Good Intentions Pave the Road from Hell

March 10, 2010

That was the headline I wrote — rejected out of hand by my editor — for a New York Newsday story about all the years of broken promises and well-meant but aborted plans for once and for all fixing the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, aka “the freakin’ BQE.”

It was a great twist on an old saying, in my mind. But there’s no accounting for an editor’s taste, right?

There was no accounting, either, for the horrible shape that road was in during this commuter’s days in New York City. Tire-ripping, suspension-busting mess, it was. But the BQE was, and surely still is, such a high-traffic area that the city didn’t feel it could shut the thing down long enough for any real repairs. And so worse came to worst on many occasions, automobiles losing wheels and drivers losing control.

Bang!

Though there was a good scare with a nasty blowout early one morning on the way to LaGuardia Airport, I had the good fortune never to be involved in any collisions during my daily drives to and from Newsday, which sat in Melville, N.Y., about halfway out onto Long Island. We lived in Brooklyn.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t see more than my share of wrecks.

First thought: Boy, I hope they’re OK.

Second thought: Idiots! I’ll kill them myself if they survived. We’ll be stuck here all night …

And so there I’d be. Hot summer night, 4 a.m. Only a single exit from Flatbush Avenue (no prize itself, I should mention), five minutes from home. Sitting on the hood of my Mazda 323, feeling every sway and bounce of the ancient roadway beneath the fleet of cars now parked on an elevated section of the BQE. Was the hot wind moving the road all by itself? Geez.

True story: There were a few attempts made to fix the absolute worst stretches of highway. And forget blowouts … one of these projects nearly got me and a whole lot of construction workers killed.

It was late at night, of course, since my shift on the copy desk at Newsday ended at 2 a.m. The Mazda was cruising down the Long Island Expressway, making good time for a change as I approached the exit ramp for the BQE. I put on my right blinker and moved into the left one of two exit lanes. Coming over a blind hill, I spotted a traffic cone at the last second and — %&%$#@&%!, or very, very bad words to that effect — swerved right as an orange helmet popped from the hole.

As I sped past, the enormity of what had nearly happened became scarily apparent. The hole was 5 feet deep, the width of a lane, and maybe 30 yards long. Oh, and there were a dozen or so guys with shovels in there.

Protected by a single cone.

Over a blind hill.

With no road construction signs.

We didn’t get any tips the next day about a dozen dead guys in a ditch on the BQE, so I’m guessing they, um, set up a few cones a bit farther up the road once I’d passed.

My heart somehow survived as well. But my soul was scarred. When I finally had made that commute safely for the last time, I got out of the car and kissed the ground …

Blowing out a lip on a pothole.

Advertisements

Pole Dance

January 14, 2010

Oops. Excuse me. Sorry.

Yes, I’m one of those subway riders caught off guard by every little herk-and-jerk of the train. So, sure, I’ve bumped into more than a few folks. Never hard or anything. But it’s terribly embarrassing. Like: “Dude … stand much?”

See, some standees can just chill, arms crossed, and ride comfortably along as the train brakes, accelerates, brakes, brakes, accelerates, brakes, brakes, accelerates … and that’s just leaving the station platform. Me? Not sure if it’s my center of gravity or what — I’ve always had pretty good balance otherwise — but I’m hanging on with both hands and looking for a third foothold. It doesn’t make me a bad person.

But it does make those people a problem.

You know who I mean. The leaners, the huggers, the bouncers and, yes, the smearers (ewww). Monopolizing the steel support poles that run down the center of the car and/or frame the door. So the rest of us have to seek a handhold on the ceiling, the wall or, egads, each other.

The leaners: Usually guys, leaning with their backs against the pole, legs spread wide to accommodate their maleness. You could grab the pole above their heads or below their butts. No thank you. I’m just glad they’re comfy.

The huggers: Usually women using the pole as protection against people pushing or rubbing against them — often with good reason. (Guys, guys, guys …) See, they’ve got some wiggle room if they sort of drape themselves around the pole. Again, there are spots to grab knee high or up top, but why? You’ll just look like a perv or something.

The bouncers: These are folks — of both sexes — sort of rolling with the flow of the train, zoning out to the iPod. Slack, you know? So the train speeds up and they drift away from the pole a little, then let their bodies softly bounce off it during braking. Other riders can’t get a hand in edgewise without accidentally copping a feel.

