You Can’t Get There From Here

The small town I grew up in had streets that ran north/south, east and west, and were a block apart.  The small town I was bussed to, to attend high school, had streets that ran north/south, east and west.  The small city we drove to, to shop, had square-meeting, compass-point streets.  The city I moved to for my first job embraced a long narrow bay.  There were a few streets that had to make allowances for shoreline, but again, geographical neatness was the order of the day.  I almost thought that this was a fortuitous law of the universe.  Then I moved here, and found the chaos capital of Ontario.

Several hundred years ago, the King of Holland gave several thousand in excess population, to his cousin, the King of Germany, who marched them several hundred miles, to settle an area emptied by plague.  They and their descendants lived there for more than a hundred years.  They were Protestants, surrounded by Catholics who hated and abused them.  They spoke Dutch, though, over the years their local dialect absorbed German words and phrases.    As soon as they were allowed to, these religiously persecuted people moved to the new world, and settled in Pennsylvania.

They became the Amish, speaking Pennsylvania Dutch, their Dutch-laden and accented German dialect.  Soon, a young preacher named Menno had an ever-growing group convinced that the Amish ways were wrong, so the peace-loving Amish persecuted the splinter group, now called Mennonites.

The Mennonites heard that there was good farmland for sale in this area.  They purchased a tract and moved north in their Conestoga Wagons.  The British government eventually sent out surveyors who laid out neat roads, and village streets, everywhere but here.  The original name of our ancestor village was Sand Hills.  The hills were not as big as the mountains of Pennsylvania, but the newcomers did as they had down south. 

If Klaus wanted to go to Gunter’s house, he just took the quickest, easiest way, which might not be a straight line,  If Gunter wanted to go to Horst’s house, he did the same, and Horst’s path back to Klaus’, just formed a sloppy triangle.  As the city grew, these trails/cow paths became the streets.  Germans have a reputation for being neat and orderly, but visitors and newcomers are driven crazy by the lack of road logic.  I was going to use the word, “layout”, but that implies that somebody actually laid them out.  These streets are more like the character Topsy, in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, they just growed.  No street in either of the Twin Cities runs more than a couple of blocks in any direction before it angles off, only to swoop back even farther a few blocks ahead.  The street map resembles a plate of spaghetti.

We have an impressive collection of three-point, and five-point intersections.  If streets cross at 90 degrees, it’s more by accident than planning.  The only street that runs due north and south, is a four block section of Lancaster Street, and it is labeled Lancaster West.  Our twin city to the north used to be five miles away, but over the years the two have grown, till now there is no separation.  This just makes matters worse, since streets in one city continue in the other. 

King St., the main street of our city runs south-east, to north-west.  Just as it enters our twin, it takes a 45 degree jag to the right.  After another three blocks in the new city, it jags 45 degrees right again, now running south-west to north-east.  Our portion is King St. East and West.  Theirs is King St. North and South.  Try explaining to someone why and how one street apparently runs in all four directions.  Its mate, Weber St. (pronounced wee-brrr), does exactly the opposite, producing a map that looks like a DNA molecule.  These two streets cross three times, once here, and twice to the north.  I once had a new salesman call me for directions to my plant.  When I asked him where he was, he told me, “King and Weber.”  I had to ask him to describe the nearby buildings, to know exactly where he was.

Streets in different areas grew to meet main roads at the same point.  Chopin Dr. goes through a traffic light and becomes Brybeck Crescent.  Strange St. runs past the daughter’s place and becomes West Ave.  Queen St. one-ways around the huge island a hospital sits on, and becomes Queens Blvd.  We must have a dozen examples like that.  Right downtown, Frederick St. and Benton St. didn’t meet King St. by a hundred feet.  Over the years, each has been widened toward the other, till now the intersection is perfect, just with different names on each side.

A block down the street, at the main intersection of King and Queen Streets, there is a twenty-foot difference on the two branches of Queen.  Two hundred years ago, there was an apple tree on a founding father’s farm.  The cows went around the tree on their way to the pasture.  The dog sent to fetch the cows, went around the tree.  The farm-boy who chased the dog, went around the tree.  The tree is long gone, but the S-bend in the road is still there.  Other towns have streets laid out by surveyors.  We got roads laid out by livestock.

