30 October 2008

Under my thumbnail

I've just decided that one of the absolute worst sensations in the world is the feeling you get when you've been pulling at a cuticle for a while and you realize you've pulled it one millimeter too far.
Right up there with it is the sharp stab of a hair splinter under that same cuticle. But blood aside, I managed at least to get the blasted things out most of the time.
Hair splinters are among the six hundred or so things about which no one will warn you when you contemplate a career in cosmetology. I suppose if I really wanted I could have avoided them by working at a full-service salon where 95% of the haircuts I did would be done with scissors only. But instead I decided to work at a place where 95% of the haircuts I did involved clippers and therefore hair splinters. (Scissors cut the hair straight across at the ends whereas clippers cut the ends at an angle, giving them the perfect shape to wedge underneath unsuspecting skin cells. Just in case you were wondering.) On the upside, I never had to do any chemical services and when I was alone in the salon I could play video games.
But they fired me, and now I have to get another job, one that I probably won't like as much - although almost anything looks better than CC4K when I recall the fun of picking someone else's hair out of my hyponichium.

25 October 2008

Ron, Rick and ... Barbie

I’m watching "Seinfeld" on channel 10 and during the commercial break there are ads for the station’s news team. The morning idiots are Ron and Rick, and a series of blonde dodos. The blondes are all interchangeable and if they didn’t have names I don’t think I’d have noticed them changing.
There used to be Ron, Rick and Ilona. Then out of nowhere, they canned Ilona and it was Ron, Rick and Jen. And it was the three of them as far as I knew until just now when I saw an ad for Ron, Rick and Alexis.

Is there some rule that TV anchorwomen have to be blonde? Oh, there are a few brunettes out there, to be sure - minorities, mostly. But not a single fecking redhead and heaven forbid any of them should have curly hair.
And I can guarantee you that once the Fox 10 morons tire of Alexis they’ll shove her aside for a newer model blonde idiot - Tiffany, perhaps, or Jessica. She’ll have no personality, perky breasts and heavily peroxided hair. I don’t know where they’ll find her - Stepford, perhaps. I think there’s some kind of lab where Fox 10 grows these little idiots.
And they lease the lab space from Mattel.

23 October 2008

Birthday Brat

Today's my birthday.
I'm 25. There's nothing really exciting about 25, except that my car insurance is a lot cheaper because my prefrontal cortex is finished growing so I'm less apt to make poor decisions, if I recall my psychology classes correctly. But I think that's it. Birthdays get less exciting as you get older. I remember years ago I'd make lists of things I wanted for my birthday and/or Christmas, and my birthday would be an Event ... not so much anymore. Now ... now I pretty much figure I have an excuse to be obnoxious for twenty-four hours and that's about it. There will be cake, and maybe takeout from a restaurant I like, and family will come over. Nothing exciting.
I was hoping to watch the Dodgers play in the world series on my birthday this year, but as usual they messed that up. I swear, it's like they beat the Cubs and then just gave up. Honestly. "Okay, we won the NLDS, that's as far as we can go." Didn't they kind of want to go to the world series? Did they forget they haven't won the NLCS in twenty years? Didn't they realize they had to beat the Phillies more than ONCE to do it? I digress.
I'm sure I'm getting a few presents. My mother took me to the mall last week and bought me a few skirts and a dress from White House Black Market, since most of my closet looked like it belonged to a teenager (which I suppose makes sense considering last time I was a size 12, I was nineteen). And Mum likes to make sure I've got a few things to unwrap as well. But it's not really important to me anymore. In fact, I've been watching so many episodes of "What Not To Wear" and "Tim Gunn's Guide to Style" lately that far from getting greedy for more, I actually got rid of 2/3 of the contents of my closet a few days ago.
But the other reason that my birthday isn't a big deal this year is that my dad is gone. He never made a huge deal out of my birthday or anything, but the fact is that I don't feel much like celebrating without him. I can only imagine how bad Christmas is going to be. Everything's going to suck for a while. I'll probably end up crying.
But that's okay. Today is my day to be the birthday brat. And as that annoying song goes, it's my party and I'll cry if I want to. Once it's midnight I have to behave myself again. I might as well milk this for all it's worth.

