They Listen

 

Interesting thing happened to me recently. I know, go figure, right?

Well, I got a text from a guy named Will, who was a client of mine last year, when I was still a chauffeur. Turned out, Will was a musician, in town for some huge, weekend-long wrestling event. He loves music, and he loves wrestling, and we joked about him maybe making a career combining the two, like being a musical wrestler. Or a wrestling musician.

Anyway, we talked some about the kinds of music we like, and he said he likes stuff with a jazzy vibe to it, so I asked him if he’d ever heard of Steely Dan, whose specialty is just that. He said he hadn’t, which was understandable; Steely Dan was a little before his time. So I suggested he check ’em out; he might like them.

Hadn’t had any correspondence with the guy since.

Until this text he sent me. He said, when he heard recently of the death of Steely Dan co-founder, co-songwriter and guitarist Walter Becker, I was the first person he thought of.

(!!!!!)

Mind you, I drove this guy once.

Over a year ago.

He still remembered me, and our conversation. He said in his text, he couldn’t believe it. I texted back, “Neither can I!”

 

This was a story about how you never know what you’re gonna say to someone that stays in his mind long after you said it. Good thing for us all to keep in mind.

Will, thanks for the reminder. Great to hear from you, even if it did freak me out just a bit. Hope you’re a successful musical wrestler, now.

Driven to Insanity

 

I drive a motor vehicle for a living. A shuttle van. 🚐

Bigger than a car or SUV, but not like a big 18-wheeler. 🚛

The point is, I’m a driver. Which is okay; I enjoy driving. Always have, I suppose.

I got to thinking about that lately, and had to chuckle a bit. Because my classmates in Drivers Education (along with the teacher) (and maybe, my parents) would have probably told you back then I should be banned from the road for life.

 

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My sophomore year of high school, I got to take Drivers Ed. This was a big deal. I was so ready to get my license and be out on the open road.

But the first step was getting through this class. The classroom portion was pretty straightforward and simple, learning rules and regulations, defensive driving, watching that driving film, stuff like that.

But then, there was the actual driving part. Getting behind the wheel and taming that beast!

That gave me a bit of trouble.

For example, my first time to get out on the highway, I thought I was doing pretty well. My teacher wasn’t yelling at me, he maintained a calm demeanor the whole trip, just writing things down occasionally on some kind of form on a clipboard.

Then it came time for me to pull over and trade places with the other student, in the back seat; it was his turn. The teacher got out of the car to stretch for a bit. While he was out, I noticed, in the front seat, the form he had been writing on.

It was a driver evaluation.

At the bottom of the page was a blank section designated “Comments.”

In the Comments section, he wrote: Scared hell out of me.

Hmmm. Guess I didn’t do so great, after all.

Wasn’t exactly perfect on the practice course at school, either. I remember one particular session where I started to slowly drift into the path of an oncoming car. (I mean, 5 MPH slowly, if that.) I didn’t hit the car; I corrected my course in time, but the other people in my car and in the other car all reacted as if we narrowly avoided a fatal head-on collision, blood and scattered body parts and everything. When it was time to switch drivers, the one in the other car got out and, clearly perturbed, asked me, “What are you trying to do, kill us all?”

OK, so I had my moments.

Then, there was the whole ordeal of learning to drive a car with manual transmission. All I have to say about that is: I HATE manual transmission. Please, may I never have to use it again!

 

The first time I took my on-the-road driving test was great fun. (That, ladies and gentlemen, is sarcasm.) For one thing, I took it in our Chevrolet Kingswood Estate station wagon.

Now, if you’ve never seen one of those, I invite you to Google it and check out the images. The thing measured approximately 50 feet long. You could eat dinner in the front seat while the guy in the back was having breakfast.

Now, try to imagine parallel parking that bad boy.

Needless to say, that’s why I had to take a second on-the-road driving test. Took that one in Dad’s not-much-shorter Pontiac Grand Prix. (Welcome to History of Automobiles) This time, fortunately, I had a younger examiner. The first guy, you could literally break pieces of crust off him.

Anyway, I passed the second time. Yaaayyyy!!

Now I could drive on my own, and start scaring the hell out of my friends, too! Which I did, poor souls.

 

Through the years, I’m happy to say, I’ve gotten better. Now, I’m a more conscientious driver, and I can even communicate with other drivers in fluent sign language.

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The Driver Takes a Detour

 

So…

I had my first session this week with a new therapist.

And, if you’ve read enough of my blog, you know I don’t mean physical therapist.

In case you don’t know, I’ve lived with depression for several years. I’ve seen a therapist before, for about five years, but stopped nine years ago, when she retired. (Early onset Alzheimer’s, bless her heart) A lot has happened between then and now, and I feel the need for help again. Besides the medications. The need to talk to someone, and maybe get some help for dealing.

So, here we go. I’m starting again with someone new. She seems nice enough on first encounter. Hopefully, the two of us can crack my head open and let all the toxic waste spill out, and wade through it as we work to solve the cryptic, perplexing enigma that is yours truly. Wish us luck; she’ll need it.

And, dudes, let me take this opportunity to tell you again what I’ve told you before: It is not a weakness to admit you need help. I know we’re men, and we’re just supposed to handle everything, but believe me, depression is bigger and badder than us. Plenty of male suicides in America prove it. Mike Wallace, the toughest, most badass newsman ever, couldn’t handle depression on his own; it nearly killed him. Then he sought help, and got it.

