Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Making Bad Situations Worse Since '86

My attitude is directly correlated to the current state of the weather.

As you can probably imagine, living in the Midwest, this makes for some extreme neurosis and unpredictable mood swings. However, since I realize this about myself, I usually enjoy riding it out and choose to embrace the privilege of getting to experience all four seasons. Every year. On end. EXCEPT the four continuous months of sure-to-be-shitty weather from Mid-November to Mid-March, which is when my emotional well being is shot through the ringer and I spend an unhealthy amount of time googling idiotic things like ‘babies eating pickles’ and ‘how to make your bathroom feel like a tropical getaway.’

I genuinely pity the person who meets me on a cloudy winter day when it's 20 degrees outside and gets dark at or before 4:30 pm. It just isn’t really my time of year. However, somewhere in the midst of dreading the harsh winter upon us, I came up with the idea of a project, which we’ll call "writing," to distract me from the thoroughly bleak landscape of leafless trees, frigid temperatures, and incredibly dangerous driving conditions.

Plus, I’m a terrible driver. Trust me.  Even worse than I am at writing, if you can believe it. I rarely admit to being bad at something, and for that matter I usually simply refuse to do things I’m not good at, such as drawing anything other than trees and leaving non-excruciatingly awkward voice messages. But, since driving seems to be a necessity at this point in my life, I continue to engage myself in this particular activity, despite overwhelmingly bad reviews from virtually anyone who has ever ridden with me.

(I would however like to mention that I am actually the greatest knee driver that has ever existed, which I discovered not in an attempt to multi-task at the wheel, but rather due to crushing boredom and hours of practice.)

To illustrate what dreadful driver I am, I’ll share with you an example of how a combination of the fact that I’m practically night-blind and the quality of being easily distracted often prove to be a near-fatal combination.

It was the summer of 2005, I was freshly 19, temporarily back under my parents’ tutelage for the summer after spending an eye-opening year burning through stupid amounts of money, ODing on FREEDOM, and half-assedly pursuing a College Degree- intermittently painting my nails black like my soul and feeling woeful while listening to Bright Eyes in my dorm room and taking six or so upperclassmen to Sunday brunch every week at the dining hall on my meal swipes after a night of highlighter parties and binge drinking games. Ah, youth.

I scampered home from Ohio State for the summer and what lay in the garage to transport me from destination to destination? A monster of a vehicle. A turquoise monster of a vehicle, with a CD player and a 15-mpg fuel economy. I was driving an Astro van, everywhere. I drove the shit out of that van because no one else would, and because my parents gave my beloved 98' Chevy Malibu to my 16-year-old sister- um, can you say travesty? Don't get me wrong; a van of that size did have certain... perks. Turning radius and the ability to stay on four wheels during sudden and unexpected turns where not included in said perks.

Anyway, one sticky summer night I was toting around about five of my friends after a particularly filling meal at the local Mexican restaurant. We were probably just going to drive around aimlessly for the rest of the night and dick around on the country roads, because that’s just what we did. Every night. Wasting gas. Living the dream. In The Van.

According to my memory, I’m turning left onto a particularly busy four lane road with a median and I'm panicking internally as I often do in a battle between complete lack of any sort of patience, nighttime and therefore, darkness, and the fact that everyone was talking and the radio was on and OMG I CAN’T CONCENTRATE.

I quickly decided that I had plennnnty of time to safely or at least half-safely make this turn, and so I went for it. A lesser, or really, more patient person may not have, but what can I say, at this point I felt the van and I had bonded to the point of knowing each other's limits. I fucking punched that gas pedal as if there were no tomorrow. And there actually almost wasn’t a tomorrow- for the six of us in The Van.

Immediately after I hit the gas, one or more people may have realized what I had done and may have screamed in protest and/or horror at the sight of the oncoming traffic coming up on us hot. These panicked sounds caused me to freak out, realize my error, and again, freak out- but with no real feasible solution as to how to save our lives. I panicked. I cut the wheel in an attempt to do something, anything, and ended up on the wrong side of the median. GOING THE WRONG WAY ON A DIVIDED HIGHWAY, on two wheels.  

That fucking median, man.

Let me go ahead and clarify right now that I don't need any sort of inebriates to be an honest-to-god horrid driver, and this night was no exception. Not a sip of booze had touched my soon-to-be- stiff and lifeless little lips that night and still, I found myself carting a death wagon through the main part of my hometown in THE WRONG DIRECTION on a four-lane highway. It took mere moments until everyone in the vehicle was at high alert and gladly offering me advice on what my next driving maneuver should be. Or, more accurately, until everyone in The Van was screaming one or more variation of “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?!?!!! AHHHHHH!!! GET ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FUCKING ROAD!!!” To which I promptly ramped the van over the median, with some difficulty, and proceeded to alternate between hyperventilating, screaming, and laughing hysterically to the dismay of my passengers. Or something like that. It wasn’t pretty. I just thought about it and visibly shuddered. It is a hand-to-god miracle that

1. We didn’t get T-boned.
2. Everyone in The Van at that time is still actually my friend.
3. No officers of the law were around to bust my ass for driving like reckless, impatient little brat.
4. The Van didn’t get stuck trying to make it over the median.
5. My parents never found out.

 I can say with confidence that I didn't see the median- but after eight years of driving back and forth on the same stretch of land, you’d have thought it would have just been engrained in the subconscious somewhere. Not so.  There may have been a few middle fingers and horns honked in my direction as other motorists were forced to swerve out of the way, and a few of the passengers in The Van may have vowed to never ride with me again, but we all escaped (relatively) unscathed.  

Until you've driven the wrong way on a road you spent most of your formidable years riding slash driving on, I will hold on to the “World’s Worst Driver” award. And, that was SUMMER. A time of JOY and PLEASURE, and WARMTH, and HAPPINESS. Just imagine how that little charade would have ended on a sheet of black ice. It suddenly makes a lot of sense that I was never asked to drive in the colder months.

Winter, you slay me.

SOOOOOO since I can't really afford to hibernate, or drive around aimlessly, wasting gas until I get into a near-fatal car crash this winter, I’m going to try to do something I actually take pleasure in on a semi-regular basis. And you’re looking at it!!!!!! I’ll probably enjoy writing about myself, because obviously. Let narcissism abound!

Plus, writing is a much healthier coping mechanism for the cold and darkness than impulsively moving to Chicago, without a job, in the dead of winter, and spending the majority of your time there getting drunk and wandering the streets every night while going into a mountainous amount of credit card debt. Not that I've ever tried that to power through the winter doldrums.

I'm yours until the weather breaks.

XO Sara.