Archives for posts with tag: driving

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St. Patrick’s Day 2017.

It was a cold, clear morning, and I left for work early so I could stop at the Dollar Tree to pick up some Luck o’ the Irish beads and accessories. We were having a party at work that afternoon (yes, my office is super fun), and I wanted to look festive.

My community is gated, and the gate I leave from everyday is on a hill. It’s not super-steep, but if the weather is dicey they will leave those gates open so drivers don’t have to wait for the gate to rise and possibly lose traction.

So, on this cold, crisp morning, I drove through the gate and hit my brakes as I descended down the little hill, because there was a car stopped at the intersection waiting to turn right. No extraordinary circumstances…just another morning leaving Lake Monticello.

As I pushed down on the brake pedal, the car wasn’t coming to a complete stop, and then I felt them give a little, so I pushed down even harder on the brake and then there was a whirring sound, and the car just kept rolling. I tried and tried to steer clear of the car in front of me, but there just wasn’t enough room, and I smashed into his rear bumper.

Fuck.

We pulled over, and I apologized over and over, not sure why my brakes decided not to work. It took him a good 5 minutes of digging through a pile of papers in his glove box to find his insurance info, and amidst a flurry of apologies, we exchanged info and parted ways.

The damage to both cars were mainly cosmetic, but it sucked none the less. I cautiously made my way into town and made an appointment to have my brakes checked, pronto.

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And my Kia dealership? They found NOTHING wrong with them. I asked how this could be…they had failed to work causing me to have this accident. Then they walked me through the workings of the ABS braking system.

They assumed that the ground where I attempted to apply my brakes must have been slick somehow…even though is was cold and dry that morning. When I described the accident to them, the whirring sound I heard was the ABS kicking in, causing my brakes to switch from the kind of braking that results in my car to STOPPING to the kind of braking that keeps my car from skidding.

I don’t like this system. I don’t like it because it has proven to me that when I go to STOP, my brakes might have another, brighter idea. An idea that causes me to crash into the car in front of me. An idea that causes $1500 worth of damage to my car.

ABS? I call BS.

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This is a repost from 3 years ago… it’s the anniversary of when I got stuck in the snow. A horrible thing I never want to repeat.

Bad-Roads

Let me start this post by saying I like snow. I enjoy the prospect of a storm blowing in, and me all safe and snug at home, with enough bread, milk and wine. I even like to shovel, and am usually out clearing our driveway before the flakes have stopped wafting to the ground.

Wednesday I had to endure one of the most harrowing experiences of my life. Bad timing coupled with bad weather had me at the mercy of mother nature and perhaps even fate – it was 3+ hours of sheer torture.

I knew a bad storm was coming in, but it wasn’t supposed to start until the evening – 5 or 6 pm. I get out of work at 6, but there was no way I was staying that late with the forecast they were predicting. Usually you can waive a dismissive hand at our weather folk, but this was different. Even the weather channel was on board with the predictions, so I worked through lunch and left at 5.

By then the snow had just started in town. Hubby had called and said snow at home had started a half an hour earlier. I wasn’t worried…it’s only a 25 minute commute and I was confident that I could get home with no trouble. After all, the snow had just started!

There was some traffic getting out of town, which was to be expected, and before long I was on the long and winding way home. When I was around 3 miles from pulling into my driveway traffic came to a dead halt. I was right at the base of a long and fairly steep hill that I have to travel up in order to make it home. I turned on the radio and discovered that there was an accident about a mile up the road and both lanes were closed.

Now I had to make a decision…stay here and wait or turn around and find another way home. At this point reader, you need to understand something – there are only 2 or 3 ways to get to my development, buried deep in the sticks of central Virginia. Making the decision to turn around meant traveling 5-8 miles just to get to the closest cross road that I could turn onto.

But, I figured that if I waited where I was, the snow (which was getting heavier and sticking) might make getting my car up that steep hill impossible. Besides, I had no water and I knew I’d have to pee within the next hour or so. That being said, I turned my car around and made the slow drive back, all the while figuring which way I should take.

The first route I took was a huge waste of time. I didn’t get more than 1/4 mile down the road before I was told the road up ahead was closed and we all had to turn around. When I got back to the crossroads I skidded on the snow and almost crashed into another car. My heart was pounding,  my knees were shaking, and I just wanted to go home.

