The Amateur Traffic Cop

Sometimes even people with the best of intentions can end up looking like idiots. Take for instance the girl I saw get into a car accident the other day. Okay so I didn’t actually see the accident take place, but I did witness the aftermath, which is really the whole point of the story anyway, so let’s not get caught up in semantics. The wreck happened at a stoplight, and I’m hesitant to use the word “accident” because after seeing the idiocy displayed by the girl, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone was trying to hit her intentionally, just to keep her off the road for at least a little while, because she was clearly a danger to herself and others. I saw her from the drive through of McDonald’s, where my wife and I were waiting on her iced coffee to be ready, and we sat in both fascination and horror as the seen played out before us, this young girl, probably in her early twenties, trying to direct traffic around the wreck while coincidentally not trying all that hard not to get run over. She looked like a severely depressed girl who finally snapped and left her car parked in the middle of traffic, standing behind it just waiting for the right moment to jump into oncoming traffic, but she seemed oblivious to the danger of the situation, the innocence of her young age completely apparent, as was her stupidity.
 
    It was about eight thirty at night, too late for an iced coffee in my opinion, and also too late for someone to be standing in the middle of a dark street, attempting to direct traffic. She was standing behind a van, which wasn’t her car by the way, but the car of the person who had hit her, so I’m still not even completely sure why she was so worried about nobody hitting that van in the first place. Whatever her intentions, they were completely unnecessary because of the bright red emergency lights flashing on the back of the van, signaling to anyone within view that there was a stopped car in the middle of the road. Given the time of day, the girl was barely visible from where we sat about twenty yards away in a lit up parking lot, so I can only imagine how hard she was to see. At first it was unclear to me what she was doing, waving her arms like one of those gigantic inflatable things at car dealerships that seem to be moving of their own accord in the wind, falling forwards and then backwards then sided to side then repeated in a different order, the randomness of it all very entertaining to watch. The girl’s arms were raised, moving them from side to side, crossing over her face as she did so, and that’s when I realized she was attempting to direct people around the car that was clearly stopped in the middle of the road with emergency lights making that abundantly evident to everyone, whereas the amateur traffic director was causing confusion. When they finally saw her, drivers pulled up beside her thinking she was waving down some help, wherein reality she was making a bad situation (the car wreck) even worse by backing up traffic even more than it should have been with her ridiculous, though well intentioned, antics. I don’t know what happened to her, whether the police officer who finally arrived on the scene lectured her on why what she was doing was completely stupid, but I hope she’s okay, that she didn’t get hit by a car, so that maybe she will learn from this mistake, and pass it on to others, so I don’t have to see any more idiots standing in the middle of a dark road at night.

The Problem With My Parking Spot

IMG_3603It’s a common theme throughout the landscape of the working class, that once the work day ends, nothing is better than arriving at home, seen by homeowners and renters alike as a refuge and a place to relax, so imagine arriving home one afternoon to find somebody parked in your driveway or parking space forcing you to park further away, prolonging that wave of peace that consumes you as the door unlocks and you step inside. Now imagine that happening frequently, say a weekly basis, and it’s never a pattern and no warning is given so you don’t know exactly when it’s going to happen, thus disallowing your mind to prepare itself for the disappointment it will face to encounter this problem. This has been my life since moving into my apartment complex over a year ago, and unfortunately there are no signs that this unfair practice will stop anytime soon.

At my apartments we are assigned one designated parking space, right down stairs from where we live. My wife and I have two cars so one of us parks in the spot, and the other parks further away in the uncovered areas that are open to anyone, with the person arriving home first generally parking further away so that the other person will have the close space when they get home, a system that has worked well for us, except on the weekly occasion that someone is parked in our assigned spot, forcing us to find one further away, and since the open spaces fill up as the day drags on, that person ends up having to park much further away from the apartment, sometimes even all the way in front of the main office which is about a five minute walk away. This may not seem like a big deal, and I suppose in the big scheme of things that it really is not, but when you just want to get home after a long day of work, it can be rather annoying.