The smearers: Wipe nose, grab pole. Pick teeth, grab pole. Grab pole (guys, please!), scratch, grab pole. Yuck. I mean really, seeing this stuff can put you so off your subway standee game that you’ll take a seat from a pregnant lady just to avoid all oddly warm, slick metal surfaces. Am I right?

Maybe that’s why the chillers learned to balance so well.

Hey, I’m working on it, OK?

Judicious Use of a Microphone

January 7, 2010

You always know where you stand aboard a Washington, D.C., subway train.

Because the conductor keeps telling you every five seconds.

Now, we rode the subway about every day we lived in New York City. And in all that time, never once were we informed of anything via the loudspeakers. Oh, they were constantly droning on, but everything coming out of them sounded like the digitized, indecipherable voice of the teacher in a Charlie Brown TV special. Never understood a word.

In D.C., we hear everything clear as a bell, which is good in concept.

I mean, a little info’s great. But since they know they’ve got a captive audience, it seems each of the conductors is obsessed with polishing the dulcet tones of his or her rap.

“Good morning, and welcome aboard the Metro Transit System. Please move to the center of the train car to allow passengers behind you to board as safely and quickly as possible. Please be courteous and observe the priority seating signs above seats that are reserved for the elderly and the disabled. Doors are closing.  Please stand clear of the closing doors. (Ka-Thump.) Your next stop is Metro Center, transfer point to the Blue and Orange lines on the lower level. Orange Line in the direction of Vienna/Fairfax and New Carrollton stations. Blue Line in the direction of Largo Town Center and Franconia/Springfield. Doors will open on the right-hand side of the train at Metro Center. Metro Center, next. Thank you for choosing Metro Rail.”

No, um, thank you, I think. A stop later:

THIS is Gallery Place/Chinatown, YOUR stop for the Verizon Center on the street level, your final transfer point to the Green Line in the directions of Branch Avenue and Greenbelt. Yellow Line in the direction of Huntington and Fort Totten. Passengers on the platform: Please step back to allow customers to exit the train in a safe and speedy manner. Please spread out and use all available doors. There are six cars on this train, each equipped with three open doors. Departing passengers: Please be sure you have all your personal items, please keep children close and well in hand, please be aware that there is a gap between the subway car and the platform and do have a pleasant day. Welcome aboard Metro Rail …”

Honestly. One sing-songy barrage barely ends before the next begins. Oh, and then comes the kicker.

“JOO-DISH-OO-WARY Square is next. Please make sure you have all personal belongings before leaving the train at JOO-DISH-OO-WARY Square. Doors will open on the right at JOO-DISH-OO-WARY Square … Thank you for choosing Metro Rail. The time is now 9:08 a.m.”

I’ve informed Mary that, should I ever begin pronouncing Judiciary Square as JOO-DISH-OO-WARY, she should shoot me with a tranquilizer gun, burn my Metro card and force me to spend a week strapped to a loudspeaker in the New York City subway system for deprogramming.

Then again, I might go voluntarily.

Re-Construction Ahead

May 19, 2008

Hey, if you’ll stop honking for a second, I’ll explain what the stinking bottleneck’s all about here.

Yeah. Nothing’s moving. It’s been a while between posts.

Sorry, but you’ve wandered into a work zone. Give Me a Brake. 😉 If you’ve been reading along with this blog or Impressions of a Shop Boy, then you know I love to tell stories. But “Unattended Items” apparently needs a format do-over. Something just as fun but perhaps a bit less time consuming. Group participation? Sharing your stories? Taking a sample DMV driver’s test question and running with it? More feedback from cops and conductors? A buddy blog? The possibilities are nearly endless even if time is not.

For the moment, please choose an alternate route. (But don’t forget this one.) And accept my sincerest thanks for riding along.

Pontificating

April 16, 2008

If God were so concerned about having his name taken in vain, he wouldn’t let the pope visit major metropolitan areas during workdays.

What, the pope can excommunicate but he can’t telecommute?

Damn.

Which makes my commute this morning something of a miracle. Baltimore to D.C. on MARC, Red Line of the Metro to the Farragut North subway stop, where the Circulator bus was waiting for me. Here’s the kicker: Because of barricades set up for the pope, the Circulator had to use its old route, which took it in one stop from K Street at 21st to K and Thomas Jefferson Street, where I work. Cut off 30 minutes worth of stops along Pennsylvania Avenue and M Street.

