Driving

June Gloom

In LA there is a weather pattern called June Gloom for the West LA/Santa Monica side of town. It's cloudy and cool in the mornings then it get sunny toward the afternoon.

But I'm referring to my June gloom. Starting the month with a cold. But not just a cold, a cold with a fever, something that rarely happens. It blows. Harper was sick, is still sick, though better and I know I got it from her. Kurt is coughing a bit too. Frankly, we are all a bit pathetic and gloomy.

Then we heard yesterday that Kurt's stepmother died. I never even met her, but am so sad she is gone. Ever since Kurt and I got married, she never failed to send birthday cards and holiday cards and even anniversary cards. There was always a check in the card and a sweet note about how she was doing. We always wrote back and of course lately sent her many pictures of Harper. I always thought I'd meet her someday and thank her in person, but never got the chance. I don't even know what she looked like, which is kinda nutty after 14 years. Just another reason to remember that life is short and not to put things off any longer. I'm going to miss getting her notes in the mail.

On a happier note, here's Harper driving the toy tractor at our favorite weekend place, the Underwood Family Farm. She had never driven before, but dang, she really was amazing, never bumped into anyone and steered perfectly.

Harperontractor


Dot Loved Her Cars

Dorothy Frey loved to drive. I'm not sure where her love for driving started, perhaps in her childhood as her dad had one of the first cars in Houston and they often took road trips. She and her sister, Millie, I think, took a road trip when they were young women and she often told the story of how their car got stuck and they got rescued by some cowboys, actual cowboys on horses, then went to a dance with them later. This would be in the 1930's.

After she retired in the mid 1980's, she got a job with Hertz shuttling cars around the southwest. Mostly just for fun.

Apparently she once owned a Buick Wildcat with Pursuit engine! Something like this, I think.

When Kurt and I got married, Dot was 83. She drove to LA for the event from Dallas/Ft. Worth. By herself. For fun! Her former husband, Kurt's dad, used to race cars for fun (amateur events). They had races for the wives and Dot won every time she raced.

When we moved her out to LA, her car came with her: A 2001 Buick Park Avenue, light blue. She didn't drive anymore, really it was getting time for her to stop at 90 years old, so the timing worked out. But we kept her car so that every time we drove her places, she could ride in her car.

Buick_ParkAvenue

(This is not her actual car, but a good facsimile of what it looks like.)

Lately, Harper and I drive in this car all the time. Harper likes it better than the GTI, I think because it's much bigger and has a much better view out the windows. (She'll get schooled in the wonders of six speed manual, grippy, rally pedaled cars in the not too distant future, I promise.) You may recall from an earlier post, that this is how she rolls in the Buick:

HarperInBuick

Personally, I really don't love this car. It's big, it's floaty, its an automatic, it's big. It's an old lady's car and while I'm no spring chicken, I'm NOT an old lady! I'll admit I live in LA and am sensitive about my car image.

But since Dot died, I have been thinking about her and her cars. I thought about the "last times" - the last times she rode in the Buick which was to the doctor's office in January where she was admitted to the hospital. (She came back to her apartment from the hospital in an ambulance.) Of course we didn't realize it would be the last time, at the time.

And the last time she actually drove the car. That would have been in 2008 when she and Kurt (and her two cats) drove from her home in Texas to her new place here. I doubt there was specific talk about "you'll never drive a car again" when we moved her, but she knew she couldn't drive in LA. So on that road trip out to LA, Kurt let her drive for a while on the big wide freeway. It makes me happy/sad to think about that last bit of driving she had.

Dot wasn't particularly sentimental or expressive with her feelings (she was old school all the way), but I often wonder what she might have been thinking or feeling while driving that dessert highway in a car she loved so much. I hope she was happy.

 

 


Learning To Drive On The Other Side Of The Road

You have arrived in the UK and are handed a car key and a rental car. I will now describe the four phases of driving on the wrong left side of the road so you can be prepared when this happens to you. Keep in mind that the will be a stickshift so if you need automatic, make sure you let them know ahead of time. 

Most importantly, don't panic. Just take it slow and take your time. UK drivers are really really friendly and generally pretty patient.

Phase 1 -- Utter panic. Say the phrase STAY LEFT! out loud as often as you need to. This lasts about two days.

Phase 2 -- More at ease. Your right hand will be bruised as you bash it into the door looking for the gearshift. The mirror positions will feel all wrong and it will be hard to know where to look for surrounding traffic. You'll laugh everytime you reach with your right hand for the seatbelt that doesn't exist over your left shoulder. You will walk to the wrong side of the car to get in. This phase lasts 3-5 days.

Phase 3 -- Ease and comfort. You've been driving for a few weeks now, every day. It seems perfectly normal. However, this is the most dangerous time. Because you feel at ease, you are not thinking about driving anymore and your old instincts kick in. At an empty roundabout you will feel the urge to go right instead of left. You may forget to look to the left for cross traffic, etc. During this phase it doesn't hurt to pull out a few "Stay left!"s from time to time. This step can last for weeks.

Phase 4 -- Native driver. Effortless, nothing bothers you and you remember to fold your side mirrors in when you park. This takes months/years.

I am currently in Phase 3 and don't have much more time to get to the native level. I have enjoyed the challenge. Turned out to be much easier than expected. The only thing I can really complain about is the street signage and street names. Hard to see street signs, if they exist at all. And streets tend to change names A LOT. Within one mile a street name can change two or three times. Not saying it's bad, just different.

While I share a car with my colleague, he's never driven and that is fine with the control freak inside of me. I am a spectacular driver and navigator and got us to set in the pitch dark every morning, only having to check directions once or twice. We drove a crew member home the other night from set and she was really impressed that I knew where I was going when she told me where her car was parked (near the production office). I was impressed with myself too. 

I rule.