Saturday, October 8, 2011

Flashing to Gainesville

My much-loved but somewhat tattered BMW is in the shop as the result of my embarrassing indiscretion with a curbstone.  The loaner they gave me is 8 years newer - sweet! - but the interior layout is generally similar to my own.  Except for the cruise control, which has celebrated the new decade by migrating from the steering wheel to a stumpy little stalk under the turn-signal-cum-high-beam lever.

So this morning I embarked in the little white loaner to visit an elderly and beloved relative up near Gainesville, about 130 miles from here.  Now, I'm a big fan of cruise control, and this particular cruise control is set up cleverly so a forward tap on the stumpy stalk bumps your speed up 1 mph; a rearward tap drops 1 mph.  A simple formula.   Need to slow down 4 mph?  4 taps.  In practice, of course, you just start tapping away as you approach a car in your lane until you match speeds, hopefully settling in a respectful distance behind the overtakee.

You've done that; you know you have. 

Oddly, since this is a new car, I keep finding myself tapping away to no effect whatsoever.  In this next picture, I'm closing rapidly on the Honda in front of me.  Tap.  Tap. Tap-tap-tap.  Taptaptaptap.  Oh crap!  Brakes.

I hate to brake on the highway.  It's unprofessional and wasteful.

Right.  I was tapping the high-beam stalk instead of the cruise control.  That explains why the cars I was coming up on - this was not just that one Honda, I'm afraid - anyway, my co-drivers on this highway of life were reacting rather testily.  Fingers appeared out windows.  Hondas scattered awkwardly out of my lane, apparently discomfited by the berserker in the white BMW closing fast with strobing brights.  It was daylight!  How was I to know I was flashing?  Did I mention the high-intensity laser-quality high beams on my loaner, the ones designed to vaporize small animals at short range?  Someone could probably construct an interesting social experiment from this.

There is no universal hand signal for, "Oops, sorry."

Anyway, I finished my visit and later spent an hour alone scouting a potential retirement facility that might be appropriate for my relative.  (Ah - if you happen to know the relative in question, would you not mention this?  He thinks he will never need assistance with much of anything.  He may be right.)

So I'm getting the tour from an overly effective marketing guy, and he's introducing me to a succession of impressively satisfied residents.  Big Bad Charlie has just bowled his fourth 300 game on the community Wii, and a lady named "Nancy Pickles" is at the bulletin board admiring her picture taken next to the '55 Chevy that won the parking lot classic car contest.

Finally, we come to an old-timer walking through the dining room.  He turns, and his eyes say, "I. Am. Really. Old."  He's leprechaun-ish and affable. I quiz him about the food.  "Not bad," he says, which I take to mean, "Not particularly good."  We chat for a bit.

Inevitably, he asks how old I think he is.  Diplomat that I am, I suggest, "a well-preserved 73?"

"Nope.  Higher."  He pumps his thumb and hops from foot to foot as he reels in the fish.



I say, "78?"  "81?"  This is kind of fun, and my new old friend is working it.


"No," he says, "and you better go by fives or we'll be here all day."

When I stop laughing, I guess "90?"  I know I'm getting closer.  So rather than continue creeping up on the likely right answer - about 94, I'd say - I make the leap to the absurd.


His eyes get big, as I expect, and he exclaims, to my gaping amazement, "How did you know?"

One hundred and five years old.

On the way home I flashed another dozen cars into flaming hulks in the drainage ditches.



  1. 105 years old? Or 105 MPH in the loaner? In any case, we should all enjoy life. I'm planning on riding horses when I'm 110 and shoveling horse pucky when I'm 111.

    The universal hand signal for "Oops, I'm sorry," is to wave & smile. It does one of two things: 1. You may get a wave & smile back, or 2. You'll really piss somebody off big time.

  2. OK, so when is the last time you smiled and waved after doing something screwy in a car and received a smile and a (multi-fingered) wave in return?

    Yup, me neither.

  3. 105 and still fishing? I'll have what he's having.

    About BMW drivers, we have a joke here in the land of fruits and nuts: what's the difference between a porcupine and a BMW driver? The porcupine has pricks on the outside . . .

    HA! (present company excluded of course)

  4. To be honest, the smile and wave after cutting some guy off, ended up as a date. It was a fun date too. In fact, I ended up marrying the man. So there. I guess you just have to have a cute face and a nice smile.

  5. I have a cute face and a nice smile (see above), but the last time I smiled and waived at a truck driver didn't turn out so good.

  6. Oh, oh! Another guy smiling and waving at a truck driver is never a good idea in any case. Unless the truck driver is female.