The Region is the first and the fastest, in North America, to install roundabouts, as they have in Europe.  We now have dozens of the infernal things.  Drivers here have little enough ability to drive through normal intersections.  The learning curve is a lot slower than the ivory-tower traffic planners anticipated.  More accidents, just less property damage, although a female high-school student was seriously injured by a city bus, and is suing for $17 million.

Even in the new subdivisions, the city continues to cause Find-it problems.  Just west of me, they finished a street which forms a large 0, half a mile wide, and a mile and a half long.  Take more than a J, but less than a U from the ellipse, and it’s called East Forest Dr.  The remaining little J is called West Forest Trail.  This is another street that has two names, depending on which side of the main road you’re on.  And the chunk to the west, is the East Forest, while the piece to the east is named West Forest.

It’s no wonder you can’t get there from here.  You’d have to be a Zen driver, and most of the drivers in this town can’t even spell Zen.

Shotgun

Take one idea from column A, and two from column B, and make a blog about it.  You’ve done it before.

There’s a new Mini that sits just down the street from my place occasionally.  It’s a nice looking little thing.  What caught my attention, as little details often do, was the fact that it has an Alabama, Crimson Tide licence plate ring on it.  Actually, since Ontario requires front and rear plates, it has two Crimson Tide plate rings.  Ontario is a long way from Alabama.  If I ever see the driver, I may ask whether it’s a Southern boy (or girl) moved north, or an Ontarian who went south for schoolin’.

I also saw, the other day, a licence plate ring for Red Rocket Motors.  It’s an interesting name, and I’d never seen one before, so Curious George ran a Bing search on it.  Turns out, it’s from the small city 25 miles east of my home town, and a hundred miles north of here.  They are on the Sunset Strip, the Golden Mile section of highway on the west side, as it leaves the city.  Their website revealed that they are the official supplier of vehicles to Wiarton Willie.  Oh, the excitement! I can hear your heart racing from here.  It’s like being the greatest dog-catcher, in Enid, Oklahoma.

Wiarton Willie is Southern Ontario’s answer to Punxsutawney Phil, the weather-prognosticating Pennsylvania rodent.  Red Rocket’s site included a ten-minute video of the Groundhog-day parade in Wiarton, showcasing all the cars and trucks sold to the town and its residents.  There are hundreds of people in the parade, but very few watching.  Of course not.  This is a small town.  If there are hundreds in the parade, there’s no-one left to watch it.

I should leave this next item till BrainRants is back from Afghanistan.  He would get a wry laugh out of it.  It seems that Los Angeles had a power blackout recently for several hours one night.  911 operators received hundreds of panicked calls about strange lights in the sky.  “Are we being invaded by space aliens!?”  “Was the power destroyed by a meteor shower?  Are we all going to die?”  Those are stars, you techno-goofs!  When the power comes back on, do a Google search.

I did a Google search a few days ago and learned a new term, in a fit of pissed-offedness.  The term is Differential Discrimination.  It is often used when referring to how women come up short in jobs and salary.  This time it was a men’s problem.  Not as big or serious as some that women face, but still, a problem of respect.  I went to the bathroom.  It was a Men’s bathroom in a commercial establishment.  The problem was that, right next to it, was a Ladies’ bathroom.  If the gals get to be “Ladies”, why can’t the guys be described as “Gents?”  If we are merely “Men”, why can’t you females be “Women?”  This is not an isolated bitch.  I’ve seen this disparity in dozens of places.  I liked the signs at the dog show.  They had ‘Setters” and “Pointers.”

Sequels and prequels and reboots, everything old is new again.  I read the other day that the Spice Girls were going to reunite and do a short tour.  Surely this is at least the sixth sign of the Apocalypse!  One more, and that Mayan winter cruise looks more and more sure, and a helluvalot better idea than another Spice Girls tour.  I apologised to an Englishman last week for Celine Dion, Shania Twain, Avril Lavigne and Alanis Morissette.  I want a written note of regret on my desk tomorrow for the Spice Girls.