A silent prayer of thanksgiving, and I calmly strolled to the breakfast place (didn’t think to have eggs Benedict), watched the Potomac roll on by for a while and still beat my co-workers in.

On second thought, maybe the pope should move here. Vatican’s getting kinda old anyway, right?

Spring Ahead, Fall Ill

April 1, 2008

Ah, spring!

Time for the last cold of the season to sweep from one end of the germ wagon — train, subway or bus — to the other. Hear that coughing? It’s coming soon to a sore throat near you.

Add seasonal allergies and you have one sneezy, wheezy, snarky bunch sharing your commute.

Yuck. A guy at work with a 2-year-old kid once walked up to another parent, greeting him with, “So how’s your little Petrie dish today?” Yep, that’s who you’re sitting next to.

Of course, auto commuters see this as one more reason for driving their cars instead of riding along — immunity from roaming bugs.

Hah!

We’re taking your tolls, handling your credit cards at the coffee shop, borrowing your pen … maybe even parking your car!

Might as well save the hassle of traffic, eh?

Sniff!

Can I get you a tissue?

Yes, Officer

March 22, 2008

OK, so just arrest me, why don’t you?

Geez, I’m having an e-mail discussion with Mary’s pal Lee, a police officer for 25 years, and happen to mention a blog entry I’ve got in the works about bad cop driving. Hee-hee! Maybe it could include a comment from her. Haw-haw! It was going to go something like this:

Pull over, buddy.

Yes, you. The one in the squad car. License and registration, please. Oh, we know, you’re in a hurry. But you should have thought of that before you set a bad example for the rest of us drivers. And you … a cop!

We’re going to let you off with a warning this time, and here it is: You’re going to get somebody hurt.

Please, stop abusing the privilege. Make a right turn on red (when the sign clearly says don’t) and we’re right behind you. Can’t be bothered to stop so you flip on your siren just to sneak through a yellow/red light … then blend back into traffic on the other side (didn’t think we noticed that one, did you?) and we’re going to get suspicious. Might even try that running-the-light thing ourselves. Double park at a convenience store to grab a coffee and block traffic on a busy street instead of pulling into the open space two car lengths ahead? Criminal.

Drive 75 mph on the little stretch of highway that runs through town and the kids are going to get the idea that this type of recklessness is OK.

Oh, that’s right. You’re a professional driver. So’s a cabbie

***

Well! You would think I’d just run a red light as I stood in the open window of the driver’s door and shook my booty outside the car while it drove itself (seriously, Mary and I saw this one day on Martin Luther King Boulevard in Baltimore — apparently a trendy trick). Because Lee was, well, irritated. You want a comment? She threw the book at me.

Here it is: “Why Cops Drive the Way We Do”

OK, so you’re a cop, and you’re expected to respond quickly to domestic disputes, armed robberies and all sorts of mayhem. Sometimes lives can be at stake, and you never know what you might be getting involved in until you arrive. A domestic might be just another argument, or it might be someone getting the crap beat out of her. OK, sometimes the woman beats the crap out of the man. But not very often.

If the department you work for is like most, you are alone in your patrol car. It’s more cost effective for police departments to buy more cars than to hire more officers. So you also may be hurrying to back up a fellow officer who arrived before you did. We’re trained to wait for back-up, but sometimes that just isn’t possible. Also, keep in mind that pretty much any time you get into an accident while using the emergency equipment (known as going Code 3), it’s judged to be your fault. If someone doesn’t see you coming through that red light or chooses to ignore you and you run into each other, the legal system says it’s all your fault.

Perhaps traffic is heavy and you are miles away from the scene of the domestic, so you go Code 3. The law requires drivers to pull over to the right and stop when you come up behind them, so you pretty much have to go by on the left. If you give up on waiting for that car in the left lane to finally hear you and move over, try to go around it in the right lane, then the driver wakes up and jerks the car over into your path? Your fault.

Sometimes you’ll have to turn off your siren as you approach a red light because there is no place for the cars ahead of you to go and you don’t want to confuse them into doing something dangerous. Then when the signal turns green, you turn your lights and siren back on. As you approach the call, you turn off your siren anyway, so as not to announce your arrival and give the bad guy a chance to ambush you or kill the woman or whatever.