The main culprit I’ve found is one of the maintenance workers, who like to park in our spot because it is directly in front of their tool shed. They do work here and should have easy access to the shed, but why then isn’t there a designated parking space for maintenance workers in order to eliminate the need to park in a resident’s spot? It’s not like our spot is the only one in front of the shed and in fact there is a whole row of spaces directly in front of it, but it seems like every time a maintenance worker is in the shed, their truck is parked in my spot, more often than not with the spaces on either side completely empty. What is so great about my particular space that they seek it out over the others? From my extensive research, hours spent studying each parking spot on either side of mine, I have been unable to find even the slightest difference. I’ve considered purchasing a traffic cone to occupy my parking space when my car is gone, but it just seems like too much of a hassle to have to get out to put the cone in place when I leave, and then again to remove it when I return home, so I guess this is just something I’ll have to continue to deal with until I finally move, and I’m not one bit happy about it.

Car Trouble: A Bad Start to Vacation

You know that feeling you get when you leave work for the last time before your vacation? That is the feeling I had today, but unfortunately it didn’t last long. I walked out of the bank, and it was pouring down rain, but I didn’t care, vacation had started and that’s all that mattered, so I rain carelessly through the rain to my car, hitting the automatic locks as I got closer, ready to jump in as soon as I reached it. When I finally got there, I grabbed the door handle and pulled, but it didn’t open, so I hit the button a couple more times and tried again, still nothing. I thought that perhaps the rain had broken my electronic key, but still I wasn’t upset, because how could I be, with the beach so near in my future? I unlocked the door manually, like a caveman, and slid into the seat, slamming the door behind me, now sheltered from the pouring rain. I put the key in the ignition and turned, ready to leave work and let my body sink into the relaxing vacation mode that it so desperately needed, but the car didn’t start, and all I heard were clicks. My car was dead, which had happened to me on numerous occasions when I owned a crappy 1994 Honda civic that didn’t politely beep to remind me that I’d left the lights on, but had never once happened in the two years that I’ve had my CR-V. Sure, there have been countless times that I left the lights on, but before I could exit the car, I was reminded to turn the lights off, but perhaps today my car was more depressed than usual, because it didn’t beep, allowing itself to die while I worked, completely unaware of the situation.

I know how it happened too. I was sitting in my car on my lunch break, which is the time I typically work on the book I’m writing, and I noticed a car parked in front of me with a front license plate that just said “Jesus” as if that were the person who owned the cadillac. It was parked like a jerk, taking up two parking spaces, so I thought it would be funny and took the picture, captioning it, “I guess the son of God probably deserves two parking spaces”, but it was dark outside and difficult to read the license plate that was really the focal point of the joke, so I switched on my headlights to get a better shot, and unfortunately didn’t turn them off again. I left my car and knocked on the window of my coworkers car who hadn’t left yet and asked her if she had jumper cables. She did not but suggested I check with the building’s security to see if they did, but when I trekked back through the rain and entered the building, the security desk was empty, so I decided to call triple A, who over the years have rescued me from my own stupidity.

While on the phone trying to enter in all of the information, my wife who was aware of my problem put in a service request with Geico road side assistance, which we get through our car insurance, and told me that somebody would be there in an hour to help me out. I was stuck at work, but with little to do, I sat in my hot car, the windows fogging up as the cold rain fell around it, writing the beginning of today’s blog. The tow truck arrived sooner than expected and the mechanic jump started my car, all the while looking at me like I was a complete idiot, which is hard to disagree with. An hour after the bank closed for the day, I finally pulled out of the parking lot, officially starting my vacation. I just hope that my initial problem wasn’t a sign of bad things to come.

Stealing Cars & Groceries: Nobody Cares

Car alarms are useless. It doesn’t matter what kind of car you own, whether it’s a Lexus or a Hyundai, there is no real protection offered to you in the case of auto theft. I’ve never been the victim of this sort of crime in my life, but if it happens to me, I can’t say that I would be surprised. Just today I heard a car alarm going off in a grocery store parking lot, and neither me nor any of the people in the area cared enough to see what was going on. That’s just the way it is. An alarm is seen as more of an annoyance rather than an alert that something bad is going on, which is why I find car alarms completely useless and ridiculous. I click the button on the remote a couple times, first for the initial lock and the second to make sure the alarm is set, but that doesn’t really matter at all because nobody cares. Unless you are within eyesight of your car being broken into, the thieves will get away with whatever they want, and unfortunately this doesn’t just apply to automobiles.