As my blog followers and comments grow, so do the strange search terms that I’ve seen other bloggers make fun of.  I wrote of my brother having a weekend gig, driving limos, so I could understand the question, “Can we overload a limo with seventeen people?”  Depends on the limo.  A triple-stretch Hummer could take thirty, with room for a hot-tub.  I got, “Scientific vaporisor techniques to conclude their findings.”  I think that one was British, North Americans spell the word *vaporizer*.  I know I’ve used the words, “to, their”, and probably “conclude”, but I don’t think I’ve used any of the rest, in any of my posts, so I don’t understand that one.  I finally got a *dirty* one.  Someone searched, “Wife homemade rape tube.”  Maybe I’m not watching enough on-line porn.  I don’t get that one either.

When I first started taking the wife down the big multi-lane highway, to her new rheumatologist in the big city, they were stripping and re-paving hunks and chunks of the road.  The right lane and/or the middle lane, a half mile here, a quarter-mile there.  It took them a year to get it all done.  It’s lovely to drive on now.  It’s nice and smooth, and it plays whale-song.  Apparently, somehow, as the new blacktop was being laid and smoothed, it didn’t go completely smooth.  There must be series after series of small ridges.  As you drive your car over them, it’s like a needle on an old-time record.  Your tires play back a rising and falling noise that sounds much like whale-song on a National Geographic special.  Driving faster raises the pitch but, it still woohs, up and down.  Very pretty, in a way.  I wonder if the truckers hear it, and what it sounds like to them.

Well, my attention span’s exhausted, I imagine yours is too.  I’ll save some more trivia for another day.

A Penny, Lira, Peso, Etc, For Your Thoughts

So, you were asking how it was that I began collecting foreign coins.  You weren’t??!  Well, get with the program here.  I’ve got an ego to support.  Alright, don’t beg.  I will reveal all.

Once upon a time….I like that opening so much more than, “In the beginning”!  My father had a few coins tucked away in a fireproof cashbox.  They included some old Canadian large-pennies, bigger than quarters.  They were fifty years old or more, I’m embarrassed to say I sneaked a few out to buy penny candy.  No wonder the store keeper was so happy to accept them.  In a fit of remorse, I bought a bunch back for him when I was in my forties, at a dollar apiece.

He also had a few foreign coins.  He may have just picked them out of pocket change, or he may have got them from servicemen returning from Europe when he was stationed in Halifax during W.W. II.  However he got them, as a Scottish child, I was always interested in money.  Money maybe, but not always coins.  I worked in a bank for almost a year.  An 18 year-old kid, and I walked seventeen $1000 bills a mile down the street one day, but still had no real interest in coins.

When I worked at the metal-fab plant, I liked to take my breaks and lunches with the guys in the plant.  If I stayed at/near my desk, there was always somebody asking, “Can you check this?  Can you phone this guy?”  As I’ve said, the list of nationalities working there was varied.  The other young guy in my department was born before me, during the Second World War, and was brought to Canada as soon as they could get out, after hostilities ended.  I asked him one day what country, and found that, by the time he emigrated; he had lived in three countries, and never left the house.  They kept re-aligning the borders.  His family was *German*, but he was born in Austria, then his village became part of Hungary, and finally settled in Czechoslovakia.

Especially around vacation time, I would hear guys say, “I’m going home to see my parents.” Or, “I just got back from visiting my grandparents.”  Often I would ask where – Poland, Portugal, Italy, Romania.  One day one of them said, “I’ve still got some coins left from the trip,” and pulled them out.  The first ones were Polish, I believe.  I oohed and aahed, and he asked, “Do you want them?”  I never saw the bus coming.  I said, sure.  Not even knowing what to do with them, I showed them to the wife, and left them on the dresser.

A couple of days later, one of the other guys said, “You took some Polish coins from Potrzebi, would you like my Portuguese pesetas?”  Oh great, can’t insult him.  Sure.  I went back into the office and commented on how I had just acquired coins from two European countries, and a newly hired female clerk piped up, “I just came here from Peru.  Would you like some Peruvian coins?”  Well, the genie’s out of the bottle now, might as well.