Now suppose you’ve been to that house with all the yelling and banging before, and it turned out to just be two people who like to yell at each other. So you have slightly less of a sense of urgency, but you still want to get there in a hurry just in case. You’d also like to avoid those problems with driving Code 3. So you decide to just go along with the flow of traffic, but if you come to a red light, you’ll turn on your lights and siren long enough to get through the intersection, then turn them off again and go back to the flow of traffic. Usually, this is way faster and safer for everyone. We call this driving Code 2.

You also might see an officer go Code 3, then suddenly turn off the lights and siren and start dawdling along like it never happened. That’s because other officers got there first and he got called off, or the holdup he was responding to has turned out to be a false alarm. Really, there’s nothing nefarious going on.

Now, about that “going along with the flow of traffic” stuff. So you’re trying to get to that domestic dispute, and you decide the fastest and safest way is to just go along at that 5 to 15 mph over the limit that everyone else is doing. The only trouble is, as soon as they see your police car, the brake lights come on and suddenly everyone is going 3 mph UNDER the limit and you are stuck behind them gnashing your teeth.

My department’s manual says you can use the lights and siren only where there is a danger to the public; in a pursuit; to respond to an emergency or a crime in progress; or to stop a violator. Otherwise, we must obey all the traffic laws. Sometimes, though, when there’s an in-progress crime but you don’t think a Code 3 is justified, you just go around all those suddenly law-abiding drivers at the speed they were doing before they saw you. Is it legal? No. Is it allowed by policy? No. Is it sometimes justified? You decide. We call it driving Code 1 and a half.

As a police officer, you’re far more likely to be killed by gunfire, but traffic accidents are the second most likely thing to get you. Yesterday on the news, there was a little video clip of a drunk driver in a truck plowing into the back of a police car on a freeway. The officer was investigating a traffic accident, and his car was parked with its emergency lights on at the side of the road. You would not believe how often this happens. For some reason, those flashing red and blue lights seem to be magnets for drunk drivers. I’ve been hit by a drunk driver while sitting in my car with the overheads on (having stopped another drunk driver).

Truck drivers and pilots have regulations that prohibit them from working more than a certain amount of hours before they have to stop and sleep. There are no such laws for police officers. We are expected to be able to drive fast and make split-second decisions, sometimes using deadly force. Those decisions will be second-guessed by judges, juries, and our supervisors. And yet, no one thinks anything about requiring us to work all night, get up and go to court the next day and to have to repeat that day after day. All in all, the miracle is that we don’t get in more accidents than we do.

Are there officers who are just jerks, who take advantage of their authority to disobey the traffic laws for no good reason? Sure, just like there are jerks in any other profession. But mostly they’re just men and women trying to do their jobs the best way they know how. Next time, they might be rushing to help you out.

***

Wow. Good thing I didn’t mention that funny little idea about making cops take a driver’s ed course. Ho-ho! I’d better not drive through her city anytime soon, eh?

Seriously, thanks to Lee for taking the time away from sleep to so eloquently correct the, um, misperceptions. Good to have you riding along, officer.

Don’t Push Me

March 13, 2008

The twitching starts as the MARC train gets within a few minutes of Union Station in Washington.

Right after this announcement from the conductor: “For your personal safety, please do not occupy the stairwells or vestibules at this time.”

Soon enough, of course, the stairwells are jammed with people, and a couple of folks have opened the door and stepped into the vestibule at the end of the train car. Every morning it’s like this. One fed-up conductor used to physically block the door and order the “I deserve to be first” people off the stairs until the train had come to a stop. Seemed reasonable enough. But the abuse he took!

Sometimes, these folks even turn on each other. One dashing young fellow, having wormed his way to the spot right in front of the door, was taken aback when an even pushier church lady type stepped between him and the exit. “Well, that was rude,” he sniffed. She turned, looked him in the eye and said, “Go to hell.”

As he began to protest further, she repeated herself … twice.

Often I’ve caught myself wishing harm on these good people. You know, that they’ll maybe slip on the wet floor of the vestibule and fall through that opening at the very end of the rail car and be ground up by the engine that’s pushing us toward D.C.

But you know what? That would only lengthen the commute as the train would immediately have to stop and wait for investigators to gather up all of the commuter’s bits and pieces. The engine might be damaged, too. Then how would we get home?

One morning, a particularly obnoxious guy lost his balance as the train lurched and fell off the stairs into a heap. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one disappointed that he was able to stand right up again.