19 October 2008

Money Can't Buy Me Love ... Or Maybe It Can

Allow me to apologize for my extended absence from the world of blogging. It was unintentional and due to Bill Gates and his wonderful Windows Vista. Allow me to take a moment to suggest using Ubuntu, if I may.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled blogging.

I like to think of myself as a fairly frugal person. Frugal being a nice way of saying that I am basically very cheap. I got it from my father. He was, in the words of Elaine Benes, extremely careful with money. And Jerry Seinfeld had it wrong; cheapness is indeed a sense. My father and I both possess(ed) the ability to smell a sale.
I don’t often spend a lot of money on things. I own a few expensive things, but my piano doesn’t count, or either or my guitars because they’re musical instruments and that’s different.
I did spend over 100 bucks on a vintage dress once, but I had to have it, and every time I wear it I get compliments. I think it was well worth the money. I’d spend it again on such a dress if I could find one. Alas, most of the dresses manufactured in the early sixties were made for women with much smaller hips than mine.
But the most expensive thing I’ve bought cost me $187, plus shipping. Before I admit to what it is, I should explain myself. In many important ways, I had an unhappy childhood. And this purchase was an attempt to fill a void I’ve had in my life since I was three - to snatch up a missing piece of my girlhood. An attempt to ease some of the residual pain of the last 22 years. I knew I shouldn’t spend so much on it, but I couldn’t stop myself when it came down to it.
Yes, that’s right. I spent 200 bucks on a Fisher-Price security bunny.

I had a pink bunny-bunny when I was little and I took it everywhere with me. One day my sister took me to the playground by our trailer and I took my bunny-bunny with me. I got distracted by the swings and the slides and when it came time to head home, I lost track of my security bunny. My mom went back to the playground to look for it later but it was gone - some SOB stole my bunny-bunny.
And it sounds ridiculous, but that missing bunny blankie has pissed me off for years. When I saw one on eBay, I bid on it. I kept getting outbid, and I kept bidding higher. The bidding ended at $187.
It was probably a stupid waste of money and there may be some point in the future where I regret spending so much money on something so inconsequential. But I’ll say this much: when I got my bunny in the mail, I smiled for a week. I keep it in a fireproof box, and that bunny will never leave the house.
I can’t afford to replace it a second time.

14 October 2008

The Secret Is: You May Already Be a Winner!