Now I started watching for foreign coins, and discovered that there were quite a few floating around, if you kept your eyes open for them.  I also started asking guys in the plant, “Going home to Jamaica at Christmas?  Bring me a few coins back.”

Strangely enough at that time, I could not find a local coin club.  There was one in the smaller city fifteen miles away, so, once a month I would drive over and attend a meeting.  They were concentrated on Canadian coins, with maybe some American, but there were always a couple of dealers with a slush-box which included cheap foreign coinage that I could buy for ten, or twenty-five cents each.  One night, at the club auction, I went wild and spent two dollars for a two-headed coin.  It’s a British, Churchill commemorative Crown, with the Queen on the front, and bull-dog Winston on the back.  It’s the only legal English coin with the face of anyone but a monarch on it.  They say Cromwell doesn’t count.  He was just a usurper.

As people found out about my foreign coins, I got more and more donations from people who got stuck with them in change.  My wife’s twenty-year-older sister was a Catholic nun who was a house-mother to foreign female teen-age students at an English convent boarding school.  It used to be a sign of good luck to place money in the wall of a newly erected building.  The convent decided that they wished the dining hall renovated, and the beautiful, old, dark, oak wainscoting was ripped off the walls.  Out rolled this thin, quarter-sized coin.

Our nun picked it up.  At first she thought it was something from a game, perhaps like Monopoly, something one of the girls had shoved in.  As she looked at it, she realized it was a real coin, worn till it was almost illegible, but real.  She saved it, and when her contract was up and she returned to Canada, she gave it to me.  It turned out to be a silver, Edward II, short-cross sixpence.  It was minted between 1547 and 1552, the years of his reign.  Back then, they didn’t date coins.  It’s badly worn, but still worth about $25.

I have coins from places like Russia, and Cuba, where coins aren’t legally allowed to leave.  Collecting foreign coins is an exercise in both geography and history.  Where’s that coin from?  South Pacific?  Where exactly?  British East Africa?  That’s Mali now.  French West Africa?  That’s Zimbabwe.

I have WW II coins, both from free France, with their Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite motto, and from German-occupied France, where the Nazi-imposed motto was Travail, Famille, Patrie – Work, Family, Homeland.

The best historical run of coins I have starts with the Weimar Republic, soon to be incorporated into the newly organized Germany.  I have pre-war German coins and Nazi-German coins. I have East German coins and West German coins.  I have re-unified German coins, and finally German-minted Euro coins.

I have over 500 coins, from over 100 countries, and still keep an eye out for more.  The Scotsman has found that money isn’t just for saving, or occasionally, grudgingly, for spending.  It can be fun, and educational.

Steve

Everybody, meet Steve.  Steve, meet everybody.  Steve is very quiet, because he’s dead.  We’ll get back to that in a while.  Several of the bloggers I follow have ongoing series of posts about one of the weird and wonderful characters that infest their life.  You’ve already seen why this will not be a continuing set of tales, but I thought you might have some small interest in a guy who provided carefully concealed amusement, for me, and others, for twenty years.

At about five foot, four, Stevie – but never where he could hear you call him that – was like Grumpy the dwarf, or Papa Smurf with hemorrhoids!  He strutted around like a little Banty rooster, and that’s what he always sounded like – or like KayJai – fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!  Not really depressed, just low-level pissed off at everything and everybody, all the time.  Voted most likely to be found on a tower with a sniper rifle.

He was a highly competent worker, turning huge piles of sows’ ears into silk purses all the time.  He didn’t like the raw material, but then, none of us did.  He didn’t like the machinery, or the way the maintenance department kept it.  He didn’t approve of local plant management or senior company executive policies.  Like a stopped clock being right twice a day, they eventually drove us into bankruptcy and unemployment.

While he could appear friendly, he didn’t like people, especially women.  Have you seen or heard of the movie, ”The Forty Year Old Virgin?”  When I joined his line, he was thirty-six, and wouldn’t go near one.  The earthy old woman I took over the job from, offered to take him home and make a man of him.  It was like watching the Tasmanian Devil.  I thought his head was going to spin off.