There is no shame in getting help. You get that? You don’t have to face this monster alone.

I’m reaching out. I know I need it. Please, guys, (and girls) reach out with me. Help is there. You can get it.

That White Stuff

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For my fellow Texans: This is called snow.

I know some of you have never seen it before.

We don’t get much of it around here, so when it shows up, we feel like declaring a national holiday.

Yaaaay, the snow is here!! It’s a winter wonderland! Snowball fights! Downhill sledding! Snow angels! Writing your name!

Yes, we like to get out and frolic and play in the snow, BUT…

…we keep an eye to the sky because, if we get a heavy accumulation, (like one to two inches) we’re hibernating.

That’s right, folks. We go on Lockdown and wait it out, surviving only on our wits and the most basic essentials: food, internet and cable TV.

A few intrepid individuals will venture out onto the roads, but they will invariably leave one thing at home.

Their common sense.

We Texans see anything on the road, we immediately go into full panic mode. The first thing we do is slam the brakes, always the safest move.

And when I say anything, I’m including rain, snow, sleet, volcanic ash…

Wait, scratch that. No volcanoes around here.

All you Northerners (known affectionately to us as Yankees) will, of course, chortle spitefully at our plight, claiming dismissively to have seen larger accumulations of dandruff.

Yeah, well you can all flake off!!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go out and chop down a few more trees for firewood. Maybe rassle a grizzly bear while I’m at it.

See you at Spring Thaw. Or, if you have a lisp, Spring Saw.

One Second

 

I saw a wreck on the way to work yesterday morning. A bad wreck.

Well, I didn’t see it actually happen;  I just saw the aftermath, and it looked really serious, perhaps even fatal.

It was dark outside. A car had slammed into the rear end of an eighteen-wheeler, become lodged under the trailer and dragged to the shoulder of the freeway. By the time I got to the scene, after crawling along with the now slow-moving traffic, the car was out from under the truck. It was one mangled heap of metal. I thought, no way the driver survived that.

I read later that day, he was in critical condition at a local hospital. I don’t know if he made it.

I wondered briefly if he was texting right before it happened. For all I know, he was doing absolutely nothing to distract him from his driving. The accident may have simply been unavoidable, however careful he was.

And maybe, he’ll recover from this. Judging by the looks of that car, though, I think that would be a miracle. But, miracles do happen, sometimes.

I just know this for sure: it only took a second for that man’s whole life to change.

Or worse, end.

 

We’re all such skillful drivers, aren’t we, that we can just multitask all day behind the wheel. We eat, we drink, we talk, we text, we shave, we put on makeup, we read a book or a map, we write, we mess with the radio…

All…While…Driving.

Amazing to see how many people get behind the wheel of a vehicle, and then treat driving as something ancillary to what they really want to do. To them, driving is just Muzak, playing in the background as they go on about other business. How many times have we been on the road and noticed someone doing one of the above activities as they drove? We thought they were insane, right? Or just plain stupid.

Now, truth time. How many of us are guilty of doing one or more of those things, ourselves?

I know I am.

The thing is, folks, there’s no such thing as a slow accident. A second is all it takes; one second of your attention paid to something else besides driving.

Next thing you know, you’re under a truck. Or you’ve “t-boned” another driver. Or veered off the road, into a ditch. Or even struck a pedestrian.

And I know what we all think: Oh, nothing will happen to me. The ego might even jump in, here: I know what I’m doing; I got this.

I’m sure the driver yesterday morning thought the same thing.

According to http://www.distraction.gov: In 2014, 3,179 people were killed, and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.

All those people, injured or killed, because the driver was distracted.

Not to mention, all the families of those 3,179 victims, asking – through angry, bewildered tears – why their loved ones were so suddenly and savagely taken from them, leaving them to pick up the pieces and, somehow, move on.

Because some driver was focused on something other than driving. For one second.

Does that make any sense at all, to anyone?

Friends, let’s be careful on the road, OK? These aren’t toys we’re driving around in. They can do serious, permanent damage. To other vehicles, other people, other lives.

Put the phone/razor/mascara/hairbrush/book/map/burger/soda down and just drive.

Will you?

 

P.S. – Just learned the driver that crashed into the eighteen-wheeler died early this morning.

He was 24.

 

Honey, We Need to Talk…

 

My new driving job takes up a lot of my time; I’m on the clock twelve hours a day. So, I don’t get as much blogging time, lately. As a result, you may not hear from me quite as often as before.

Believe me, though, I’ve not run out of material. I have some things to say regarding events of the past couple of weeks, but this is not the time to just spew out something from a place of raw emotion. I need some time to choose my words carefully, and to speak from a place of reasoned, rational, but no less passionate, conversation.

I believe, at this point, that’s the best approach for us all.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not overlooking the urgency of the matter.

It’s obvious we are long overdue to have a serious conversation about some issues in this country that have gone past simmering and reached the boiling point. We all need to come into this conversation openly, having dropped all preconceptions and prejudices, to ask some tough questions and be willing to hear the answers, to speak honestly and without fear of reprisal and, most importantly, to listen closely.

It’s just that, as vital a role as emotion plays in the dialogue, it can no longer dominate. We all see where competitive yelling has gotten us; can we all agree, it’s time to employ a different method?

I’ll be back soon, I hope, to share a few things for us all to think about. Meantime…

“…oooh, I’m drivin’ my life away…”