Tag Archives: driving

Cruisin’

On Monday, I thoroughly enjoyed an experience most people would appreciate just about as much as a root canal without anaesthetic.  I drove 800 miles across the Canadian prairies in 12 hours, stopping at hours 5 and 10 to fill the car’s tank and empty mine.  I’ve been making that trip pretty frequently lately, but I’m still not tired of it.

There are many things I love about driving across the prairies alone.  Not the least of these is the opportunity to sing along with my music at the top of my lungs without losing friends and/or straining my husband’s tolerance to its limits.

Auditory abuse aside, a drive across the prairies in good weather is about as close to heaven as I expect to come.  I love the places where there’s nothing to see but a long, straight ribbon of highway that vanishes into the big blue sky with no visible human habitation in any direction.  And I love the variety in the rest of the drive:  sloughs and open fields and occasional clumps of trees; isolated farmsteads and little towns; foxes and coyotes and deer and antelope and (once in a blue moon) a moose; hawks and waterfowl and songbirds and all kinds of other critters.

There’s room to breathe out there.  When I get out of the city and into the open prairie, my joints loosen and my muscles relax and my soul heaves a sigh of relief and soars up to meet that blue, blue sky.

Mind you, I’m a freak.

Most people consider a drive across the prairies about as stimulating as watching paint dry.  Beige paint.  They’re delighted when they finally arrive at civilization.

I consider civilization an annoying but necessary hiatus in the pleasure of my drive.  To wit:

At the first gas station, I waited approximately forever outside the women’s washroom, only to find that the kid who was using it was taking so long because she was industriously clogging the toilet with paper towels and who knows what else.

If I’d known, I could’ve gone straight to the men’s in the first place.  And don’t get me started about men’s washrooms.

At the second gas station/sub shop, I arrived exactly in time to:

  1. Have a guy slip in front of me to pay for his gas, only to engage the clerk in a lengthy conversation about “Where’s the best place to eat in Virden?”  Not satisfied with the clerk’s initial answer, he diverged into, “But what if I want Chinese food?  But what if I want ribs?  But what if I want…”  You want to live, buddy?  Get outta my way.
    This delayed me enough to…
  2. Have a woman slip in front of me and slam the door to the women’s washroom in my face.  Repeat the above waiting experience, this time with trepidation.  Fortunately, the toilet was still functional by the time I took my turn.
    However, this set up perfect timing to:
  3. Have two women slip in front of me at the sub counter, only to order multiple subs.  Each.  With great indecision about toppings.

I’m not sure whether the drive helped or hindered my retention of equanimity.  On one hand, I was happy and relaxed when I went in, so theoretically it should take longer for me to reach maximum annoyance.  On the other hand, the normal vagaries of humanity seemed extra irritating after ten hours of solitary bliss.

What do you think?

Any other prairie lovers or long-distance drivers out there?

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Filed under Humour, Life

I’m Not An Idiot. Really.

93% of people who drive believe they’re better-than-average drivers.

Anybody else see the math problem here?

This came to mind yesterday, as I swore at the bone-headed stunts of other Calgary drivers.

I just spent three weeks in small-town Manitoba, and I did most of my driving on the wide-open four-lane TransCanada Highway.  Traffic is light in the winter, so the statistical probability of encountering an idiot driver is satisfyingly low.

Unless of course, I’m the idiot I’m trying to avoid.  More on that later.

The idiosyncrasies of small-town drivers don’t bother me.  There, I expect people to double- and triple-park, turn without signalling, and brake to a halt in the middle of the street for a visit with the driver of an oncoming vehicle.

What the heck, it’s a small town.  They don’t need to signal; everybody knows where they’re going.  On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, they’re going for coffee at the bake shop.  Saturday mornings, it’s breakfast at the café.  The last Friday of every month is pizza night at Joe’s.  No problem.

So I was shocked when I was forced to call somebody a butthead within two minutes of leaving my driveway here in Calgary.  I’d gotten out of the habit of muttering verbal abuse at other drivers.  But by the time I’d completed my one-hour trip, the habit was firmly reestablished.  Apparently Calgary has an extremely high population density of idiot drivers.

Hey, that sounds like a collective noun: a murder of crows; a density of idiots…

Anyway, when I went looking for driving statistics, I discovered this wiki on illusory superiority.  To grossly oversimplify the article:  the stupider you are, the more likely you are to believe you’re smart.  And the worse you are at a specific skill (like driving), the more likely you are to believe you’re good at it.

That explains a lot.  And it makes me nervous.

Despite my one-time nickname, “Fender Bender“, I’ve always thought I’m a pretty good driver.  I took a motorcycle safety course back in the 80s, and I’ve never lost those defensive driving habits.  Alert caution is a good idea when you can be effortlessly wiped off the road by anything, including a renegade Canada goose.  (True story – happened to a guy my husband knew.  The goose hit him in the chest and knocked him right off his bike.)

I won’t pretend I’ve never pulled a dumb move like signalling a turn and then changing my mind, or heading for a parking space only to find it’s occupied and I’m now at a ridiculous angle that requires an embarrassing 3-point turn to escape.