He was also nicknamed Birdman, an appellation he was somewhat proud of.  He had a huge, encyclopedic knowledge of tropical birds, parrots, cockatoos, toucans and macaws.  He owned several, which he allowed to fly free, inside his house, when visitors came over.  He was sometimes contacted by humane societies, pet stores, or other owners, about found, injured or ill birds.  Stevie nursed them all back to health.

Steve didn’t like anyone in any position of authority, especially politicians.  He had a particular hatred of the Liberal Party, and PM Pierre Trudeau.  Don’t get him talking, he never shut up.  He was always threatening to sue someone for something, but never got around to it.  He had a constant quartet of epithets that he doled out regularly.  Blow it up!  Burn it down!  Kill ‘em all!  Call my lawyer!

My friend’s line was down one day, and he came over to talk to me while I worked.  Being polite and sociable, he thought he’d acknowledge Steve.  As he walked past, all he said was, “Hi Steve.  How are you today?”  Five minutes later, he had to pry his ear out of the monologue.  “Fucking useless politicians!  They’re gonna drive this Goddamned country into the ground.  We should kill the whole bunch of those stupid assholes and burn the fucking Parliament Buildings down.”  My buddy finally escaped and came over to see me.  He said, “You know what?  I haven’t spoken to Steve in eight months, and it’s as if the conversation never ended.”

The company installed a new piece of equipment one time.  Local management came around and wanted to take a picture of it for promotional purposes.  Steve refused to continue working while that happened, like an Aboriginal, afraid that the magic box might steal his soul.  “That’s not what I get paid for.  Take a picture of it between shifts, or have someone else do this job while you shoot pictures.  I’m not going to be in your Goddamned advertising!”

A casual inquiry about his family, one day, revealed that he hated them too, mother, father and one brother.  They were all too nosy and pushy, and wanted to run his life.  He left home when he was sixteen and had barely spoken to them since.  He blamed his parents for passing on defective genes.  He was sure that he would die before his time of some weakness that he’d inherited.  Maybe he was right, maybe it was the stopped clock thing again, or maybe it was losing his job and his purpose in life.  A year after the company closed, he passed on.  As a loner who made me look gregarious, he had no newspaper obituary.  I don’t know what took him.

I don’t know about winter time, but in the summer he liked to go commando.  Working with hot vinyl, he liked to wear loose-legged track shorts.  “Hanging out with Steve” took on a whole new meaning when he balanced on one leg and reached forward.  Princess Purity, behind me finally had enough, and complained to the area supervisor, who spoke to the plant manager, who informed the union executive, who called in the union rep to have a little talk to him about baring his soul, and other portions.  He dyed his hair and “manscaped” himself years before it became common, or even acceptable.

Probably because he was so abrasive, he had trouble with the teenage boy who lived next door.  The kid would jump the fence and steal, or damage, or just move stuff around, to piss him off.  He tore out the four-foot wire fence and installed an eight foot wooden fence all around.  The kid figured out how to get over that too.  He complained to the parents a couple of times, but they denied that it was their kid, so he covertly installed video cams and a recorder.  After another invasion, he invited the parents over to see a little movie.  He told them that the next time it happened, it would be the police viewing the tape.

I’ve never seen anyone work so hard to be happy by being unhappy.  I was never one of the very select few invited to his home, but I miss him, if only because society needs a leavening of people like him to help the rest of us feel normal.

P.S.

http://granmaladybug.wordpress.com is now on the air, dispensing wit and wisdom about cats, candles and cooking.  Only the brave need apply.

Heading North

This is a follow-up post to my Goin’ South blog, about the first time I drove to Florida with my brother.  Before I make the big U-turn and head back, there were a few later-remembered details about the trip down, and the stay, that I thought I’d present.

The first two occurred in/near Toledo, Ohio.  First, I had worked for over seven years making parts for Jeeps.  The Jeep plant is just off I-75, and can be seen clearly from the highway.  It’s an old plant, parts of which are five floors tall.  On the roof of the building, they display three or four different models, one of which is sitting on its ass at a 45 degree slant, looking like it’s climbing an elevator housing.