As I left the grocery store today, I was behind a woman who set off the stores alarm when leaving, and and she didn’t even stop, not that it mattered because an employee was quick to offer her an apology for the “malfunction” and send her on her way. For all anyone knew this person could have stolen every item in her cart, but because nobody cared, she left the store free of any suspicion that any wrongdoing had taken place. The popular phrase, “the customer is always right” seems to take away any responsibility of the customers that shop at a particular store, one that is much more interested in having said customer return than the potential loss that is taken if a non trustworthy person decides to walk out the door with more groceries than they have paid for. I just don’t get it, and I wonder why stores let people get away from the flashing lights and beeping sounds of the security sensors as if the store is the one at fault.

I don’t plan to steal a car or anything from a grocery store but I have to say that it seems pretty easy to do so. When was the last time you heard a car alarm in the parking lot and actually went to investigate what was going on. That is somebody else’s problem, just like when a teenage employee doesn’t think twice about the person leaving the store while alarms go off all around them. I don’t condone stealing, but if other people are getting away with it then why should I continue to pay my weekly grocery bill at full cost? Don’t people care enough about what they own to step in and put an end to this madness? The evidence clearly says no, and that is why I won’t be surprised if either of my cars are stolen at some point in the near future.

How to Fix Bad Driving

There are few things that I hate in life more than bad drivers. I hate them because their actions directly impact the lives of innocent people who just happen to be within close proximity of them, and it’s not fair to anybody that actually follows the rules of the road. The two most common types of bad drivers I encounter on a daily basis, are people on their phones and people driving too slow. There are already steps being taken and laws being passed to keep people off their phones, but when it comes to people driving too slow, there is a lot more that needs to be done. The other day I was on the interstate, the speed limit sixty-five miles an hour, and I was behind a car that wasn’t even going fifty, and this isn’t a rare occasion for me, often the victim of being stuck behind someone driving well below the speed limit. When I was finally able to switch lanes and pass the offending car, I looked over to see an elderly woman, hunched over the steering wheel, squinting to see out of the windshield ahead of them, and I thought to myself that this person should not be driving.

I get that it’s tough getting older, when things that used to be so easy for someone become increasingly more difficult, but it’s just irresponsible to let bad drivers, regardless of their age or experience operating a vehicle, drive among us. That is why I think that a driving test should be required every couple of years, to ensure that drivers continue to operate at acceptable levels. It’s a pain to renew your drivers license, standing in long lines, but I’m of the opinion that this should be done every two years along with having to pass a written and road driving test. I would be more than willing to spend a few hours of my day every couple of years renewing my license, if it meant that our roads were safer. I’m not just saying that elderly people are the only bad drivers out there, because they are not. I’m amazed at how many people don’t know how a four way stop is supposed to work, or what to do if a stoplight isn’t operating, and a written test would ensure that drivers kept up with the laws rather than cramming the information into their heads to pass the test at fifteen, then forgetting the bulk of what was learned.

In addition to the written test, the driving portion would also help solve the issue of keeping people off the roads, who are no longer able to drive safely. I would say that most people pick up bad driving habits over the years, and that is direct result of not having to prove one’s driving ability after the initial test. If I were president, this would be a top priority for me, because in 2015 more than 35,000 people died in a car accident, and I would bet that most of those were caused by an irresponsible or bad driver. Driving is a part of every day life, and unfortunately it claims way too many innocent lives, which could easily be avoided if there was something in place to keep more bad drivers off the road. Maybe necessary changes will take place in the coming years, but until that time, I will continue to drive defensively with my head on a swivel, trying to avoid any potential danger brought about by bad drivers.