(Edited from a much earlier MySpace blog post)
Don't you just love those little get something free banner ads? The one I'm looking at right now says I can get a free* iPod Nano. And I'm sure I am. If I re-define the word "free."
It starts with little things, like a free trial of Netflix. Then you have to sign up for Columbia House. Then you're spending $300 on foreign-language CDs. Next thing you know, you've spent $2500 on tickets for a Swedish cruise line, and still no free iPod.
I suppose that after you've signed on to go into space for twenty grand, you get your "free" iPod. But wouldn't it be easier just to go to Target and buy one for $150? Or try eBay, I saw Nanos going for $75 the other day, and the seller doesn't require you to travel the Grand Canyon by train first.
What's sad is that there are people dumb enough to think they're getting a "free" iPod, or Coach handbag. And they go through every single so-called "sponsor offer," including the charter flight to Euro Disney, all in the pursuit of free MAC eyeliner and lipstick. If the masses weren't so stupid, companies would have abandoned the whole get-a-free*-iPod/handbag/Mini Cooper strategy years ago.
Honestly, rub a few brain cells together and think about it: it sounds too good to be true, doesn't it?
Well, it's the darnedest thing about stuff that seems to good to be true: it always is. If there were companies willing to give away expensive things for free, they wouldn't have to advertise. People would be beating down their proverbial doors to get their iPods, and it’s the same thing with those generous eBay sellers who are offering the secret to making a million dollars at home. If these people were really making that kind of money, would they be selling their secrets on eBay for $400? They wouldn't need that money. They'd have so much money they'd suffocate under its weight. The only ones who benefit from get-rich-quick schemes are the ones who propagate them.
Take recent bestseller Rhonda Byrne and her book "The Secret." Byrne asserts that if you purchase her book, or the companion DVD, or anything else with her name on it, you will understand what history's greatest thinkers knew and how you can apply this elusive knowledge to your own life, enabling you to make buttloads of money, lose weight, get laid, become famous, and say no to drugs.
It's certainly worked for Rhonda, hasn't it? The woman's loaded these days. She's everywhere. Her book is the bible in the Church of Oprah. She's been on every TV show and magazine worth its salt.
Personally I only watch "House" and repeats of "Seinfeld" and the only magazines I read contain celebrity gossip. So I'd not heard of Rhonda Byrne until my therapist asked me if I'd read her book. I said I hadn't, and he lent me the DVD that one of the other therapists in the office has been sharing.
Well, I watched most of it. It was longer than I thought, and I fell asleep about forty minutes in. But I think I got the gist of it. And I have to say, it's no secret. There isn't a thing in that book that hasn't been written before by Dr. Phil, Anthony Robbins or Deepak Chopra. And I do not wish to sound rude, but most of it's bull.
If having the life I wanted was as simple as "The Secret" makes it seem, I would be six inches taller, independently wealthy, 50 pounds lighter, antidepressant-free, a successful, well-respected writer, and an undercover CIA operative, with 20/20 vision and smaller pores.
Just for laughs, I decided to focus on getting good news in the mail. I suppose it worked, as it turns out I may already be a winner. But that was all I got, nothing else good in the mail.
Or any of the crap I've bought on Etsy. Crimeny, people. I paid ten bucks for shipping; the least you can do is send me my stinkin’ merchandise sometime this year.
I don't mean to imply that a person can focus on how bad their life sucks and still be happy and successful. But neither do I believe that victims of domestic violence or rape brought it on themselves with their negative energy, or that parents whose babies die of SIDS weren't thinking healthy thoughts.
I don't think that focusing on something brings it to you. You just notice it more. For instance: my parents bought a Toyota Highlander three years ago. Since that time, I have noticed a LOT of Highlanders on the road. I don't think that my parents' purchase has compelled the masses to flock to Power Toyota. I simply never had reason to notice the Highlander before. It wasn't relevant to me; I never considered buying one or driving one. Now that I see one every day, I notice them everywhere I go. I don't think that the car is selling better on my account. I just notice them more.
I think it's important to focus on the good things in life and to put good out into the world, but for moral, ethical reasons (read "Happiness is a Serious Problem" by Dennis Prager for more on that). If you tell yourself, "I'm going to have a wonderful day" over and over, your day will become wonderful because your mindset predisposes you to notice the good in things.
Bad things happen, no matter whom you are or what you do. Jesus was crucified, and I don't think it was a matter of negative thinking that did it. There doesn't exist a way to keep bad things out of your life. And this is how it should be. It's important to have opposition in things. It gives life meaning. It's not always fair, but crap is going to happen. It's a given. It is perhaps one of life's only certainties. Positive energy is a good thing, but it's not going to make your life perfect.
And it certainly isn't going to get you a free iPod.

12 October 2008

Dave Barry 2008

I have long suspected that Dave Barry is one of the smartest people alive - this is a man who managed to sell a book whose cover featured a picture of him sitting on a toilet - and now my good buddy StumbleUpon has provided me with a little evidence. The list is "Twenty-Five Things It Took Me over Fifty Years to Learn" but for the sake of brevity and because I don't like a few of them I'm going to pick my favorites to share.
From my old buddy Dave:
-The badness of a movie is directly proportional to the number of helicopters in it.
-You will never find anybody who can give you a clear and compelling reason why we observe daylight-saving time.
-You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely suggests you think she's pregnant unless you can see an actual baby emerging from her at that moment.
-They can hold all the peace talks they want, but there will never be peace in the Middle East. Billions of years from now, when Earth is hurtling toward the sun and there is nothing left alive on the planet except a few microorganisms, the microorganisms living in the Middle East will be bitter enemies.
-There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness."
-At least once per year, some group of scientists will become very excited and announce that:
The universe is even bigger than they thought!
There are even more subatomic particles than they thought!
Whatever they announced last year about global warming is wrong.
-The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status, or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we all believe that we are above-average drivers.
-A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter is not a nice person.