The next road I took taxed me to my very core. On a sunny day this road is a pain in the ass…windy as hell…the girls always get carsick on it unless I travel at 20 mph or so. But, this road is the quickest way to get to where I needed to go, so I took it.

I was only driving at around 6 mph down steep hills and twisty turns. At one point I had to drive up a fairly steep S-curve. Letting the car just roll, and barely giving it any gas, I fish-tailed my way up that hill very slowly the whole while chanting “help me God, help me God, help me God.” When I made it to the top without landing in a ditch or hitting another car, I breathed an audible sigh of relief. It was mostly down hill from here.

As I was heading down the next hill at a record speed of 4 mph, a car in the opposite direction came zipping up the road, went to make the turn and ran straight into a rather deep ditch. Although I’m sure the driver turned their wheels, the car just didn’t respond on the slick roads and just rolled right off the road. The car was now at a 30 degree angle, half of it on the road, half of it in the ditch. I thought to myself,  that person is totally fucked – and that could be me very easily if I’m not super careful.

As if just driving wasn’t tense enough, my windshield wipers decided to start icing up at this point. I had the defroster blasted so hot and hard that I was sweating bullets all bundled up in my coat, but it was no match for the weather outside. Rather than wiping the snow off my windshield, my wipers were just smearing the snow and ice – I had about a 2 inch field of semi-clear vision.

Finally I made it to the next crossroad, which thankfully had a gas station. I got out to go inside and my legs were actually wobbly. The past hour and half of driving in the snow in beyond shitty conditions had exhausted me. I went to the bathroom, bought a couple of waters, called hubby and got back in the car to make my 3rd attempt at getting home.

I began to get hopeful…If I took it slow, driving wasn’t really that bad along roads that were fairly straight. I made the turn that takes me to my development and about a mile down the road, more tail lights. Hells bells, not again. One call to hubby confirmed it. There was an accident at least 7 miles up the road – all these people were just sitting there – along 7 miles of road just waiting for it to be cleared. So, once again, I turned around.

My only option at this point was to get on the highway and head East. This would take me past my house, but bring me to a pretty major intersection where there was a hotel, a Walmart and a few fast food joints. The highway was pretty good if you went slow. I don’t think I broke the 25 mph mark, but folks in 4 wheel drive vehicles were zipping past me. I also saw at least 4 cars off the shoulder with their 4 ways blinking. Again, I thought to myself, slow and steady and super careful. I was determined not to be a VDOT statistic.

25 minutes later I made it to Zion Crossroads and  headed straight for the Best Western. In the lobby I called hubby and asked if I should just get a room. It’s stupid because I was only 15 minutes from home now (in good traveling weather) but it would probably take me at least another hour of driving to get  home and I just didn’t think I had the strength. I had left my office two and a half hours before, and had been driving in blinding snow ever since. I was done.

As luck would have it, she had one room left and I took it. But before I went up, I got back in my car and drove across the road to the Walmart where I picked up some food, a toothbrush and a night gown. By the time I got back and in my room (thanks to a ridiculously slow cashier) it was 8:30. I called my family who were relieved that I was safe for the night, but bummed that I was not home.

They weren’t the only ones. But before I went to bed that night, I took a moment to thank God for getting me somewhere safe and warm for the night. I could have easily been in my car in a ditch, spending the night rationing my water and peeing in a snow drift. I decided I was one lucky gal.

The next morning I awoke with a sense of dread. One look out the window made me realize my morning drive home wasn’t going to be fun. About a foot of snow had fallen, but on the bright side the roads I was taking home were primary roads, and had most likely been plowed. After breakfast I dug out the foot high snow drift from around my car, cleared off the ice with the side of a ball point pen, and began my drive home.

The road from the hotel to the main road was horrible, and filled me with a sense of dread. But once I reached the main road I saw blacktop and my spirits lifted. This might not be so bad.

And it wasn’t. It was slow going, that’s for sure, but the roads were drivable if you were careful. The one part of my drive I was dreading the most was getting into the gate of my development. The one closest to my house is up a pretty steep hill. There were abandoned cars piled up at the base of the gate – they obviously couldn’t get up the hill and opted to leave their cars and walk home.

I made it up the hill fine, but got stuck at the top in a huge pile of slushy snow that the plow failed to remove. Ugh. Here I was a  mile from home and I finally got stuck. But not for long. Two very nice fellas came to my rescue and helped push my car out of the slush. Hooray! I was almost home!

