Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Freeways and Parking Lots

For three years now we have carried on with our "Family From Yosemite" stories.  These are our gifts to one another for Christmas.  This year some people contributed cartoons too.  We also waited for the Reynders cousins to come before we read them, also Rick listened in on the phone from Pensacola, FL.  Hugh also made notebooks for all our family this year, making copies of the previous stories and putting them in order.  Hugh and the kids also looked at hundreds of pictures hoping to find photos that would enhance our stories.  It was no small undertaking.  It continues to be a work in progress (2008, 2009). Here is my contribution this year:

Freeways and Parking Lots
by Martha Reynders Blair
Christmas 2010

I know it seems impossible. I know you won’t believe it, but my husband has never, and I mean never, EVER drove into a parking lot without going the wrong direction. Inevitably, with slanted painted lines, / /  \ \ he’ll get sucked right into the opposite direction he should be going. I suppose we’ve all done it once, maybe even twice, but EVERY time!? Even with arrows pointing the way, it doesn’t help.

It doesn’t even have to be parking spaces with slanted rows. I mean, there is no right or wrong direction when the parallel parking spots line up with parallel rows, = = = =  RIGHT?! And yet, it can be the smallest of distraction to throw him off. Something as simple as a fire hydrant or a planter filled with flowers and a leafy green tree. Just give him a stop sign, a little traffic, a pedestrian walking by, and certainly don’t utter, “You’re going the wrong way.” His head will start to spin and the wheel will spin with it and unfortunately it‘s always the wrong way impelling us into certain danger.

His customary response to his parking lot impairment is, “Who designed this parking lot anyway! It’s terrible!” It’s all standard procedure, like clockwork. It’s a wonder we all haven’t been killed. The only really safe way to get through a parking lot with him is to have it empty, then Hugh can cruise uninhibited across what should be restricting lines. But empty is rarely the case, so we have learned that as soon as we cross the edge of the parking lot my finger takes over and I start pointing the way we should go without too much mishap.

Interestingly, when he finally parks, it’s not the first empty space he finds, but always the spot farthest from the door with as few cars as possible in the same vicinity. He claims he likes to walk. That sounds like a good healthy choice, but I know the real reason. It’s simply self-preservation. I get irritated at this maneuver when I’m in a hurry trying to make a quick purchase, but then I should just be grateful - I have my life.

Another extension of this weirdness is Hughie never drives someone to school. In spite of having had six children progress from kindergarten through high school, I can count on one hand how many times he’s ventured the mad maneuverings of a school parking lot to drop off a child. He’s avoiding what could easily turn into parking lot rage. If the police patrolling the area could see through the steaming window, the crazed maniac behind the wheel, he would be immediately pulled over, arrested, and no doubt have weeks of anger management classes to attend. But all these years he has been able to avoid such confrontation and has remained calm as a cucumber. He has his ways. If Daddy is driving, you better not be late. His trick for avoiding the morning madness is simple, arrive at school before anyone else does.

He has somewhat softened with the passage of time. He occasionally takes Sam to school. Sam is disappointed when Hugh drives because he always drops him off at the corner which only takes him halfway to school. The halfway drop off point always comes with the explanation that, “Daddy’s got to get to work.” Not that it doesn’t hurt Sam to walk, it’s healthy, RIGHT! If Sam complains too much about the cold, heat, or the distance; you can be sure Hugh will inevitably go into a rendition of how he walked to school; reciting the distance, the weather, and the difficulty of it all, “back in the day”. Yeah, he had to go on foot to school, but that’s not the real story on why Sam gets dropped off at the corner. Again, it’s self-preservation, or call Hughie just “parking lot shy”, WHATEVER! He’s worried that Dr. Jekyll will rear his ugly head by turning into Mr. Hyde. There’s no drinking a special potion or formula to encounter this crazy stressed out change. It’s simply crossing the boundaries of a parking lot.

The funny thing about all this parking lot disorientation is that Hughie is considered the “Map King”. He graduated from BYU in Geography. With “Map King” as his middle name, is it any wonder that a current world atlas is always available for his perusal and study in the bathroom. He’s all about maps and the geography of the world. He can get you anywhere and I mean, ANYWHERE! His maps are explicit in their direction with highlighting and special instructions as needed. He’s better than any GPS and his routes are definitely always better than Map Quest. This skill has come in handy not only at work, but in the lives of our family, especially me, since I’m always getting lost. Without his help I’d never get anywhere.

After traveling many times to a certain location, Hugh will think I’m safe to send out on my own. But I’ve amazed my family and myself many times when I find myself lost once again. I’ve called Hughie up looking for help in finding direction though I usually avoid asking for assistance, but when I've reached the ocean or the highest peak I’ll finely own that I made a wrong turn. Hugh, while looking at a map, knowing full well where my destination was suppose to be and seeing how far off the beaten path I have gone, will ask with peculiar wonder, “How did you end up there?!”

“Oh, I don’t know?!” will be my frustrated response.

But the kids in the car know better. They’d been screaming for the last hour, “You’re going the WRONG way!”

And I would always try to reassure my concerned bunch with my calm demeanor as I turned another corner, “Oh I’ll get back on track here soon enough.”

My theory is, just keep driving and you’ll get there sooner or later. And of course, it’s always later and the kids know it. They and I always end up feeling better when Daddy gets on the phone knowing there is some hope from our demise. He'll shake his head in amazement, but patiently direct my way through traffic and back alleys to get me back on track which provides me and my passenger children with great relief.

As my parents got older and more senile, we use to laugh at my mom’s rendition every time her and my dad would get in the car to go somewhere. Always, she would be in the driver’s seat and my dad would be sitting next to her on the passenger’s side. She would point at him and then to herself while saying, “You remember who we are and I’ll remember where we’re going!”

Well, after years of Hugh and I driving together we know each others strengths and limitations. We have developed our own routine when we venture out behind the wheel. I’ll check and ask if Hughie knows how to get where we are going. His answer is always, “Yes!” Because he always knows where and how to get where we are going, but he always habitually and sweetly adds, “But, you can take over when we get to the parking lot.”

It takes 8,460 bolts to assemble an automobile,
and one nut to scatter it all over the road.
~Author Unknown

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