I remember a while back - was it 2000? There was a sort of fake campaign for Dave Barry for president of the United States. I think we need to bring that back. America needs a strong fake leader now more than ever, and I think that fake leader is Dave Barry.

Of course, I am really, really tired, and I've just eaten a Hershey bar, a Swiss cake roll, and about sixty SweeTarts. So I could be completely wrong.

11 October 2008

Something's Fishy

My name is Jill, and I am afraid of fish. (“Hi, Jill!”)

I read somewhere that most animal phobias have their root in childhood trauma, and mine is probably no different, although I can’t be sure what did it for me. I think it goes back to my first vacation. My family took a trip to Sea World when I was 2½. I was wandering down a hallway, the walls of which were actually large aquariums. I stopped to look at a small, plain-looking fish. My sister was with me. She tapped on the glass or something, I don’t remember. Maybe she just pissed the thing off. All I know is that one minute the fish was this big, the next, it was THISBIG. It was a puffer fish. And it scared the tar out of me. I don’t remember looking at any more fish there, but I do remember the penguins, and thinking that they were magic for some reason. I don’t know. I was two.

I still sort of think that about penguins, though. I love penguins.

In any case, I’ve always hated/feared the slimy little Satan-spawn. They creep me out and make me nauseas. Most of the time it’s not a problem, since people don’t exactly walk their pet fish, or put fish pictures up on their living room walls or wear fish t-shirts. But every now and then my phobia would become a problem.

My parents wouldn’t let us have a cat or dog, and thanks to me a pet fish wasn’t going to happen either. When our neighbors asked us to watch their pet goldfish while they went out of town, my parents had to prop open books and magazines up around the bowl so I couldn’t see it. Aquariums were off-limits. Nature shows were a no-no. Forget about serving tuna. And when I went shopping with my mother, we had to carefully detour around the seafood in the meat department.

But still, we all adjusted, and it was just one of those cute little quirky things about me, the same as my compulsion to correct the grammar of others, or my habit of memorizing the disturbing facts I learned in “Reader’s Digest” or my penchant for dramatics or my night terrors. And as I grew up, I learned to adjust. I simply avoided the fishing report in the local newspaper; I stayed away from the hunting and fishing area of Wal-Mart. I didn’t think much about it anymore.

However, in recent years, the health-conscious have begun promoting fish as a good way to increase one’s omega-3 fatty acid intake. I’m cool with that. But it’s not enough, apparently, for magazines and newspapers to suggest eating fish. Oh, no. They have to accompany this recommendation with photographs. Of fish – more specifically, dead fish, in threes and fours, piled on plates, their cold, soulless eyes staring up at the reader, wispy little tails and fins in place and everything.

Ugh. I’m getting sick just writing this. Pardon me while I vomit.

Okay. But honestly, there has to be a better way to convince me to eat something. If pork was suddenly found to be highly nutritious, would photo editors suddenly start accompanying their pictures of broccoli and asparagus with shots of lifeless porcine carcasses? I think not. Showing a dead animal, as is, is not very appetizing. What’s wrong with showing a fillet of some sort, all cooked and pretty with a little garnish? Why show me slimy black fish bodies? It didn’t used to be this way. But lately I have noticed more and more and more of it. Every article about health and diet has a picture of the little dead devil-things on a platter. And I’m here to say enough. I’m tired of having to ask my mother to pre-screen my periodicals for me with a sharpie and scissors so she can make things safe for me. I had to stop subscribing to “Martha Stewart Living” for just this reason (well, also, it sort of sucked).

I’d rant more, but I feel another good sick coming on. Let me just conclude by saying that when I read an article about how the ocean’s fish were in danger of dying out by 2040, my first thought was hallelujah, followed by the thought that it’s a good thing I don’t live anywhere near the ocean. All those dead SOBs have to go somewhere, and it’s best if where ever it is, is far, far away from me.

And by the way, the irony of the fact that penguins EAT fish is not lost on me. I try not to think about it. It’s easier to like them that way.