When I reached my house hubby was there and had shoveled out a nice spot for me at the base of the driveway. I was never so happy to pull into that narrow driveway – I’d finally made it home.

After many hugs, and a hot cup of tea I took a much needed shower, put on some sweatpants and just flopped on the couch. It had been a long night and a long morning. Even though it was only 9:30 in the morning, I felt like it should be noon.

Do you know I fell asleep before 8:00 that night? I guess my body needed the rest.

I’ve come to a conclusion…I’m never taking a chance when it comes to the weather again. If my boss doesn’t like me leaving early…fire me. I don’t ever want to go through that again. Ever. Especially since I have the capacity to work fully from home. The only task I can’t do remotely is answer the phone…but really, who’s going to be calling during a blizzard?

Nope… from now on if they’re calling for bad weather I’ll just tap my snow boots together three times and say, “There’s no place like home.”

pedestrian-accident-II-road-sign-tire-tracks

This morning I was taking my usual 2.25 mile walk around my neighborhood. The street I predominantly walk on is somewhat busy, especially in the morning with folks heading to work and school buses picking up kids. So even though I am usually listening to a podcast or an audio book, I keep my eyes and ears open to what is going on around me.

I was coming up to an intersection and noticed a car was approaching but wasn’t concerned because she has a stop sign and I was pretty much already 1/3 of the way across the street. She’s rolling up, and rolling up, and her car begins to turn (towards me) and turn and she’s still coming, and I’m still walking and she’s still coming.

I pretty much had to stop dead in my tracks to avoid being hit. As I peered into her driver’s side window to be sure a zombie wasn’t behind the wheel, I see a woman, head down, fiddling with stuff in her middle console.

Her head was down. And she was making a left hand turn onto a busy street. She never even stopped.

I began to yell things like, “Hey watch it!” and  “You almost hit me!” as her car moved on down the road. I was pissed, and I felt the need to tell her so. I raised my bright green gloved hands and gave her the double middle finger.

As I began to turn back around, I noticed her put on her brakes and pull to the side. So I stopped, took off my headphones and watched as she made a U-Turn and came back my way.

She pulled up along side me, lowered her window and began to apologize. The first thing she said? “I wasn’t texting.”

Apparently she had spilled her coffee and was too preoccupied with that to notice me. Okay, I guess that can happen. We’ve all been distracted while driving from time to time, and luckily nobody got hurt. Then she volunteered the information that she was breast pumping – I am assuming it was an automated thing – but I guess she needed it to add validity to the fact that she blew through a stop sign and almost killed me.

Being a naturally forgiving person, I was telling her that all was okay when she said, “But I have to tell you, it was very inappropriate for you to give me the double finger when I have kids in the car.”

Um….what?

For a split second, I felt a pang of shame, but then my rage took over. The rest of the coversation went something like this…

ME: Are you kidding me? You almost ran me over!

IDIOTIC DRIVER: But I have a four year old and a baby in the car – that was very rude.

ME: Well gee, maybe you would’ve been happier if you had actually hit me. Then your kids wouldn’t have been subject to seeing the middle finger. Instead they’d get to see a mother of two put into an ambulance because their mom doesn’t know how to pay attention.

IDIOTIC DRIVER: Yes, I was wrong to not be looking, but you were wrong to give me the finger.

ME: I had every right to do that! YOU ALMOST HIT ME! Besides, how am I supposed to know you have kids in the car? I was too busy watching my life pass before my eyes to take note of how many passengers you had in your car and the ages of each!

IDIOTIC DRIVER: You should ALWAYS assume there are kids in the car and never gesture like that.

ME: Why would I ever assume you had kids in your car WHEN YOU ARE MAKING A LEFT HAND TURN WHILE LOOKING AT YOUR LAP? What lunatic drives like that with KIDS IN THE CAR?

Inner dialogue: Ok moron – here are a few things I can assume.

  1. I can assume that when you come to a stop sign, you are actually going to stop, especially if there is a person in front of you.
  2. I can assume that if you did spill your coffee, the responsible thing to do is to put your fucking car in park and take care of it. NOT to just keep on truckin’ while you mop up your shit.

If I can’t assume those things, I should not feel the need to assume that your precious kids are in the car. Kids that you are so fearful of maybe knowing what the middle finger means rather than a mom who drives distracted.

