Thursday, April 23, 2015

Learning to Drift

Once in a while you get to do things like they do in the movies. For me, today was one of those days even though it rained like hell. No, I didn't get to blow away the drug dealer with an AK-47 when I saw her selling drugs to another young person at the library, but it was very nearly as dramatic. For once, I got to be the hero of my own story.

After watching the drug dealer do her work, I wandered into the bathroom to pee. I was aggravated. I had thought they'd moved on. I had thought that the kids in the library were safer. I hate going into the library bathroom ever since the drug dealer followed me in to ask if I needed anything. This time, I was on my own in there.

Now that my virus has passed, I have a revived sense of smell. That didn't help me much yesterday when I had to require Nick to empty the garbage before it was full. Didn't anyone else in the house smell something dying, rotting, gathering bacteria? Just me? Great. There are a couple of other things I would really prefer over having an acute sense of smell. Better hearing, perhaps? Maybe sight that doesn't require these thick lenses? I might even go for better balance. No. I got smell.Great. Thanks.

I really hope, in this cosmic comedy I'm living, that I don't get reincarnated as a blood hound.

Where was I?

So, pardon the vision, but I was sitting in the bathroom stall with the door closed when I noticed a strong chemical smell. This was not cleaning fluid. There was nothing human about this smell either.

So, I was quick about my business. I left the stall and washed my hands when I realized that the smell was much less pungent by the sinks. Curious, I held onto my damp paper towel and checked the other stall. Not much there either.

I pushed open my stall door again. There it was, something I knew I shouldn't be breathing. I took multiple chemistry classes in college. I worked with carbon-tetra-chloride at one summer job. I also cleaned student apartments at my college another summer. I know the smell of cleaning fluids, even the nasty ones. And I know chem lab smells too.

I actually held my breath a little, as if that would protect me.

There was a tissue toilet seat liner loosely jammed into the tiny ladies garbage bin. I used my paper towel to pull it out and open it up a little. There was something in it, but I was afraid to touch it, or even breathe. I dropped the whole thing into the toilet and flushed. Twice.

It went down, all the way down and with that, the smell dissipated. Score one for the angry moms!

But, as I used my damp paper towel to open the bathroom door, I realized that I should have taken a moment to identify the thing inside the toilet seat liner so that I would know for future use. It made sense to limit my exposure to this smell, but the visual knowledge could have allowed for a great deal more happy flushing. I hope it was an expensive loss for the drug dealer.

And I went on my happy way, running through pouring rain into the grocery store, chatting with another mom there, stopping at home, unloading groceries, and telling Nick to get ready for karate. Things were good. They were very good. I even grabbed my rain coat, opened a bag of sweet potato chips, and loaded Teddy into the back seat with Nick to take him for a wet walk while Nick had his lesson.

We live on a highway. The speed limit on the highway is 55 miles per hour. And since it was mostly straight until we got to town, I set my cruise control to 58 miles per hour. Yes. I know. Officially, I was breaking the speed limit, but you'd be surprised at how slow it seems sometimes when people are passing me, or worse, tailgating. There weren't even any stops for the next ten minutes, or so I thought.

I came to an intersection, not a busy one and knew that the huge shiny black truck stopped there at the T was supposed to wait by his stop sign until I went past. There were cars in the oncoming lane, so even if I weren't there, he would have to stop for them to get out onto the highway.

Then, he pulled out in front of me and slammed on his brakes when he noticed the cars in the oncoming lane. What the hell?

The problem was that he was stopped crossways across my lane and I was going 58 miles per hour!

Time slows when you're technically speeding and there's suddenly a large shiny black truck blocking your lane that was supposed to be waiting at the stop sign.

I slammed on my brakes and the dog hit the back of my seat but it wasn't enough. I remember seeing a face looking out his window at me, a white face. I think it was a man, but I was pretty busy at the time.

My dad's voice popped into my head. I was thirteen when he died, so he didn't teach me, but for some reason, probably boredom, I sat in the back seat of the car when he taught my sister to drive.

"Always look for the way through any situation," he would say. "If you look at the obstacle, you'll hit the obstacle, so always drive looking for the way through any situation." My dad was not a fan of Jersey barriers. And I think he actually lived his whole life this way and not just his driving.

And so there I was trying not to look at that shiny black truck I was about to T-bone, trying not to look at the oncoming traffic I could head-on. Where was it? Where was my way through?

And I realized it was a sharp right turn on wet pavement. 

And so I leaned on the horn, turned the wheel as hard as I could without losing traction altogether and I drifted, skidding over wet pavement and still turning until I was on that road going up the hill on the wrong side of the street and bearing down on yet another car. And still I looked for the way through. With a little bit of a jerk on the wheel, I missed him too.

I got the car stopped without hitting a damned thing.

It was just like in the animated 'Cars' movie where Paul Newman was trying to teach Owen Wilson how to drift the turns. I swear, it was a thing of beauty, except there were cars all around me simply throwing on their brakes.

And the last man, the one I almost hit going up that hill, rolled down his window after having a great view of the whole thing and smiled at me.

"You alright?" he asked. I nodded my head. "You might think about pulling over for a few minutes and taking a couple of deep breaths." I tried to smile, nodded again, and pulled a bit further up the hill and got off the right side of the road with my blinker on. Bless that man.

I looked into the rear view mirror at Nick and then Mike's face popped into my head. In one moment, Mike had nearly become single and childless. And then I almost threw up. It took about ten minutes to calm down enough to breathe, to keep my sweet potato chips down, and to drive again. It was strange. There were no injuries. There was no damage. I could take Nick to karate like any normal day only it wasn't a normal day. I had just learned how to drift a Prius. We weren't even late.

When we finally got home, we had a family hug. Nick told Mike about how I'd driven the car like a race car driver. And when Mike went to bed before I did, he hugged me again and said,

"I'm glad you guys didn't die today," so casually, I could have smacked him. A half a beat later, I realized it was a joke.

If my life is a movie, it's usually a comedy, sometimes a drama, but today? Today, my life was an action flick and I was the fucking hero. And I didn't even have to wield an AK-47.

Thank you for listening, jb

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