Ashamed? Not me.

OK, sure I am. So I sit, shake my head and patiently wait my turn to detrain as the Me-Firsters tailgate one another down the platform.

Watch out for that wet spot …

Where’s the Desire?

March 11, 2008

That seems a good question after a week of hopping the streetcars that run along St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans.

We were there a bit before Katrina, Mary on business and me on a lark. (The St. Charles line, knocked out completely for a year, reopened fully in December.) Anyway, it can be frustrating: waiting for the next trolley, not knowing if it’ll be too jammed with tourists and commuters to accommodate even one more. Or whether it will wear an out-of-service sign or bring a wave-off from a crabby, overwhelmed driver told by a crabby, flow-conscious supervisor to leave passengers for the next streetcar.

Then there’s Alex. Just Alex, thank you.

“This your first time riding the streetcar?”

What’s the tipoff? Our “we’re not from around here” accents? The fact that we don’t have exact change for the fare ($1.25)? Our jackets? (When it’s early spring and still chilly in Maryland, it can be summer hot in New Orleans.)

“Come on aboard,” he says as we excitedly climb on.

Alex shakes down passengers for change for our $10 bill and instructs us to stay up front for his own tour of St. Charles Avenue. A trip it will be. He lowers a front window to let in a breeze and begins.

“That house up there … Ann Rice sold it for $800,000. The lady who bought it’s already put in another $200,000.” The word “thousand” sliding off his tongue sounds like “tao san.”

“I’ll show you the house where the guy gives me a dirty look every day. Turned his Cadillac in front of me one morning,” Alex says, his shrug giving us a good guess at the outcome. We pass the house, at which sits a Mercedes Benz coupe and remark that the fellow apparently didn’t make out too badly in the, um, exchange. “Now, every morning, he looks for me before he crosses the street. Gives me a big scowl. I just wave.”

Alex is getting on a roll, and so is the streetcar, which blows past a requested stop. “Hey!” comes an exasperated yell from the back. Alex acts like he doesn’t notice. He gets the next one, meaning the guy in the back is really only about a block from his preferred stop. So sue him.

There are 58 potential stops each way along the 13.2-mile St. Charles route, at least there were before the hurricane. The railbed, set in the middle of St. Charles Avenue, gives joggers a perfect path, so long as they stay alert. In 25-odd years, Alex has been alert to it all. We pass antebellum mansions, monuments, Loyola and Tulane universities, the amazing Audubon Zoological Gardens, shopping centers. Block after block, Alex regales us with property listings, restaurant reviews … and stories!

“There’s this one lady who waves to me, Miss Yvonne LaFleur. Rode my car every day. Her perfume made my car smell so nice. Tiny waist. Looked like Joan Crawford.” He traces an hourglass figure with his hands.

“She’s got a dress shop. I’ll show you it as we go by.”

A day later, captivated by the tale, we’ll go into the dress shop and get a whiff of the lady’s personal scent, La Fleur, which she has bottled. Whoa. It’s clear the hourglass figure numbed Alex’s nose.

Or perhaps it was his coulda, woulda, shoulda career as a boxer. (“I had 20 fights: 17 amateur, three pro.”) As a young man on the eve of fighting for the Golden Gloves championship, Alex made the mistake of buying a buddy’s pledge that they’d be home from one quick drink at a nightclub before midnight. The guy was his ride. “I’m in training, I told the guy.” But he went. By 3:30 a.m., his boxing career was as good as over. Seems that long about 3 a.m., the guy was finally ready to drive Alex home.

“I’m not saying nothing,” Alex remembers. “I’m steaming. He’s got a Mustang. There are four of us in there. He drops me off and I walk over to his door, pull him out of the car and I hit him … Boom! Then I hit him again. He starts going down and I’m lining up this big roundhouse and … Bang! I catch my hand on the roof of the car …”

Alex holds up the gnarled ring finger of his thick right hand.

In fighting shape still in his 50s, Alex shrugs off the bad break, instead speaking with pride of having discovered the young kid who’d replace him at the Golden Gloves and go on to a respectable middleweight pro career. Besides, Alex has a tour to give.

“This house here … lady who owned it put in two pools. One for the kids, one for the dogs.”

Often, as he speaks, Alex raises a gloved hand to his cheek, as if to keep this just between us. And we do feel like we’re the only ones on the streetcar.