She was apologizing over and over, but she was asking me to do the same and I just would not. In the end I might have said something like “Fine Sorry. Whatever. Keep your eyes on the road.”

Bottom line was, she was wrong. Dead wrong. Yet somehow she was incenced that I had flipped her the bird. I’ve been in her shoes – but when I make a boneheaded driving mistake I beg forgiveness and take whatever crap the other guys throws at me. I have it coming.

Because after she almost hit me I was not going to let this lady continue on with her busy toddler toting, breast pumping day without letting her know just what I thought of her. And short of chasing her down, which I could not do, I resorted to the international sign for go fuck yourself. Sue me if you disagree, but in my book I had the absolute right.

And as I walked back home, it dawned on me that her kids couldn’t possibly have seen me flip the bird. They were driving away; the kid’s backs to me. Unless her kids are owls, or Linda Blair, there is no way they could’ve seen it. But I failed to think of it when I could have used it to shut her big trap.

And that is so Typical of me.

car crash

Yesterday I debated exactly when to leave the house to pick up my daughter from school. I wanted to watch the end of Project Runway to see who got eliminated – I could have saved it until I got back home, but decided to fast forward through all the boring judges comments and watch it before I left.

Then the cat gave me a hard time as I was going out the door – did he want to go out or didn’t he? I sat waiting for him to saunter out the door I was holding open only to have him sit right in front of the threshold.

Ugh! Cats! I told him tough luck and closed the door behind me. Little did I know what these little and seemingly insignificant delays would do to the rest of my day.

The road I take to the school is mostly rural. There are a few intersections and a roundabout, but it’s mostly quiet. The busiest spot is when I pass the Food Lion shopping complex. Folks are always turning in and out and I’ve seen my share of accidents there so I am usually a bit cautious and watchful while in that area.

Yesterday, as I was approaching the entrance to the shopping complex, I saw a gold car waiting to turn onto the road I was traveling on. I was then surprised to see it pull out in front of me – I was a bit too close for comfort and was doubly annoyed after a quick glance in my rear-view…not a soul behind me.

That irks me to no end – when someone feels the need to pull out in front of you – making it a necessity for you to apply your brakes – when there is nobody behind you. I thought to myself, “why couldn’t this person wait until I went past?”

As I am applying my brakes I then see this person put on his right turn blinker and go to turn into a driveway that is a mere 20 feet past the shopping center intersection. So rather than cutting in front of me and gunning the engine to minimize the effects of his poor driving judgement, he is coming to almost a complete stop in order to turn into a driveway.

I am thinking “wtf” and braking hard, and begin to steer my car a little to the right to avoid rear ending him when he puts on his left turn signal and proceeds to make a U-turn right in front of me.

This is where things go slow-mo. I know I’m gritting my teeth and bracing hard on the wheel and pushing the brakes with all my might and I can see his car getting closer, and closer, and closer and I know I’m not going to be able to stop in time. And…

BAM.

Not BAM!!!!!!! Just BAM. By this point, with all the braking I had to do, I was probably only going 20 miles an hour when we hit. Maybe less. But we hit. I could see the side of his car was smashed in and was cringing at the thought of the damage to the Sloviemobile.

We pulled over, and I got out to look and was amazed to see nothing more than a scraped bumper on my car. No dents, so cracks, just missing paint and some scratches on the corner of the bumper. I figure my car’s been to the prom in a torn dress for a few years now…one more scratch won’t kill her.

The driver was a young boy – 19 or so – and we were both shaken but thankfully nobody was hurt. We exchanged information…it’s amazing how difficult it is to write legibly when your hands are shaking. We were polite and friendly – no yelling or blaming, although I did ask him why he felt the need to pull out in front of me. We didn’t call the police, only because I had to get to the school to get my daughter, but I called them once I got home just to make an official report.

Then there was the call to the insurance. I told my side, and he told his, which was different from mine – and that worried me. But the insurance guy on the phone told me that he’s been doing this for a long, long time and that the impact evidence on both of our cars corroborates my story and not his. He told me to rest easy and not to let this bother me all weekend.

But it does. My last car accident was when I was in my twenties, and this kid admitted to me that this was his first one. My only consolation is that my car won’t need any repairs, but I felt so bad for this kid who had to go home and show his parents a banged up car – and that the accident was his fault (regardless of what he told the insurance company).

