My Car.

I like to think of myself as a Renaissance woman. I know how to make doughnuts, I can install drywall, je parle un petit peu du francais.  But there are a few things in life that leave me stumped.  How to knit, for instance.  How to dive without belly-flopping.  And CARS.  I know how to drive.  I can parallel park,  I know where the gas goes.  I can check my oil and if truly hard-pressed I might be able to change a tire.  But when it comes to the inner workings of an automobile, forget it.

It doesn’t help that cars nowadays are computers.  I can’t fix my computer either, but I married an IT guy who sure can.  My husband also can build and fix cars — but of the VW 70s variety, not these newfangled shiny whatsits you have to hook up to electronics to diagnose.  Don’t get me wrong, my husband can fix A LOT of what goes wrong with our vehicles.  But I think we’ve reached a point with Lil Blackie where professional resuscitation is in order.

This is my car. A 2001 Subaru Forester just shy of 159,000 miles. Lil Blackie.

Continue reading

The way you drive speaks VOLUMES.

As much as I wish it were otherwise, I spend a good portion of each day driving. My older daughter to or from school. Running errands. Going to the post office, the library, the grocery store. What have you. And living in the middle of a big city, all this driving inevitably causes a whole lotta STRESS. Some nincompoop cuts me off without any semblance of turn signal. Another jackass sidesteps the WHOLE LANE OF TRAFFIC to speed past us in the BIKE LANE. Another guy just can’t wait for the light – or by the way, the elderly man CROSSING THE STREET. Frankly, some of these folks should not only have their licenses revoked, they should be pulled bodily from their cars and beaten senseless.

I curse frequently while driving. I hate doing this, since I pretty much always have one or more children in the car with me. We have actually had discussions about “mommy’s language” – how un-lady-like it is, and how it should not be repeated in public. I am glad my kids are bright, b/c other than peppering their day-to-day speech with an above average use of the word “Crap” they have heretofore suffered no other ill effects of my potty mouth.

I am a cautious driver. This stems from several things. 1) I value my children’s safety above all else and will not jeopardize it to get to [WHEREVER] ten minutes earlier. 2) I value YOUR CHILDREN’S SAFETY as much as I do my own. 3) I like people and do not want to hurt them.

B/c of this, I stop at stop signs. And when I say I stop, I mean I am probably the only damn driver in West Philly who comes to a physical halt-machen at the intersection. I stop. I look both ways. I make sure there are no bicyclists approaching. If there are, I wave them through. I do not give a shit if some psychopath behind me cannot wait 20 seconds for me to do this w/out their face turning purple. F*CK THEM. They will be the one going to jail for manslaughter, not me.

Driving here in Philly is bad b/c 1) there are inexplicable intersection nightmares, such as 30th & Market. WHERE ARE THE TRAFFIC ENGINEERS?? Green lights get traffic moving, especially onto the highway. MAKE THEM LONGER & MAKE THEM CONSISTENTLY GREEN ALL THE WAY ALONG. As it is now, the gridlock has traffic tangled in both directions from JFK all the way to the Walnut Street Bridge. If I had to deal w/ this every single rush hour I would GO INSANE.

2) Obeying the law is optional. And I am not exaggerating. The “roll-through” has been elevated to an art-form here in Philly. People speed. They swerve. They cut. They do not wait their turn. They do not like letting people in – unless you are attractive. And as everyone knows we’re all just a bunch of fat ugly slobs, you can imagine what this leads to. The cops do not enforce 99.9% of the traffic laws b/c they are too busy trying to keep us from killing each other.

3) Philadelphians are selfish like few others. Not all of us, mind you, but a whole whopping percentage of the population. Enough to make you think twice about trying to cross that street. When I was pregnant with my first child I used to walk home every day from work. 4 miles. from City Hall to West Philly. I was nearly hit more times than even I care to repeat. AND WHY? B/c most people suck. If they aren’t stopping for a full-term pregnant woman, you sure as hell know they AIN’T STOPPING FOR NO ONE.

4) Lastly, I would hazard a guess that upwards of 35% of Philadelphians drive illegally. And by this I mean w/out a license, registration, insurance – or all of the above. Sometimes in a stolen car. What do they care if they hit you or your car? It’s not their money. They are willing to take the chance b/c here in Philly at least, there’s no reason not to.

