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.

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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.