But you know what? I won’t rest easy until my insurance company tells me that I am officially not at fault.

I also thought about the randomness of this event. There was nobody else around when the accident happened. Had I left my house 30 seconds before or after, had I waited to watch the end of Project Runway, or had my cat walked out the door rather than deciding to sit down and be difficult, I may have avoided this entire incident.

I think about that a lot, especially when I hear news reports of a tree falling on a passing car or a bridge collapse. There’s something to be said about timing. And yesterday? Mine was all bad.

Bad-Roads

Let me start this post by saying I like snow. I enjoy the prospect of a storm blowing in, and me all safe and snug at home, with enough bread, milk and wine. I even like to shovel, and am usually out clearing our driveway before the flakes have stopped wafting to the ground.

Wednesday I had to endure one of the most harrowing experiences of my life. Bad timing coupled with bad weather had me at the mercy of mother nature and perhaps even fate – it was 3+ hours of sheer torture.

I knew a bad storm was coming in, but it wasn’t supposed to start until the evening – 5 or 6 pm. I get out of work at 6, but there was no way I was staying that late with the forecast they were predicting. Usually you can waive a dismissive hand at our weather folk, but this was different. Even the weather channel was on board with the predictions, so I worked through lunch and left at 5.

By then the snow had just started in town. Hubby had called and said snow at home had started a half an hour earlier. I wasn’t worried…it’s only a 25 minute commute and I was confident that I could get home with no trouble. After all, the snow had just started!

There was some traffic getting out of town, which was to be expected, and before long I was on the long and winding way home. When I was around 3 miles from pulling into my driveway traffic came to a dead halt. I was right at the base of a long and fairly steep hill that I have to travel up in order to make it home. I turned on the radio and discovered that there was an accident about a mile up the road and both lanes were closed.

Now I had to make a decision…stay here and wait or turn around and find another way home. At this point reader, you need to understand something – there are only 2 or 3 ways to get to my development, buried deep in the sticks of central Virginia. Making the decision to turn around meant traveling 5-8 miles just to get to the closest cross road that I could turn onto.

But, I figured that if I waited where I was, the snow (which was getting heavier and sticking) might make getting my car up that steep hill impossible. Besides, I had no water and I knew I’d have to pee within the next hour or so. That being said, I turned my car around and made the slow drive back, all the while figuring which way I should take.

The first route I took was a huge waste of time. I didn’t get more than 1/4 mile down the road before I was told the road up ahead was closed and we all had to turn around. When I got back to the crossroads I skidded on the snow and almost crashed into another car. My heart was pounding,  my knees were shaking, and I just wanted to go home.

The next road I took taxed me to my very core. On a sunny day this road is a pain in the ass…windy as hell…the girls always get carsick on it unless I travel at 20 mph or so. But, this road is the quickest way to get to where I needed to go, so I took it.

I was only driving at around 6 mph down steep hills and twisty turns. At one point I had to drive up a fairly steep S-curve. Letting the car just roll, and barely giving it any gas, I fish-tailed my way up that hill very slowly the whole while chanting “help me God, help me God, help me God.” When I made it to the top without landing in a ditch or hitting another car, I breathed an audible sigh of relief. It was mostly down hill from here.

As I was heading down the next hill at a record speed of 4 mph, a car in the opposite direction came zipping up the road, went to make the turn and ran straight into a rather deep ditch. Although I’m sure the driver turned their wheels, the car just didn’t respond on the slick roads and just rolled right off the road. The car was now at a 30 degree angle, half of it on the road, half of it in the ditch. I thought to myself,  that person is totally fucked – and that could be me very easily if I’m not super careful.

As if just driving wasn’t tense enough, my windshield wipers decided to start icing up at this point. I had the defroster blasted so hot and hard that I was sweating bullets all bundled up in my coat, but it was no match for the weather outside. Rather than wiping the snow off my windshield, my wipers were just smearing the snow and ice – I had about a 2 inch field of semi-clear vision.

Finally I made it to the next crossroad, which thankfully had a gas station. I got out to go inside and my legs were actually wobbly. The past hour and half of driving in the snow in beyond shitty conditions had exhausted me. I went to the bathroom, bought a couple of waters, called hubby and got back in the car to make my 3rd attempt at getting home.