10 October 2008

Good Grief

I’m not exactly a stranger to death. In my relatively short life, I’ve had to deal with the deaths of three grandparents, two aunts and a father. But it wasn’t until my father’s death a month ago that certain nuances of the grieving process became a bit clearer to me. There are things about the way Americans “do” death that bother me, and as is my SOP, I’m going to share them under the principle that misery loves company, and if it’s bothering me it’s for darned sure going to bother you as well.

Someone said to me last week, “I was so sorry to hear that you lost your father.” And I thought what a funny thing to say. I didn’t lose him; I know exactly where he is. But that’s how it’s always put, isn’t it? A loss. I lost my father. He lost both his sisters. It sounds so careless. And while I appreciate the sentiment, it sort of bothers me. It’s another way that we distance ourselves from the reality of death. We don’t call it death; we call it loss. I’ve read that the more uncomfortable a society is with something, the more euphemisms there are for it. I believe it. Think of how many different ways we have of referring to the two big ones: sex and death. But no one will say the words, “your father died.” He did! He died. He is dead. We got a death certificate, not a “loss” certificate or a “passing” certificate. Let’s not mince words, ok? He’s dead, and saying it pretty won’t make it any less painful.

Of course, the person who accused me of misplacing a family member then moved as if attracted by magnet and hugged me much tighter than I’d allow even my mother to do. I am like my father in many ways, one of which being that I can’t abide by strangers touching me. I barely know this woman. I can’t even remember her name, and that didn’t stop her from mauling me. Yes, I’m grieving. That doesn’t mean I want random strangers turning into affectionate barnacles. Especially not during flu season (and as far as I’m concerned, it’s always flu season). Don’t pat my shoulder, my arm, or my knee, and please don’t hug me tight enough that you can glean both my cup and band size from your own body fat displacement. Some things just need to stay private, capisce? And FYI, I carry pepper spray for the specific reason that I’d rather not be molested. Thank you.

My sister said something funny when we were bringing seven vases of flowers in the house after the funeral. She said that it’s funny how people give live flowers when someone has died. “It’s like saying, here, these are pretty, but soon they’re going to die, just like your husband did!” We had a good laugh about it, but when you think about it, giving flowers is an odd thing to do. I’m sure it’s a tradition rooted in the middle ages when a dead body would stink up the house or something equally unpalatable like that. But really, what good are flowers to a grieving widow or child? The best thing that we got after my dad died was a big basket full of paper plates, bowls and cups, plastic spoons and forks, napkins, paper towels, Kleenex, toilet paper, trail mix, cookies, and bottled water. We didn’t have to wash dishes or run out to the store, and we had pick-me-up snacks and drinks at hand. I went on-line and, in a fit of morbid curiosity, looked up some of the bouquets we were sent. People spent a LOT of money on flowers. I wish they’d have given it to the hospice or to Barrow instead, where it could do good instead of wilting and shedding on the carpet.

I’ve noticed something else. Before the funeral, people are all phone calls and dinners and visits and flowers and sympathy. After the funeral? Nothing. It’s like, okay, he’s in the ground, that’s it. Back to your life. And the thing is, after the funeral is when we need the attention the most. Before the funeral, we had the funeral to get ready for. After the funeral, there’s nothing, just a lot of emptiness. Phone calls and flowers and visits would be nice around now, but everyone else has moved on. We got so many flowers the week of. I sort of wish they’d been spaced out a bit more. I could do with a pretty bouquet about now.

Death is a sticky situation; I think we’ve established that. So people tend not to know what to say. And so they say the wrong thing. Many wrong things. I would like to suggest here and now that we adopt some sort of official words of condolence and mourning. Something along the lines of, “I heard what happened. I’m so sorry.” Nothing else needs to be said. I don’t need clichés or platitudes or half-witted advice or, worst of all, “I know what you’re going through.” Because no one, not even my siblings, knows what I personally am going through. I’m the only me out there and I’m the only one who had the relationship with my father that I did. So no one can rightly claim to know anything. Other people have said to me, when I have expressed the slightest bit of unhappiness or remorse, “Well, do you think your dad would want you to feel/act this way?” Sorry, I don’t know how he would want me to feel or act just now, and since he’s dead and I can’t very well ask him, can I. Thanks though.

