Monday: I hate driving
I used to love driving. I got my licence when I was almost 17. It took me three tries, but you know what they say: “Nothing worth having isn’t worth working hard for.” Now, while this might imply that I wasn’t very good at it, the fact was that I was terrified of the driving examiner, a thin red-haired guy with spectacles and a pornstache who never smiled. The first two times, I was so nervous that I forgot even the basics, like how to signal and maybe brake. But then my lovely mother came up with a plan—she told me we were going shopping and then she suddenly pulled into the licence office. I had no time to get worked up, and managed to pass the road test with flying colours. Also, the examiner had pretty much given up on me ever being able to parallel park, so he skipped that part. And if he’s out there, he’ll be gratified to know that I’ve NEVER, in almost 35 years, even attempted to parallel park. I’d rather abandon the car in a ditch and call a cab than try to squeeze in between two other cars. Apparently, new vehicles come with parallel parking technology, but I’d probably f*ck it up by screaming “Watch the back bumper! Jesus—you’re too far from the curb AGAIN!” just like my own driving instructor, an old guy hired by my high school who looked like Santa Claus but talked about his girlfriend in very graphic terms, used to do. In this day and age, Gary’s pervy sense of humour would have meant instant dismissal, but hey—it was the early 80s, a time when creepy older guys could say what they wanted and teenaged girls felt pressured to giggle nervously. Gary had one of those cars with an extra brake on the passenger side, and his favourite trick was to drive around alone seated in the passenger seat, with his hand on the bottom of the wheel, his left foot on the accelerator and his right foot on the extra brake, freaking people out. He was the original driverless car. Among other things.
At any rate, there I was with my license. Not really my freedom, since it would be years before I could afford my own car, but still. Over time, I’ve driven many vehicles—a Mercury Marquis, bigger than most small watercraft, a Cutlass Supreme, a Ford Tempo (Ken’s first car), my own Honda Accord, then a succession of mini-vans until K was old enough to not require a car seat. When I turned 40, I got the best car in the world—a Saturn SC2 Coupe in bright yellow with black leather interior. It was an awesome car, and the best part was that it was made of plastic. Well, some sort of polymer anyway, which meant it would never rust. I loved that car—I had it for almost ten years until the fateful day that I was driving K and myself home from the cottage. Two kilometres from our exit on the 401, the double tanker truck driving beside me decided to change lanes—into OUR lane. He hit us, and proceeded to push us off the highway diagonally as we were both going around 100 km an hour (60 mph for my American friends). He ripped through my plastic side panel, and for a minute we were caught on his bumper. I still remember fighting the wheel so I wouldn’t get whipped around underneath him. When the car finally tore loose and I came to a skidding, sliding halt on the shoulder, I started to cry hysterically, K in the back seat patting my shoulder and trying to hug me. The truck driver stopped, and he got out and ran back. “I didn’t even see you!” he said. “Christ, this is the second time in the last two weeks this has happened to me!” I was like “What the f*ck! My car is bright yellow—how could you not see me!?”
He was charged with careless driving, but my car was a write-off and I was a wreck. For a little while anyway. It took some time before I was able to get back on a major highway, but I did it, a few panic attacks notwithstanding. Then I got, almost simultaneously, a new car and a new job. The car was amazing—a Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo, black with red custom trim, black leather interior, and fully loaded. It was a show car, and had only been driven to and from malls and convention centres. The job was equally awesome, but it was in Toronto, which meant regular trips down the nefarious 401, the world’s “superhighway slash parking lot”. After a few months of tearing my hair out, trying to get home on a Friday night, or back into the city on a Sunday, driving in the STUPIDEST traffic known to human kind, I finally discovered the train. I’ve previously written about this, so I won’t bore you with the details but here is the top ten list of reasons why traffic might be suddenly stopped on the 401, which I wrote about in more detail in My Week 54: Back on the Train Gang:
10) It’s raining.
9) What a weird looking bird…
8) Is that a running shoe? Slow down!!
7) Look, an airplane. Coooool.
6) There’s an accident on the OTHER side of the road.
5) It’s windy.
4) That squirrel has devil eyes!
3) Are those cloud shadows on the road, or is it the beginning of the alien invasion?
2) A bus is on fire.
1) (And this is absolutely true). Radio announcer: Be careful out there today, folks. That sun is really shining brightly!
The 401 is the most aggravating piece of sh*t highway in the world. But I had managed to avoid it completely for almost the last year, until two weeks ago, when I had to work in Mississauga. I decided that I might as well just travel back and forth from home—it was almost the same distance as coming in from downtown TO, and the upside was that I could see Ken every night. But after the first week of leaving the house at 6:15 am and not knowing if I’d get to work either on time or alive, I was starting to have second thoughts. Until I was telling my manager about it, and she said, “Why don’t you just take the 407? The company will pay for it.” The 407? That blissful, privately-owned toll road that would help me bypass all the stupidity of the Hurontario to Trafalgar Road corridor, which is technically a 14-kilometre stretch but can take almost half an hour to get through, thanks to what the radio announcers call “volume”? Yes, THAT toll road.
