Monday, February 27, 2006

House on Fire

When I was a child, I used to pray at night that my house would burn down. I went to sleep alert for the smell of smoke, with my escape route planned and the few possessions to be saved chosen. I didn’t put much stock in the power of prayer (or God, for that matter), so I didn’t really believe the house would catch fire. I continued to hope, though. I wasn’t wishing for the fiery death of any family members and a romantic life as an orphan or only child. I just wanted the house to burn down so that we could move.

I was fascinated by fresh starts. I wanted to remake myself into someone different. There was really nothing wrong with me, other than being deadly boring. However, if we moved, I would be the mysterious new girl in school with a past of my own choosing. I could be someone exciting!

The house never burned down and we never moved. I lived in the same house on Pine Street until I left for college at 17. In the next six years though (even before joining the Marine Corps), I would move ten times and live in five different cities and four different states. I loved it.

I loved the change of scenery and housemates. (I never had my own place.) I delighted in exploring a new territory and locating the things I needed – grocery store, park, ballet studio, pool, Target, mall. While I no longer had a burning desire to reinvent myself, I did enjoy the fact that my past life was a secret that I could choose to reveal or not.

I discovered that moving is not all fun and games. Being the new girl can be lonely. Breaking into a new network of friends is difficult, and I am frequently reminded that I do not share their group history. My current location (Cincinnati) seems to be a city from which few people ever move away. My local friends all have family with whom they can spend holidays or weekend shopping trips. Although my built-in best friend, Mike, keeps me from being truly lonely, he doesn’t take the place of a gal pal or sister.

Now that we have a house (and I have a garden), moving has lost even more of its glamour. I am quite attached to my landscaping and looking forward to watching it develop. However, Mike has applied to the Navy JAG program, and will probably be accepted. This means we will again become gypsies, moving every three to four years. Gardens aside, though, I am looking forward to the location changes. My wanderlust remains stronger than my nesting instincts. I consider myself fortunate that my childhood wish was indeed granted, just without the flames and smoke.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Without a Signal

Mike is an angry driver. When riding with him, I alternate between trying to defuse his road rage and ignoring his rants. I am also frequently annoyed by other drivers, but I try to create excuses for their bad driving. Maybe they’re lost. Maybe (like in that country song), they’re old and alone and scared to drive, but have no other way to get around. Maybe their kids are waging war in the backseat. I find that my imagination can usually excuse the slow drivers, the brake-happy drivers, the wandering drivers. What I cannot excuse, or forgive, is the omnipresent non-use of the turn signal.

I try to drive defensively and anticipate what the cars around me will do. This becomes a pointless exercise when other drivers change lanes or turn WITHOUT SIGNALING. Instead of engaging in a logical movement pattern, I am attempting to navigate my way through chaotic, random entities. As you can guess, this elevates my irritation level and makes it hard for me to be understanding with the slow drivers, the brake-happy drivers, and the wandering drivers.

I am absolutely unable to empathize with someone who does not use their turn signal. True, the signal light may be out (this has happened to me), but that excuse is wearing too thin for me to continue to believe. Using the turn signal should be rote. It should be as automatic as the head check when changing lanes. Not to toot my own auto horn, but I’ve even been known to use the turn signal when trying to evade another driver (my dad – I wasn’t supposed to be out driving). The turn signal should be a reflex. If it was meant to be optional, the control wouldn’t be on the steering column. It would be somewhere on the center console.

So, why do I see so many cars change course without signaling? Perhaps using the turn signal isn’t “cool.” (So many lame things are considered “cool” nowadays, (visible underwear, anyone?) that I honestly think this may be a possibility.) Maybe the driver’s right hand is occupied with a cell phone or Big Mac. (The signal bar is usually on the right side of the steering column.) That’s all my imagination can come up with; I’m out of possible scenarios. If you don’t use your signal, tell me why.

What I’d like even more than an explanation though, is for people to just use their signals. Every signalless move contributes to my building road rage. Soon, I’ll be imitating Mike: cursing at people on their cell phones, pretending to chase down jaywalking pedestrians, and swerving at anyone who looks as if they might cut me off. Even I have my tolerance limits.