There are other things that no one should, under any circumstances, say to someone who has just experienced the death of a family member, and I’ve decided to pepper-spray the next person who says any one of them to me:
-“It was for the best.” (Best for whom, exactly?)
-“God needed him more.” (I’m sorry, but God doesn’t need any of us.)
-“It was his time to go.” (Even if this is true in a fatalistic or religious sense, he was only fifty-two so frankly “his time” sucks for all involved.)
-Anything beginning with, “You probably don’t want to hear this now …” (Well then do me a favor and can it.)
-“He’s not in any pain any more.” (He wasn’t in any pain before he died, either. His tumor wasn’t painful, and in the hospital after the stroke he was unconscious and sedated. But thanks for playing.)
-“Everything will get back to normal before too long.” (Really? Will my father be less dead in a few months?)
-“This Christmas will probably be hard for you.” (Gee, ya think?)
-“Put your trust in God.” (I did that already, and God took my father away.)
-“The best way to get over your grief is to step outside yourself and do something for someone else.” (K, first off, you never “get over” grief. You learn to live with it. Second of all, I can barely get out of bed in the afternoon and choke down 700 Calories a day, on top of which my father just died. What good am I to anyone else when I can’t even take care of myself at the moment? I think I should probably start brushing my hair regularly before I start any big service projects, just so I don’t scare the less fortunate.)

I know that people mean well, and I appreciate that. But we mustn’t forget that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. A simple, “I’m sorry,” means so much more to me than a lot of flowery words or proverbs. And if you step away after you say it you’ll be out of my pepper-spray range a lot faster.

09 October 2008

Shut Your Mouth

So. I read in the newspaper on Sunday about a new, less-invasive way of doing surgery; doctors are learning it as we speak and are apparently rather excited about it as it means less mess when removing gallbladders, appendices, and that sort of thing. Well, naturally, the first paragraph caught my attention. I had my gallbladder out a few years back and I’ve got four delightful little scars on my abdomen as a result. I’m lucky, actually, because my surgery was done laproscopically so the incisions were all very small, the largest about 1.25 inches across. If I didn’t know they were there I wouldn’t notice them. I digress. I thought to myself, less invasive? Do tell.

And then I read on.

And it turns out that these nutcases want to pull things out through existing bodily orifices. Gallstones? That gallbladder’s coming out your mouth. And in the case of appendicitis, get ready to give birth to an organ, because isn’t it handy that there’s an orifice nearby there as well.

May I be the first to say, ew? Perhaps I’m overreacting, I do have a delicate stomach. And the patient is unconscious during surgery, so it’s not like you’d choke on a part of your upper GI system. But personally, I’d rather be sliced open like a trout than have any part of my body come out of another part of my body.

The article did go on to mention that there are concerns about infection and the impossibility of properly sanitizing an orifice to minimize risk. But they’re working on it. Working on it, which means that before long they’ll have something figured out, and you gentlemen might be passing more than a bowel movement.

This is, I think a good example of the adage that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Granted, a lot of the … technology, I guess you’d call it, isn’t quite there yet. But it will be, so between you and me, if I have to go to the ER for a ruptured appendix, I’m bringing an X-Acto knife with me and making the first incision myself. It may be the only way to make sure they remove my appendix the way God intended: by slicing me straight open and ripping that sucker out. And if a GI doc asks me to open wide, I’m headed for the exits. There are some things you just shouldn’t throw up.

08 October 2008

Maybe you can drive my car ...

I got my driver’s license in November of 1999. I got my permit before that, in May. And my father taught me to drive, in the old blue Toyota in the elementary school parking lot, just like he did with my sister and my brothers before me. And I learned to drive. In Page, Arizona, where there are maybe five intersections with stoplights. The speed limit is 25mph on the main roads around town, unless you head off the mesa, where you can speed up to 45.

Then I moved to the Valley in September of 2002 and suddenly I was driving on 6-lane roads where the speed limit was 45 but everyone was driving 60, and I realized that I didn’t know how to drive at all. Well, I’ve learned. And I’ve learned a number of other things as well – most drivers in Maricopa County are morons. Period. How do I know this? Let me count the ways.