I began to get hopeful…If I took it slow, driving wasn’t really that bad along roads that were fairly straight. I made the turn that takes me to my development and about a mile down the road, more tail lights. Hells bells, not again. One call to hubby confirmed it. There was an accident at least 7 miles up the road – all these people were just sitting there – along 7 miles of road just waiting for it to be cleared. So, once again, I turned around.

My only option at this point was to get on the highway and head East. This would take me past my house, but bring me to a pretty major intersection where there was a hotel, a Walmart and a few fast food joints. The highway was pretty good if you went slow. I don’t think I broke the 25 mph mark, but folks in 4 wheel drive vehicles were zipping past me. I also saw at least 4 cars off the shoulder with their 4 ways blinking. Again, I thought to myself, slow and steady and super careful. I was determined not to be a VDOT statistic.

25 minutes later I made it to Zion Crossroads and  headed straight for the Best Western. In the lobby I called hubby and asked if I should just get a room. It’s stupid because I was only 15 minutes from home now (in good traveling weather) but it would probably take me at least another hour of driving to get  home and I just didn’t think I had the strength. I had left my office two and a half hours before, and had been driving in blinding snow ever since. I was done.

As luck would have it, she had one room left and I took it. But before I went up, I got back in my car and drove across the road to the Walmart where I picked up some food, a toothbrush and a night gown. By the time I got back and in my room (thanks to a ridiculously slow cashier) it was 8:30. I called my family who were relieved that I was safe for the night, but bummed that I was not home.

They weren’t the only ones. But before I went to bed that night, I took a moment to thank God for getting me somewhere safe and warm for the night. I could have easily been in my car in a ditch, spending the night rationing my water and peeing in a snow drift. I decided I was one lucky gal.

The next morning I awoke with a sense of dread. One look out the window made me realize my morning drive home wasn’t going to be fun. About a foot of snow had fallen, but on the bright side the roads I was taking home were primary roads, and had most likely been plowed. After breakfast I dug out the foot high snow drift from around my car, cleared off the ice with the side of a ball point pen, and began my drive home.

The road from the hotel to the main road was horrible, and filled me with a sense of dread. But once I reached the main road I saw blacktop and my spirits lifted. This might not be so bad.

And it wasn’t. It was slow going, that’s for sure, but the roads were drivable if you were careful. The one part of my drive I was dreading the most was getting into the gate of my development. The one closest to my house is up a pretty steep hill. There were abandoned cars piled up at the base of the gate – they obviously couldn’t get up the hill and opted to leave their cars and walk home.

I made it up the hill fine, but got stuck at the top in a huge pile of slushy snow that the plow failed to remove. Ugh. Here I was a  mile from home and I finally got stuck. But not for long. Two very nice fellas came to my rescue and helped push my car out of the slush. Hooray! I was almost home!

When I reached my house hubby was there and had shoveled out a nice spot for me at the base of the driveway. I was never so happy to pull into that narrow driveway – I’d finally made it home.

After many hugs, and a hot cup of tea I took a much needed shower, put on some sweatpants and just flopped on the couch. It had been a long night and a long morning. Even though it was only 9:30 in the morning, I felt like it should be noon.

Do you know I fell asleep before 8:00 that night? I guess my body needed the rest.

I’ve come to a conclusion…I’m never taking a chance when it comes to the weather again. If my boss doesn’t like me leaving early…fire me. I don’t ever want to go through that again. Ever. Especially since I have the capacity to work fully from home. The only task I can’t do remotely is answer the phone…but really, who’s going to be calling during a blizzard?

Nope… from now on if they’re calling for bad weather I’ll just tap my snow boots together three times and say, “There’s no place like home.”

cops-rear-view-mirror

Have you ever been to traffic court?

I had to go years ago when I was living in Florida. I had been a resident of the Sunshine State for almost a year but never got a Florida driver’s license. I just couldn’t part with my Jersey one I guess. I also couldn’t part with my Jersey plates, and before long I got pulled over for having expired tags.

Turned out that having an out of state license while living in Florida was an offense that held a penalty larger than just paying a fine. I had to go to court, and I was petrified. As long as I could prove that I’d procured a Florida license and plates, I would only have to pay a small fine, but still, I was scared.

As I sat in court, my nerves began to dissipate as I watched other cases go by. Many of them were for passing bad checks – all at Publix. One man was accused of bashing in his ex-girlfriend’s front door. And another man was convicted of exposing himself to children in a park. This was some heavy stuff…and here I was with my out of state driver’s license offense. By the time it was my turn I was almost proud of what an upstanding citizen I was.

