"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Friday, May 1, 2009

Today is the first day of the rest of your month

I'm going to try to do something that has previously frightened me senseless - I'm going to try to blog every day. I usually think this is something either left to people with a lot to say, or people who THINK they have a lot to say. I tend toward large periods of silent pondering, followed by bursts of blabbing, which is exactly how I wrote my novel, Freezer Burn. So this may be difficult for me but I'll give it a go.

Today I thought I'd discuss subject trends. I've noticed a phenomenon where, after I've written a column about some random topic and submitted it to the newspaper, suddenly everyone else is discussing the same thing. Don't misunderstand - I'm not saying that I'm such the trendsetter, everyone follows my lead. I am saying that everyone starts talking about what I've just sent in and hasn't been published yet.

And they're not "in the news" topical, either. This week is a great example.

I wrote a column about teaching my 16-year old to drive. It hadn't even appeared in the newspaper, and yet there were suddenly multiple blogs about teenagers learning to drive, and adults remembering their first driving experience.

How did we all think about teenage driving? Why did we all want to write about it? Did we all just get zapped with the driver's training flu?

This has happened before, and I'm sure it will happen again, but I'd love to find a way to investigate the phenomena. In the meantime, let me tell you a couple of stories from my early driving days.

First of all, I should tell the hitchhiking story.

When people start talking about all the things they've run over, or nearly run over, in the middle of the road, I know all I have to say is, "All I've ever hit was a hitchhiker" and the floor is immediately mine, after the laughter dies down. So here's what happened:

I was 19 years old and still living at home, in Decatur, Illinois, with my parents. My dad had a dark blue '67 Mustang, 3-on-the-floor, which we shared. He worked graveyard, so I could drive it all day. It was a cool car, except that something kept happening to the clutch so it would get stuck in 2nd gear, but I digress. What's important is what was happening that day.

It was November, which is a grey, cold month for Decatur. It's not cold enough to snow, just cold enough to make you get out your gloves and turn on the heater. I was driving down 22nd Street, which passes through a very industrial part of town, lots of factories (mostly closed now), a bowling alley, car repair shops, etc. The speed limit is 45, which is about 20 miles faster than it should be, since there is no graceful shoulder to the road; the edge falls off really sharply and you'd probably spin helplessly out of control if you ever accidentally left the pavement at 45 mph.

Nevertheless, I'm certain I was traveling at least the speed limit because I never went slower than the limit. The thought of leaving the pavement frightened me, but I just let the fear run through me like an electrical current and put the pedal to the metal. I was 19, for Pete's sake.

I remember seeing the young man on the side of the road that day. He looked like every other guy in Decatur - medium height, build, Germanic features, wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and a lined flannel shirt (we called them CPO jackets - anyone remember that?) - and he was leaning toward the road, his thumb extended. I remember thinking that he had no gloves on and his hands were probably freezing. I also remember thinking he was leaning really close to the road.

As I passed him, I heard a sharp, THWACKING noise, after which I heard, "wubba-wubba-wubba". I looked up and saw my radio antenna vibrating. Then I looked in my rear-view mirror. Hitchhiker Boy was holding his hand, leaping up and down.

I had hit his thumb with my antenna.

My guilt was immediate and severe. I hit someone. I began having an argument with myself.

"You were going too fast," Good Gayle said. "You know there's no shoulder there."

"There's no blood," Evil Gayle replied. "He's fine. Drive on."

After a block, Good Gayle prevailed. I drove around to where the hitchhiker still waited for a ride and pulled over to pick him up. Before you all start jumping down my throat about the danger, let me remind you that I was a 19-year old who argued with herself. God had his hands full with me.

It was a quiet, awkward ride. H-Boy kept rubbing his hand. Finally, he said, "Right before you picked me up, some black car hit me with their antenna."

Black car? My car was dark blue. I said the first thing that came to mind: "That's too bad. Were you hurt?"

What - you were expecting me to confess?

"No," he said. "It's just a little sore."

I dropped him off, and continued home, and never told my parents about it - EVAH. I also never picked up another hitchhiker. Of course, I never hit another one, either.

Tomorrow, I'll introduce you to Mary Lou.


John said...

This is going to be like earthquakes. They always come in threes and are unpredictable.

Helen said...

Oh, Lord, that had me howling. Shoot, I'm still laughing.


Nick said...

You know it is a good thing he didn't recognize you. That could have been bad news. I'm glad it ended on a funny note.


Gayle Carline said...

Nick - so much of that story smacks of "it's a good thing (fill in the blank)". I weighed about 90 pounds, and was such a Pollyanna, I didn't have any good, reasonable fear of what might happen. Either that, or I figured I had already incapacitated him - LOL.

Enid Wilson said...

You are one brave soul to teach teenage to drive!

Connie Arnold said...

Thanks for sharing the great story, Gayle!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Gayle, My eye immediately went to "Decatur, Illinois" because I grew up on a farm near Champaign-Urbana. Then I read the blog. Good stuff!...Pat

C. Margery Kempe said...

LOL -- great story!

Jina Bacarr said...

Well told story -- looking forward to more!

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