The way you drive speaks VOLUMES about you as a person. It accurately communicates your level of compassion and humanity better than almost anything. For instance, one of our neighbors is a very nice person, a deeply religious man, a hardworking husband and father, and yet, just last week, he nearly RAN MY HUSBAND OVER at the end of our block when John was riding his bike. WHY? B/c he didn’t recognize John and was interested in speeding up and cutting off that guy on a bike. People feel a sense of entitlement behind the wheel of their car which verges on sickness, and they behave in ways they’d NEVER otherwise would b/c of it. They feel protected in that cocoon. It’s like Jekyll & Hyde. For others, driving simply unleashes the INNER NATURE. Are you a control freak? Fast lane doing 55. Are you completely self-absorbed? Yakking into your cellphone, making a left turn from the right lane. The list goes on.

A car may be classy, but it’s only a car. The model you drive may communicate your taste or your circumstance, but it often has little to do w/ your true level of class. B/c THAT cannot be bought. Rich, poor, it all boils down to one thing. You can’t polish a piece of poop.

My beef with the US Postal Service.

Today I would like to address a significant cause of stress in my life. And It is called the United States Postal Service.

I will preface this rant by stating that I am a sane and rational person. As such, I recognize that the vast majority of USPS employees are decent, hard-working and law-abiding people. I have in fact befriended many lovely postal employees over the years, and have tremendous respect for the job that they do. It must be hard coping with ton after inescapable ton of mail, slogging through the Rain and snow, the sleet and unbearable heat, while having to wear those dorky postal uniforms and pith hats.

BUT since moving into our palatial West Philly estate 7+ years ago, my husband & I have endured what can only be described as the worst mail service this side of hell. Open mail. Mangled mail. No mail at all. Stolen? Lost? Who knows. AND DON’T BOTHER ASKING AT THE POST OFFICE B/C no one cares! While some folks get stacks of junk mail, circulars, loads of crap daily – we get other people’s mail or nothing at all. 4814 NEXT STREET, 4822 SOMEPLACE ELSE. it ALL WINDS UP HERE, B/c our postal carrier has difficulty distinguishing between our house and those surrounding it. In addition, we receive mountains of mail for former tenants, including school statements, retirement benefits, and other arguably important paperwork for one guy who – though obviously Very well educated, somehow missed the whole concept of a “change of address” form.

For the past 92 MONTHS (YES I HAVE CALCULATED) I have been dealing with this. Several years ago, we resorted to opening a PO Box at the central Philly post office hoping we’d finally improve our lot. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

Today is February 24th, as you know. WELL PAST Valentine’s Day, BUT – there is still one very special valentine I’ve yet to receive. Someone at the post office is banking on the fact that I did not know about this valentine, but they would be wrong. B/c it is from none other than my beloved parents. Said valentine contained not only a hand-chosen and doubt-less-ly beautiful card, but also 2 gift cards to Barnes & Noble for my husband & myself. I’m sure you can sense where this is going. When my father stuck the envelope into the post office mailbox on February 11th, he never suspected a thing. And why would he? Mailmen live by a code of honor, do they not? I don’t know why after all these years of INDESCRIBABLY PISS-POOR POSTAL SERVICE, this one event would leave me dry-heaving over all the others, but it does. Even more so than the $15,000 worth of loan checks that last year went -POOF! -into the postal ether. That one pretty much took the cake. But somehow, this is worse.

I have been considering how to address this. As my father scrambles with Barnes & Noble and American Express, trying to see what he can do on his end. I have been researching how to file a claim on mine. Unfortunately, since it was a simple card – without any insurance, there’s not much I can do. I can complain. But we all know that’s really not going to do anything, is it? I have my righteous indignation, but that only buoys one for so long. And it’s not like the USPS doesn’t warn against mail theft – b/c they do. They ever-so-kindly provide this handy list of anti-theft measures on their website, so that we all can guard against misfortune. Unfortunately, the list doesn’t warn you NOT TO PUT THE ENVELOPE IN THE MAIL SLOT B/C POSTAL WILLY’S UP TO NO GOOD. And that’s a shame, because it really really should.