That was around 15 years ago. Day before last I found myself in traffic court again, but this time, it was hubby who was on the docket.

He was driving home from working an overnight shift, and I’m always thankful when I hear him come in the house, safe and sound. He often talks of coming close to nodding off on the long and boring ride home. It’s why I understand the mistake he made.

He was less than a block from our development, where he has to make a right hand turn. It was 5:30 am, there was nobody else on the road with him. But off the road was a State Trooper parked in the weeds. Hubby saw him, checked his speed to make sure he was not going to fast, made his right hand turn, and was shocked to see the lights in the rear view mirror.

He got a ticket for not using his blinker. Can you believe that? Now, I’m a rule follower by nature, but come on. I can see if he’d been speeding – then you can pile on the fines. But is business that slow that you have to break someone’s balls for failing to flip a switch? Don’t get me started on how I feel about cops in general. It’s not a pretty topic.

When he came home that morning he was crushed. The fines totaled over $100 – that’s money we don’t have to spare these days. I suggested we go to court. Maybe he could talk his way out of it, or the cop wouldn’t be there that day. Oh, turns out that is rarely true – we discovered that the officer is held in contempt of court if he fails to appear on the scheduled court date. So much for that urban legend.

Hubby’s court date was Tuesday morning, and we got there with 20 or so minutes to spare. An officer made him leave the courtroom to tuck his shirt in. We also got scolded for whispering to each other. One couple was not allowed to enter at all because the defendant showed up in a dirty T-shirt and jeans. Even Judge Judy yells at you for that shit. Duh.

Once again, it was interesting to see the other cases go by, and once again, hubby felt like a fine, upstanding citizen next to some of the offenses other people were brought up for. There was one DUI – he had to do jail time. One gal was speeding and wasn’t wearing her seat belt. And one woman was brought in wearing an orange jumpsuit and was shackled at wrist and foot. I couldn’t quite hear what she’d done wrong, but I suspect it was for more than a minor traffic infraction.

By the time hubby stood up before the judge for not using his blinker, he was too nervous to do any smooth talking and simply plead guilty. The judge was feeling generous, and knocked off $25 because hubby’s driving record was good. I was relieved that he’d given us a break, and it proved that appearing in court rather than blindly paying the ticket was beneficial.

I’ll tell you, knowing that there are cops out there ready, willing, and able to ruin your day, I’ve been paying attention to my driving. It’s easy to get lazy – how often do you slow roll through a stop or forget to flip on your blinker? I know I was super lazy, but this ticket of hubby’s opened my eyes. Money is too tight to throw it to the county – I’m going to make sure I give them nothing to pull me over for.

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For the past few weeks, I’ve been teaching my oldest daughter to drive.

She’s a bit behind the rest of her friends when it comes to getting behind the wheel. Most of her friends can drive already. I pass them on the way back from dropping her off at school. But due to a combination of fear, procrastination, and sheer laziness my gal didn’t get her permit until just a few months ago. Then it was my turn to be lazy and procrastinate.

After she got her permit it just never crossed my mind to put her behind the wheel and actually teach her what to do. I had my mind on other things. When she would suggest a lesson, I was either in a rush to get home to make dinner, or it was bad weather…there was a million excuses. It just always seemed like such an inconvenience.

I finally gave her her first shot at driving on the way home from town one afternoon. I pulled over into an empty school parking lot to let her circle around a few times. It was amazing  how many little things I had to show her. I’ve been driving for so long that many of the intricacies of driving are second nature to me. After a 5 minute lecture about what is where – blinkers, mirror adjusters, emergency brake – she put the car into drive and made a slow crawl around the parking lot.

Yet, after that we didn’t really do much driving. We would find a spot to let her practice here and there, but we weren’t doing it on a regular basis. Again, her learning to drive was off my radar – it wasn’t something I was actively concerned with. But I realized I had to make it a concern of mine. If we only went out every now and then she wasn’t ever going to get any better. Like an athlete in training, she needed lots of practice.

So, I’ve been making it a point to take her out every day. Usually we just drive around our neighborhood. Our development has a main road that makes a 10 mile loop. The speed limit is 25 which is perfect for someone just learning to drive. And you know what?  She’s getting pretty good at it.

