Saturday, February 16, 2013

Road Trip!

Kristiana, our daughter, is driving.  She is now a fully licensed driver.  I could use the cliches about "stay off the road" or "be careful everyone, there's a new driver out there" but I really can't and be honest at the same time.  We were blessed to have a receptive and careful learner.  She is off to a great start and, with the confidence that comes with experience, I think she will become an excellent driver.  I am already comfortable enough to sit in the back seat while she is at the wheel.  Let me tell you, as someone who used to be a professional driver and always wants to have his hands on the wheel (I think this is why flying isn't my favorite activity), that is huge!  Sylvia and I are so comfortable, in fact, that we allowed her to take our car and spend the night at a mutual friend's house to spend time with them and their adorable another night...via freeway!

Today's story is not about our new driver and her mini-road-trip...but it did spark a memory that I thought you might enjoy reading about.  Today is about my sister Sue and when she was a newish driver.  She doesn't go by "Sue" now but if she is going to call me "Jeffy" then I get to call her whatever I want.  By way of explanation I should say that my sister was a decent driver.  I am not going to gush over her for three reasons...I didn't train her, I was in her car a few times when "careful" was not a word I would have used to describe her, and finally I am her brother and I am required by law to give her a hard time.

There was a time when Sue talked my parents into letting her take her car to San Anselmo (a small town about an hour from here) to see her friend. At this point I need to clear my throat to express something about our mother.  Pardon me... COUworrierGH ...OK, I'm better.  It took a fair amount of convincing to get her to allow Sue to go.  It didn't hurt that the friend she was visiting was either a minister or in the seminary to become a minister.  I think she had been ordained already but I'm a little fuzzy on the timeline.  I am not fuzzy on the fact that this was a few decades ago and the only way people could communicate to others from the inside of a car was by using the horn (or a certain finger) and neither of those was effective in reaching an hour away back to our house.  And the only way anyone was going to call someone on a handheld device was to be part of a Dick Tracy comic book.  It was all arranged and Sue had promised to call as soon as she got there.  Reasonable right?  Of course.  So off she went.

I don't remember where I was for this part of the story but, thankfully, I wasn't home to watch everything unfold.  By way of letting you all off the hook I will tell you that I spoke to my sister a week ago.  She walked to get the phone, she answered it with her left hand while waving to a friend with her right.  (the point being...she owns and enjoys the use of all of her limbs and as far as I know, she has never spent any time in a ditch)  From wherever I was, I came home to a tale of woe and worry.

It seems that it took Sue a little longer to get to her destination, there was no phone call, and mom got worried.  I just know that she waited as long as she could and then called herself to see if she just forgot to check in.  I am picturing a casual glance at the clock, then a bit of mental math, then (after realizing that she should have gotten there thirty minutes ago) a walk to the phone, and then spinning the dial on the front to dial the ten digits.  (zzzzzzp, tktktktktk, zzzzzzzp, tktktktktk, zzzp, tktk, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzp, tktktktktktktktktktk....rotary phone...what are ya gonna do?)  After the three and a half minutes it took to make a phone call mom heard the line ringing, she heard someone pick up the phone, and then nothing....  Well almost nothing...she could hear movement and possibly even breathing on the other end.  "Hello?  Hello!?  HELLO!!!!??"  No response.

So we have mom, on edge because her daughter is driving far away and late to her destination, and now when she called the house a homicidal maniac picked up the phone to torture my mom by just listening to her get more and more worried and probably more and more frantic!  So now my mom had a choice to make.  Listen for the sound of bodies being dragged to a ditch, (my mom's imaginary homicidal maniacs always chose ditches as their dumping ground of choice), or hang up and call back to see if she had somehow dialed the wrong number but that would mean losing the only connection to the house.  She decided to call again.  This time the phone was busy.  She had dialed right and the best that she could hope for was that everyone was safe, but they were bound and gagged while robbers stole everything in the house and they just didn't want to be bothered on the phone.

This went on for I'm sure what seemed like an eternity while Mom called anyone she could think of that might be able to go and save everyone from their horrible fate.  I am missing a large piece of this story now.  I think that Mom actually called a relative, the church, and possibly the police in San Anselmo to see if they could figure out what is going on.  For what I am sure was an agonizing amount of time nobody could tell my mom what was going on.  I think someone may have gone to the house, knocked on the door, and heard a dog inside but the door was locked and was not answered.  Phone calls back and forth...waiting...waiting...waiting...

(In complete fairness to my mom...had this happened to me and my daughter, I would have freaked out, lost control, and people would probably only be able to see me during visiting hours while I stared into the distance...silently)

Finally the phone rang and it was Sue and there were relatively reasonable explanations for all that had happened.  It seems that Sue drove up only to be whisked from her car by her friend who was late to a Bible study at her church.  She never even made it into the house.  When they got to the church it was either outside her ability or her memory that Mom was waiting for a call and so no call was made.  When the emotional dust had settled and Mom explained her end of the horrible day, she asked about the single event that caused panic on her end...the phone answered, but silent?  It seems that they have a dog with an aversion to the phone.  To make it stop ringing the dog had learned to knock it off the handle...but didn't even have the courtesy to say that no one was home.  Everything was well.  Sue enjoyed the rest of her visit. And made it home safely.