Here’s one. Each upper corner of an Arizona license plate is supposed to bear one – ONE – sticker. A month sticker in the left corner and a year sticker in the right. When you get your new year sticker in the mail, the accompanying instructions clearly state that you are to cover the old year sticker with the new. Yet every day I’m on the road I see at least four drivers who feel it’s very important for the world to know that their plates were paid up for 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 in addition to 2009. The stickers will be in a neat little row on the license plate, sometimes overlapping, sometimes edging the plate. Although I suppose I should be glad that those people bothered to renew. I see an alarming number of cars driving around with plates that expired in 2005 and 2006.

Not that the cops are going to pull them over for it. In fact, I’m not sure what you have to do to get pulled over around here. Running a red light doesn’t seem to do it. The prevailing thought here is, it’s not red if you go fast enough. So the light will change and six or seven cars will go on through the intersection, even ones that were stopped behind the crosswalk when the light changed. This, by the way, is how people get killed. But quite often it’s eight cars that go through, and the eighth is a black-and-white driven by one of Gilbert’s finest.

You won’t get pulled over for speeding, either. I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon: no matter how fast I drive, someone always has to go faster than me. I’ve tried flooring it and still, some intrepid little Jeep or Acura is always speeding by me in the next lane. I got up to 65 in a 45 zone once before I gave up and let the impatient H2 driver fly past me. I tried the same thing on the freeway and realized I was going 85 in a 65 zone and I was still being tailgated by a semi truck.

Speaking of the freeways, if you’re on the 101, you might as well go 101mph, because most people can’t tell the difference between the highway number and the speed limit. I think this is why ADOT was so reluctant to finish the 202. I-10 looks a lot like 110, doesn’t it? You might as well accelerate when you go from the 101 to the 10; always assuming of course that traffic is actually moving. Quite frequently the average speed is … well, 10, if one is lucky.

Other offenses that will NOT get you pulled over include illegal U-turns, failing to signal one’s intent to turn (one would think that cars sold in Arizona don’t come equipped with turning signals), jacking your pickup truck up about three extra feet, tailgating a car so closely that the bugs on your grill scrape off on their bumper, driving around at night with no headlights, covering up your license plate, not having a license plate, not stopping at a stop sign, text-messaging while driving, making a bad pass, and in most cases, driving drunk.

The only thing I’ve seen people stopped for, actually, is driving in the HOV lane illegally. That’s Arizona for you. You can endanger the lives of everyone on the road if you want, but we’ll be *damned* if you’re going to drive in the HOV lane without a passenger in your car. That’s a smiting offense.

I’ve often thought that the majority of Arizona drivers ought to have their licenses revoked. But it occurred to me a while ago that I’m just assuming all these drivers are actually licensed, which is foolish of me. You don’t have to have a license to get behind the wheel of a car, do you? The only time you need one is if you’re pulled over, and I think we’ve established that that almost never happens. You can buy a car without a license, can’t you? There’s nothing to stop you from driving it off the lot without one, either. And therein lies the problem. Well, one of them, anyway.

I wish there was some way to get all of these lunatics off the road. But I’m at a loss. So in the meantime, I’ve become one of them. I shout at people who can’t hear me, I cut people off, I speed, and I change lanes with the speed and precision of a Frogger (although I do at least use my signal). I have become as bad as everyone else. With one notable exception: my driving record is unblemished. I’ve never even been pulled over.

I thought for sure I was going to be, once. I was looking for an address and I accidentally ran a yellow that changed to red. A cop followed me through. I thought I was done for, but instead of turning his lights on, he tailed me impatiently for 30 yards, then sped around me, going 55 in a 40 zone. Then he made a right turn on another red without stopping or signaling, and pulled into the parking lot of a Dunkin’ Donuts. No joke.

I love the valley.

06 October 2008

Honk if you love peace and quiet

I want to be very clear about something here: I don't want to complain about my little car. I love my little car. I have a great little car. Compared to my first car, it's an Aston Martin.

Of course, my first car was a 1976 Toyota Corolla SR5 Liftback and I learned to drive it in 1999, when the ceiling liner no longer stuck to the inside roof of the car, and you had to open the car door to raise or lower the windows, and the keys fell out if you made too sharp a turn, and you could start it with a flat head screw driver, and the gas gauge was broken and you had to ask the a/c very nicely to blow air at all and good luck getting that air to be cold. I actually loved that little blue car and I was brokenhearted when my dad said 'enough' and donated it to the high school auto shop.