On the tourists who fill the streetcars to bursting (oops): “The regular riders … at busy times, two, three full cars go past. You can see ’em. They’re mad. You know they’re gonna come on complaining, ‘Damn tourists this, damn tourists that.’

On a supervisor who tells him he needs to make an extra run before calling it a day: “Hey, Mama’s got red beans and rice in the pot!”

By the end of the line, we’re so charmed that we slip him a $20 tip, thanking him for making our first ride so magical. Alex shoos the other passengers past us toward a queue of riders waiting for a car heading in the opposite direction. Many had gotten on only one stop before, expecting to ride this car back. Gotta get off first, Alex says. Us?

“Stay on if you like.”

We like.

There are a few minutes to chat before the streetcar in front of us clears out. Alex turns around in his chair, beefy arms draped over the seat back. He has a tanned face, a salt-and-pepper goatee and wraparound shades he started wearing after years of sunshine through the windshield gave him cataracts. We ask about the cars.

The electric streetcars on St. Charles Avenue (900 Series Perley Thomas, built in High Point, N.C., in the 1920s) have operator stations at both ends. Rather than turn around, the driver simply stops at the end of the line, gets out, detaches a “trolley pole” on one end of the car from the above power line and connects the pole at the car’s other end. The engines are thus reversed. The seatbacks, with their distressed mahogany finish like the old chairs of grade school, simply slide toward whichever side is now the back of the car. Alex lets me and Mary switch them, which we do giddily as the folks waiting outside glare at us like: “Where do those two get off?”

Alex shows us how the gears work; the air brakes too. (Someday he should gives his fellow drivers the lesson.)

At last, he’s ready to roll and the waiting riders climb on. If they’re giving us dirty looks, we’re having way too much fun to notice. And as soon as we’re moving, Alex picks up where he left off. We pass a prestigious prep school: “You gotta sign your girls up as soon as they’re born.”

The Hotel Pontchartrain: “Liz Taylor’s favorite place. She always stays there.”

Our final stop comes much too soon. We sadly say goodbye and get one more restaurant recommendation — breakfast at the Please-U (wow!) — and reach to shake Alex’s hand. He pulls back. “Dirty glove … can’t shake with that.” He tosses it on the dashboard. A press of the flesh, then streetcar and driver are on their merry way.

We never bump into Alex again as we ride the St. Charles line the rest of the week. Soon enough we’re back to being passed by, waved off or curtly instructed to get our rear ends off a loaded streetcar. (“We’re on a schedule!”)

No Desire.

Just Alex. And a memory worth “tao sans.”

Finger of Fate

March 5, 2008

We are at a stoplight by the entrance to Prospect Park in Brooklyn, about 9 p.m. A second or two before the light turns green, an elderly woman steps into the crosswalk and begins to amble very slowly toward the other side. Right in front of us, against the light. Jeez. What can you do? Wait for her to get out of the way, right?

Suddenly, this driver behind us lays on the horn, guns his engine and flashes his lights, like I should run her over or something. Stupid, impatient New Yorkers …

Bang! I flip him off.

Wheels squeal and the car pulls into oncoming traffic so that we’re window to window with a car full of gang-bangers, one of whom says helpfully: “I’m gonna send that finger home to your mother.”

Scared, um, witless, and realizing that an error in judgment has been made, I hit the gas. They’re temporarily blocked by oncoming traffic but swerve in behind us and … a freaking car chase ensues. OK, so now it’s me and Mary, not the little old lady, who are going to die.

Me: “I’m really sorry I got us killed, Mary.”

Mary: Just … go!

Well, somehow we lose them when I make a move even they apparently thought was crazy. Once we are sure they’ve left the area, we park near home and I sit there and count the fingers my mother had given to me — knuckles a bit white, but all digits accounted for — as Mary ticks off on both hands how many times I have to promise never to make the mistake again. And I have learned my lesson. In such situations, I just channel Mary.

See, Mary’s always hollering nasty things at drivers who cross her. Really, really evil things. (Where’d she learn to talk like that?) Anyway, they can’t hear it, and it makes her feel better. No blood, no foul, right? The only way to roll.

So, if you’re beside me in your car and you see my nostrils flaring and my lips moving, you might want to look at yourself in the mirror. How’s your driving? Not good, not good at all. Yes, my arm might twitch, but pay no attention:

That bird has flown.