I'm sure that my mom had a few choice words to say about that dog.  She was not terribly happy that something so scary was started by a four legged fur bag...but the rumors that she hired a hit-man to "take care" of the dog are completely untrue.  Even though it was found soon after... in a ditch.  (just kidding)

Saturday, February 9, 2013

30 Minutes Or Less

You know the joke about the guy who calls for road service to explain that he has locked his keys in the car.   I'm sure you've heard it.  When he hears that they can't come for an hour, he raises his voice and says, "Oh no!  Please hurry!  My wife and kids are locked inside!"

I'm pretty sure the person who that joke was written for, is who a local construction company is worried about.  There is a major project being built just three blocks from where I sit.  I have heard people say that they will be apartments.  I've heard some say that they will be shops with apartments on top.  I've also heard one person say that it would be a high security prison for the criminally insane/daycare nursery. (but I don't think that will happen)  The point is, there is construction going on...and it has been for quite some time.  I cannot tell you what the exact time has been.  That would take research... since I don't know, off the top of my head, how long it takes to build daycare prisons.  But I can tell you that the weather has changed from very warm and dry to very wet and cold since they started.  

We, here in the lovely city of Fremont, are no strangers to things taking a while.  It took the city council more than three hours to discuss which color the accent pieces on a building, sixty feet above the pavement, would be painted.  Just months before they tore it down.  It was riveting.  Don't think that it is strictly related to the government of the city.  We have a furniture store, on one of our main thoroughfares, that has been going out of business (according to the signs) for three decades!  Wouldn't it be great to get that kind of news from a doctor.  "I'm afraid your days are only have thirty more years to live."  I'm not complaining.  I wouldn't want to be handed the keys to the city and told to lock up when I'm done.  I'm not mad.  Just observant.  Now where did I put my glasses?  Never-mind, they're on my nose.

In fact, the land that is being developed by the Alcatraz/Gerber construction company has been vacant for more than forty years.  It was one of the last pieces of property in central Fremont area that hadn't been turned into a building of some sort.  We Fremontinites (I'm not sure that is correct, but once again...research) had begun to assume that it would be vacant forever.  There used to be orchards all over and this, I'm sure, was no exception.  There was even a lone tree that had to, ahem, be convinced to move to another location to make room for this job.  That one sad, dormant, barren tree will probably lend its legacy to the structure.  I'm guessing Peach Wood Estates or Rolling Apricot Manor (I should really hire someone to do research for me).  

I told you all of that so I could tell you this.  There is an interesting sign at the construction site.  On the road next to the very large buildings is a sign that says, "Expect 30 minute delays."  Now my family and I have traveled all across this country.  We are no strangers to signs or delays.  There are helpful signs and strange signs.  There is even a place, in Oklahoma I believe, that had a sign stating, "Hair Cuts and Pizza!"  (we didn't stop)  During the nice weather of the summer road construction seems to be common.  The occasional sign telling us to expect delays is inevitable.  When traveling to Yosemite, here in California, there is an entrance that has been "altered" by a massive rock slide and the cars that come this route have to wait and be escorted into the park by a ranger.  There are delay signs there that tell us that we'll have to wait for up to 7 minutes.  If you've ever been to the Yosemite valley you'll know that the beauty there is worth much more than a seven minute wait.  Nothing against my fair city...but I'm thinking a 30 minute wait to get from A to B would be a little off-putting.

Again, that is not really the problem.  The problem, as I see it, is that the yellow motorized road construction sign that blinks "Expect 30 minute delays" is placed on a main thoroughfare which has about as many outlets as there are cars that travel it.  I counted six ways to leave this road starting at the sign...many more if you started planning ahead as soon as you could read the two-foot-tall letters!  Never mind that the amount of construction happening at this site is sporadic, to say the least.  The buildings are getting built...I just never see anyone there.  The fact that at any given time in your travel down this road could switch to the left or the right and only add 30 seconds to your travel time to avoid 30 minutes of delay.  In fact, the only person I can see getting stuck on this road for 30 minutes would be a myopic obsessive compulsive with clinically advanced tunnel vision.  (apologies all around if any of my readers have actually been caught in the delay.)

Perhaps I am not thinking about this correctly.  Maybe the city planners paid off this construction crew to play a psychological trick on all of us.  If we expect something bad...and then it doesn't happen...Huzzah!  It could be a tourist trick.  Who knows?  People could be thinking, "You know, whenever I travel in Fremont I get the feeling that I may be moderately inconvenienced.  And then it doesn't happen!  I will have to remember this when that company calls to ask me about which Bay Area town is the best!"  That is probably how Fremont recently got voted the best city at doing something-or-other for places that have that specific attribute that is pleasing for some reason...I really need to increase my research budget.