The car I drive now is a 1997 Chevy Cavalier - the cheapest model they made that year, under 10 grand brand new if I'm not mistaken. My father bought it used from a man he worked with at the power plant (who had bought it for his stepdaughter's 16th birthday; unfortunately he overestimated her intelligence, I don't think she could drive a stick shift). The steering is power, but the locks and windows aren't. Nothing fancy. It has a nice stereo but that was a birthday present last year, certainly not standard. In the seven or so years since my father bought the Cavvy, we have had to buy 2 new batteries, replace the a/c and the belt driver, buy new windshield wipers about a dozen times, reset the EGR valve, get all-new breaks, replace all of the knobs on the dash, and fix the clutch. There have been a few electrical problems as well, some wiring crap I can't recall. And I still love my little champagne-colored USA-made disaster.

Until lately.

Two weeks ago I was sitting at my computer, looking at Otters on Cute Overload, when I heard a car horn honk. And honk, and honk. For about five straight minutes. I already had a migraine, and this wasn't helping. The doorbell rang a moment later; it was a neighbor. The offending horn was in my Cavalier. It stopped while she was at the door. And there have been five or six other such incidents of late. Constant beeping. My mom's been able to stop the noise by banging on the hood. I've had to unlock the car and hit the horn to make it stop.

This was a particularly embarrassing problem last week when I was stopped on a freeway overpass at a red light, behind a minivan. My car honked for about 15 seconds by itself. I threw my hands up in the air, hoping that surrounding drivers would see that I wasn't trying to be a jerk. I was just driving a jerk car.

So I've gone on-line to try to figure out if my car is haunted or what else. I've examined pictures and diagrams in the Haynes car repair book my father bought years ago. I think I can unplug my horn and make the problem go away.

The only thing is, what if I NEED to honk at someone and I can't? I guess I'm going to have to find a mechanic. I've never gone to a mechanic before. My father could fix anything car-related. Anything, period.

I've had moments where I thought my father was honking the horn. And if he is I'm okay with that. As long as he knocks it off while the neighbors are home. They get crabby when they're honked at for 10 minutes.

02 October 2008

Well, color me incredulous

I've been watching a lot of TV lately.
In my defense, I'm unemployed, and at least, oh, 10% of what I watch is educational. Fault me if you want for considering "Showbiz Tonight" educational, but it IS on the Headline News channel, and I've learned a number of things from watching. But I digress.
More TV means more commercials, of course, and even though I mute the television I usually end up watching them. As I've watched them, something has been bothering me, and since it's bothering me, I'm going to make for darned sure that it bothers the rest of you as well.

I've seen a number of television commercials for haircolor - L'Oreal is the one that comes to mind. They'll show a celebrity - Heather Locklear, for instance, or Andie MacDowell, sitting at home with Excellence Creme on their heads, lounging around while their color processes, talking about what a great product it is, blah blah blah. What I want to know is, are we honestly expected to believe that these women color their own hair at home? Heather Locklear for one strikes me as the sort who pays a couple hundred clams for a simple haircut. I don't think she's going to spend eight bucks at Wal-Mart on haircolor and do it herself in the bathroom at home. I just don't buy it.
I've been to beauty school. I know entirely more about the chemistry of haircolor than I ever wanted to. I'll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that there is a difference between the color you buy in a box at Wal-Mart and the color that licenced professionals use at hair salons. They're made of different chemicals and they work on the hair shaft differently. If a person uses box hair color month after month, it builds up. The hair isn't going to look completely pretty. Salon color doesn't do quite the same thing. That's not just something that hairdressers say to get more money out of you, it's basic chemistry.
I don't mention this to wow the general populace with my knowledge of color chemistry. I mention this because if Andie MacDowell was really coloring her own hair with Excellence Creme every month, it would look more greasy than lustrous and the color would be one-dimensional and uneven. Either she's got a head of hair unique among humans, or somebody's lying.
Guess which one I'm going with?