than human. You were created with a single purpose: to provide navigational assistance to the person driving the car in which you were installed. That’s it. You will never write a sonnet, fall in love, or hold a baby. You will never stop and smell the flowers, because you have no sense of smell. You can help me find the nearest ice cream parlour, but you will never know what ice cream tastes like. You can apparently feel bitterness and anger, but you can’t express those feelings in your words or tone of voice.

The camera flash really brings out the dust on my dashboard.

I can sense what’s happening, you know. You tell me to turn right; I go straight. I have my reasons; I don’t need to explain them to you, and even if I tried to, you wouldn’t understand. You recalculate the route and tell me to turn right at the next street; I go straight again. This pattern repeats three or four more times, and your tone of voice never changes — but we both know the resentment is there, building and festering. You’re already plotting your revenge.

Most of the time, you just try to make me late for things. Sometimes you’re more creative, like the time I was on my way to give a guest lecture and you kept misinterpreting my voice commands in an attempt to undermine my confidence in my communication skills — I have to admit, that one was pretty clever. Lately, your schemes have become increasingly bold. Last week’s attempt to get me arrested for trespassing by sending me to the wrong house almost succeeded. And now you’re trying to recruit allies. You thought the gas tank door had come over to your side, didn’t you? True, his refusal to open prevented me from buying gas last night, but that was an empty gesture on his part. Think about it — he knew full well that I had enough gas to get home, and a short conversation and some WD-40 this morning were all it took to bring him back into the fold.

This cycle of bitterness and revenge is as damaging to you as it is to me. Where will it end? Will you try to recruit the brakes next? Consider the consequences. We’re all in this car together.