But on the whole, I think I’m okay.  I’ve been driving for more than 30 years.  I can’t remember the last time anybody honked at me.  My passengers don’t scream, lose sphincter control, and/or fling themselves out of the car.  I’ve never caused an accident.  (Well, except for last fall.  But that wasn’t because of my driving.)

So, really, I’m a good driver.

Or maybe that’s just wishful illusory superiority…

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Highway Child(ishness)

(Apologies to Bob Seger, Jimi Hendrix, and the Stones)

Before you read any further, I’d like to note that my travelling companions are (usually) mature and admirable people.  Please don’t judge them harshly.  You’d be a basket case, too, if you had to spend fourteen hours in a car with me.

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A couple of times a year, I drive from Calgary, Alberta to just outside Winnipeg, Manitoba.  The trip is about 800 miles one way (1,200 kilometres).  When I’m driving by myself, I do it in about twelve hours.  If I have company in the car, it takes closer to fourteen.

The mind does frightening things when it’s cooped up in a car for that long.  When I’m on my own, I beat my brain into submission with loud music.

When there are other people in the car, things get… strange.

I frequently drive with my sister and a friend whom I’ll identify only as Swamp Butt, in order to protect the guilty.  Since she can’t retaliate without revealing her true identity, I’ll also disclose her nickname for me:  “TB”, short for “Tiny Bladder”.

Three grown women in a car for fourteen hours.  What a wonderful opportunity for deep discussion, bonding, and meaningful dialogue.

Snort!

There’s something about the trip that makes us revert to the mental age of ten.  Some examples:

When you drive directly into the sunrise, the angle of the light reveals the fact that we all spit when we talk.  And not just on plosive consonants.  It’s a constant, fine spray of spittle.  There’s no way to prevent it.  Sorry, but it’s true.

Being the refined and sophisticated person that I am, I pointed this out within seconds of discovering it.  My sister heaved a huge sigh of relief.  “I thought it was just me,” she admitted.  “I’ve been trying to stop doing it for miles.”  She then proceeded to demonstrate various facial contortions designed to reduce the spray.  Much merriment (and aerosolized spit) ensued.

Later in the day, we passed the umpteenth pasture with cattle dotted across its expanse.  I glanced over and said, “Black cows…”  Fateful pause.  “…Look BETTER in the SHADE.”  At which point all three of us did the head bob as we chanted the instrumental part:  “NAH-nah-nah-nah-NAH-nah-nah-NAH!”  Swamp Butt followed up with the solo from the back seat, “Dee-DEE-dee!”

I’ve never really liked Gino Vanelli’s music, or the song “Black Cars”.  To me, the 80’s were a musical wasteland, mercifully relieved by a few outstanding artists like Bob Seger.  But the point is, the “Black Cows” segment was repeated over and over, apparently getting funnier each time.  It’s now a tradition.  Such is the hideous danger of long-distance driving.

Eventually, the brain becomes so sodden with fatigue that it’s not actually necessary to have a stimulus for mirth.  We’ve dissolved in helpless giggles while standing in line at Subway.  Not talking.  Not even looking at each other.  The mere words, “I’ve been in the car too long…” are enough to make us weep with laughter.

Oh, and Swamp Butt?  She snorts when she laughs.  Not every time.  The snort is reserved for special occasions.  But when it finally erupts in all its raucous glory, pandemonium ensues.  Hysterical, helpless hilarity.  We haven’t actually had to pull over yet, but it’s been close a few times.

And then there’s the reason for Swamp Butt’s nickname.  Farts become excruciatingly (and I mean the word in all its connotations) funny after too many hours in the car.  They’re also pretty much unavoidable.  Medical science tells us that humans pass gas 15 – 25 times a day*.

Well, guess what?  Fourteen hours is over half a day.  Times three people.  Equals somewhere between 26 and 44 farts in the car (‘cause I’m a geek and it’s math.)

Here’s another thing you need to know.  Canola smells like cabbage farts.  (Honest.  Those pretty yellow fields?  When it’s cut, it reeks.)  And there are a lot of canola fields between here and Manitoba.  So the next time you let one slip while driving, just nod wisely at your passengers and murmur, “Canola”.  You can thank me now.  Note:  This may be less convincing in the wintertime.

Anyway, on our last trip, Swamp Butt seemed to spot a lot more canola fields than there actually were.  And just as we drove into the parking lot in Brandon to drop her off, she cracked off another one.

Loud.

Seconds before she got out of the car.

We all tumbled out, laughing, shrieking and choking.  I’d like to say that we drew some attention, but we didn’t.  Guess folks in Brandon are used to that sort of thing.

We have not yet devolved to burping contests (well, usually not), armpit noises, or mooning other drivers.  We’re much too mature for that.  I hope.  Please, God, let me be right about that.

What’s your pinnacle of silliness while long-distance driving?

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*Who gets paid to do these studies?  There’s one for the ol’ resume:  “Undertook in-depth research of human gaseous emissions.”

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