The daily flexing of her driving muscles is paying off.  She’s maintaining the speed limit most of the time, and it’s been a few days since I had to grab the wheel to keep her from side swiping a mail box. She’s driven me to the supermarket a few times, which gives her parking practice as well, and she was brave enough to take the quicker route home along the major road the other day. That one has a 50 mph speed limit…she made it to 45, but that was about it.

I don’t have a whole lot of memories about learning to drive. I do recall one instance where when out driving with my dad, we went down the main street in Ridgefield Park, NJ. This road was narrow….really narrow with barely enough room for two cars to pass each other. There was street side parking as well, so driving down that stretch of road you almost felt like you were threading a needle. At least it seemed that way to a 16 year old behind the wheel of a Pontiac Catalina. I avoided that road until well after I got my license.

Oh, and getting my license? It took me two tries. I passed the written test easy, but I the driving portion was a bit trickier. The instructor I got for my first attempt was in a very bad mood, which made me nervous from the start. Here I am, happy as a clam to be taking my driving test, and this dude is filled to the brim with attitude. You took the test along a series of fake roads they had at the DMV. The roads were not very wide, and they had no dividing line painted down the middle.

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I failed the parallel parking portion of the test, but that was to be expected. The cones were not set at a favorable distance for parking a Catalina – it was one big car. But when we returned to the designated starting/stopping point, he turned to me and said, “You failed.” He claimed I drove down the middle of the road the entire test. “Well,” I said, “the middle is all there is on those roads unless you wanted me to drive on the grass.” Sass was not an asset on this occasion.

The instructor I got my second time around was way cooler. I still failed the parallel parking part, but that day I left the Lodi DMV with a New Jersey driver’s license.

I’m hoping that by the time my girl starts college in the fall she’ll have her license. Our state sucks in that they require that you pay mega $$$$ to a driver’s school before they will issue you a license. I think it’s highway robbery – it costs almost $400 to take the driving course that isn’t going to teach her anything that I can’t. But sadly, there is no way around it. At least she’s learning like I did – in a very large car. The Sloviemobile is a Mercury Sable Wagon, a giant much like the Pontiac I learned in.

I’ll tell you, it will be nice to have another driver in the house. I’m not always in the mood to run to the store or drive my youngest to a friend’s house. That’s when I will gladly hand over the keys.

But then I’ll worry. I guess you can’t win.

So the girls and I bid a fond adieu to the beach for the day and went to see the final Harry Potter movie. I’ve seen every frame of Potter on screen, but I’ve never read the books. My favorite of the whole series is number two for some reason, but these last two were really quite good.

The kids didn’t finish their candy while at the theater, so a box of gummy watermelons and Raisinettes went into my purse. We then had an early dinner with my father and his wife, got back into the car and headed to Daytona Beach for the evening.

My sister was playing with her band at a local restaurant, but it was still early, so we took the kids to the amusements on the boardwalk to play some arcade games and ride the go-karts. My youngest had been jabbering all day about the go-karts; she was DYING to get behind the wheel of one of those speed demons, and I for one wanted to shut her up.

It was great watching them cruise around the track… unfortunately for the other riders my youngest was out in front and was, for lack of a better word, the pace car. She was traveling at a modest clip and nobody could seem to pass her. I guess I should feel bad for the other riders, but everyone got out safe and sound which is what matters in my book.

After their first ride, we went to play some ski-ball and other arcade games. I noticed I had a smudge of chocolate on my white shirt which really annoyed me because I had just finished a spaghetti dinner where I managed to miraculously not get one drop of marinara sauce on me. Trying to figure out where the smudge came from lead me to root around my purse.

It was then I discovered the empty box of Raisinettes.  Empty. And then I see them. Sitting at the bottom of my purse, like little movie theater turds, were no less than 30 half melted raisinettes. Enter the expletive of your choice here.

I summoned my girls for help – we took everything out of my bag, checked them for chocolate and laid them on  stools in front of the slot machines. I then had to scoop out the melted raisins and wanted to wipe it out good with some paper towels. As luck would have it, the bathrooms had no paper towels – just the air blowers. Grrrr! I managed to get a “Visit Daytona!” brochure to line the bottom of my purse with.

I had less pep in my step after that. I was hot, chocolatey, sweaty and ready to go. I sat miserably watching my kids go round and round the go-kart track one last time for the night and wondered where I can get myself a new purse.