A Tale of Two Car Wrecks

I’ve only been in two car wrecks in my entire life, and they couldn’t have been more different. The only commonality between the two is that I was a passenger both times, so through nearly twenty-six years of my life, I haven’t wrecked a car, which of course means that now I’m bound to do so any day now, since I’ve made that information public, jinxing myself, but I suppose it has to happen someday. The first time was when I was probably eight or nine years old. My dad was visiting me in Little Rock on a Saturday, and we were about to go eat lunch before going to my soccer game. As was usually the case when my dad was in town, I got to pick where to eat, but since we we had somewhere to be shortly after lunch, we couldn’t spend the afternoon at Chuck E. Cheese, so I chose my favorite fast food restaurant, KFC, which my dad affectionately called “Kentucky Fried Crap” or “Krappy Fried Chicken” but I loved their mashed potatoes, so I didn’t let the name calling bother me.

On the way to KFC we got into a car accident. We were both okay, and this being in the era before cell phones, my dad knocked on the door of the nearest house to borrow the phone, making two calls, one to the police, and one to my mom. The only thing I remember about the house where the call was made, is that the woman who lived there gave me a mini snickers bar, which turned out to be the highlight of the day. My mom arrived shortly after to take me to my soccer game, and since too much time had passed waiting for her to pick me up, we didn’t have time to go to KFC, but had to get lunch at a place on the way to the game, which ended up being McDonald’s, so I didn’t get my beloved mashed potatoes, and there’s a good chance that I probably cried at my misfortune.

A few years later, when I was sixteen, my mom and I got rear ended getting off the interstate. I hurt my back, so I was able to sit out the first month of summer football workouts, so it all worked out for the best. I hated playing football, and there was nothing worse than wasting a day out of school in the scorching summer heat running wind sprints and hating my life, so I was more than happy with experiencing spasms in my lower back if it meant not having to go to the workouts. The first car accident ended in me not getting something I wanted, but the second one got me out of football, so I guess everything evened out. Hopefully, if I’m ever in another one, it will happen on the way to work rather than on the way to eat, that way at least I’ll be able to take solace in the fact that I’m missing out on something I’m not really looking forward to anyway.

The Most Dangerous Job I Ever Had

When I was sixteen years old I got a job at a place called “Gator Park.” Sounds pretty exciting right? If you’re thinking of a place where you can go to see alligators up close, then you are thinking of Florida, not the lame go-kart place where I worked. I’ve had a lot of jobs over the last ten years, somewhere between fifteen and twenty, but this one is near the top of my list for worst job ever. I went into the experience like any sixteen year old who wanted money but didn’t really want to work for it, expecting each day to ride around on go-karts or play arcade games inside and then get a paycheck at the end of the week. I was an idiot. My first day on the job, I got put in the batting cage. Most places you put in a token and a pitching machine throws you yellow colored baseballs with no employee involved in the process at all, but Gator Park was nowhere near that efficient. I had to stand behind the pitching machines, that were behind a net, to “protect” the unfortunate employee stuck on batting cage duty from getting hit with line drives, and make sure that the balls were being fed into the machine properly when they malfunctioned every two or three pitches. Having no prior training, it was my job to feed the baseballs into the conveyor belt as quickly as possible, while praying to anyone who would listen that my hand or shirt wouldn’t get caught in the machine and rip the arm from my socket. While that may seem like a pretty unsavory job, it was not the worst part. Although there was a net up, there were large holes all over it, so I constantly had to duck and move out of the way to avoid the balls being hit at me with alarming speed.

When I was finally relieved of my batting cage duty I was placed on the go-kart track, and I mistakenly thought that the fun was about to start. Again, I was an idiot. My job was to make sure the go-karts were functioning properly, which most of them weren’t, so it was my responsibility to get them started up again. I had at my disposal a tool shed full of items that could supposedly fix any problem, and no knowledge whatsoever of how to do it. By the end of my first night, I was covered in grease from pushing the go-karts to the shed and hammering away at anything that looked like might need to be smacked to get them running again. Thankfully I found a new job the next weekend so I didn’t have to relive that nightmare again. I found out a few years ago that Gator Park closed down, and I couldn’t help but be happy for all the young kids out there, that would never have to experience working at that awful place. With all of the equipment constantly breaking down, it’s a wonder that they stayed in business as long as they did. Good riddance.