The next morning, a quiet Sunday, I tried the 407. I was hooked. This was MY road, the one I was always destined to drive. Of course, it WAS a Sunday—who knew what it would be like on a Monday morning during rush hour. Guess what? Exactly the same! I made it into work 15 minutes early, stress-free and with a smile on my face. The same thing happened on the way home—traffic moving steadily, lots of room to change lanes if necessary, no slowdowns because of interesting graffiti on the overpass…
But you know, once you’ve driven on a toll road, you get a little self-entitled. Just like parents who send their kids to private school and expect better grades because they’re paying for them, I also ended up one morning hitting the brakes for a minute and thinking, “What the f*ck is this?! I’m PAYING for this!” It’s amazing how quickly you get used to NOT sitting in a four lane parking lot, surrounded by transport trucks.
Well, the two weeks finally ended, and I was relieved to get home on Thursday night, and ditch the highway driving until the next time we’re working in Mississauga, which should be several months from now. Then I logged into the Via Rail site to buy my train ticket for Sunday—and everything was sold out. So one last trip down the highway to hell. But at least Ken’s driving.
Saturday: Titus and I watch the National Dog Show again.
Well, it’s that time of year, when frou frou dogs get to shake and shimmy their little selves down the catwalk (there’s some irony for you). Yes, it’s the National Dog Show, brought to you by Purina, the company who doesn’t believe feeding dogs antifreeze could possibly harm them. (Propylene glycol, according to Purina, is very safe to ingest. I wonder if any of their senior executives would care to sample it?) Anyway, the show itself is highly entertaining, as much for the strange remarks by the commentators, John O’Hurley and David Frei, as anything. We tuned in a little late, but just in time to see the Toy class:
Me: Titus, look. A Japanese Chin!
Titus: I didn’t know the Japanese had different chins from you guys.
Me: No, wake up. It’s a kind of dog.
Titus: Ugh. It looks like a bug.
Me: It’s name is Michael.
Titus: Sounds about right. “Michael”. Ha!
Me: What’s wrong with Michael?
Titus: Look it up on Urban Dogtionary.com. You’ll see.
Announcer 1: Up next is the Yorkshire Terrier, Bugsy Malone. Did you know that Yorkies were originally bred to guard factory workers’ lunches from rats?
Titus: What kind of self-respecting dog GUARDS lunches? I’d be all up in that sh*t. There’d be nothing left, let me tell you. Guarding lunches—bah.
Me: Yes, I think we all know better than to leave YOU in charge of food. God, look at this thing….
Announcer 1: And here we have the Pekingese, Chuck. Chuck is a little slow off the mark. Oh wait, there he goes—he’s really “scorching the earth” now, haha.
Announcer 2: You know, you could be walking this dog backwards for two years and never notice. Wow. He just won his class. Way to go, Chuck.
Then we went on to the sporting class, which seemed to be made up of a lot of setters, pointers, and spaniels.
Titus: Did he say Visla? Wasn’t that the all-girls’ school in Harry Potter? Wait—he just said “Cocker”! This gets better and better.
Me: Grow up!
Then the announcers started to fill in the dead air between announcing the dog’s breed and watching it parade around the ring with some pretty random sh*t:
The Irish Setter: She looks like the redhead who walked into the cocktail party. (Titus: He said “cocktail”. Snort).
The Weimeraner: This dog is the grey ghost. It’s like a ninja. I have one, and he just appears out of nowhere.
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retreiver: This dog has a long name, and it’s the official dog of Nova Scotia. It has to be strong enough to carry a two pound duck.
The Chesapeake: Oily coat and webbed feet. An interesting dog. Waterproof.
The Springer Spaniel: This is by far the prettiest dog I’ve ever seen. His name is Timmy.
Miniature Poodle. This haircut is not whimsical. The miniature poodle is a gentleman’s hunting companion (Titus: Hunting for what? Aliens?).
Schipperke: Look at those nice, erect ears. (Titus: He said “erect”. Snort).
Lhasa Apso: Bred to be a guard dog in monasteries.
Tibetan Terrier: Also guarded monasteries. (Titus: Why were all these dogs in monasteries? Geez, live a little, why don’t you?)
The French Bulldog: Did you know Parisian streetwalkers used to use these dogs as icebreakers? You know, to start a “conversation” with a potential client…
The Border Collie: These dogs are incredibly intelligent. (Titus: Not intelligent enough to refuse to be in a dog show.) His name is Slick. (Titus: Well, at least he has a cool name.)
Finally, the show was done, and the overall winner was a Greyhound named Gia.
Titus: I think I’m in love.
Me: She looks a little too mature for you.
Titus: What?! Why?
Me: Really? From the guy who snickered every time the announcer said a word with “cock” in it? I thought you were going to fall off the bed when he said “erect ears”.
Titus: Guilty as charged. You know, you missed your chance with me. I could have been a show dog. Just look at these pearly whites.
Me: I’d have to rename you. How does Dick sound?
Titus: Absolutely awesome.