The I-75 bypass runs down the west side of Toledo, then across the southern edge.  Just as it makes the big turn to the south again, across the highway sits the largest Muslim mosque in the United States.  The huge white building, with its gold-colored dome is very impressive.

We shared the driving.  Rest areas on the highway are about forty miles apart.  One of us would drive, and stop at every third rest area.  Since we drove at 110/120 KmH, which is 65/70 MPH, the hundred and twenty miles took us about two hours.  Then we’d pull in, jump out, stretch and walk to the washrooms, get something to drink, trade drivers and be on the road again in about five minutes.

All the way down I-75, at every rest area we stopped at, the men’s washrooms were on the left, and the women’s were on the right.  I believe it was at the welcome center near the Georgia border.  We pulled in and, since I was passenger, I got to the washrooms first.  I plunged through the left door, and it took me several seconds to wonder why there were no urinals.  I backed out quickly.  Fortunately there were no female customers or a security guard to explain why I was in the women’s washroom, to, at four in the morning.

While in Florida, we went to Kissimmee, where there is a huge flea market under roofs.  I bought a copy of the floating bill trick, at a magic shop for my son.  The flea market was across the road and just down the street from a Medieval Times dinner/show.  Apparently it’s not there anymore, but there is one in Toronto, a little over an hour down the highway.

We also went to a place called Olde Towne, in Orlando.  It’s a tourist cash siphon with period restaurants and cars on display, as well as a plethora of little shops selling trinkets of all types.  This was the first place I had ever seen a shop selling semi-precious stones, so I bought some and some holders, for the wife.  These shops have since made their way into Canada.  There’s one up at the farmer’s market.  The son has thirteen different carved stone skulls, from thumb-tip sized, to golf-ball.

I had won a contest in a knife magazine, and received a hand-made knife from a maker in Orlando.  In my thank-you letter to him, I said that, if I were ever near him, I would stop in to visit.  Here was my first chance.  I borrowed the van and drove into the city.  I missed an exit on a toll-road and had to pay an unnecessary charge, both going, and coming back.  We spent a nice morning.  I saw his neighbor’s mint Corvair.  He had a map, with pins, of all the people he had sold knives to.  Not knowing anything about Ontario, he had my pin in the muskeg, somewhere just off Hudson’s Bay, so I correctly placed it for him.

We left to go home on the next Saturday morning.  Early!  I had provided a Koolatron, an insulated chest with an electrical heat exchange unit for keeping things cold.  It could plug into a cigarette lighter, and had an adapter for in-home use.  We prechilled it Friday and took it out and plugged it into the van Friday evening.  We were up at five AM, finished closing up the trailer, and were ready to hit the road by five-thirty.  And the Koolatron had killed the ten-year-old battery.

Now what do we do?  He complained that “the old folks” in the park slept in, sometimes till seven-thirty or eight o’clock.  While we were still thinking about who to wake up, and when, a young man in his late teens came around delivering newspapers.  At first I thought it was SightnBytes’ rusty Corolla, but it was a beat-up red Datsun.  We waved him down and he had jumper cables and agreed to help start the van.  At last we were on our way home.  An hour *late*, but moving north.

The trip back was just like the drive down, only without a visit to a women’s washroom, and still no mountain scenery.  Three years in a row I made this trip, and six times I missed the Appalachians because they were always in the night portion of our trips.  I had to wait a couple more years till I could afford to take the wife to South Carolina, to see the wonders of the mountains.  He and I had a late supper at a seafood restaurant near Mount Airie, where Andy Griffith lived, 3500 feet up and two hundred miles from the ocean.  I remembered it and took an appreciative, seafood-loving wife there five years later.

This was my first long driving trip, and I found I liked it.  I became a bit of a map-nut from studying the road-atlas, to see where we were.  I now have two road-atlases and two hardcover atlases at home and often look up exactly where a newspaper story occurred.

P.S.

www.granmaladybug.wordpress.com is now on the air.  First blogs about cats, to be followed by cooking, candlemaking, etc.  Visit at your own risk.

Leapers, Creepers

A couple of months back I did a post about the timid and/or confused fools who can’t seem to manage to tidy up to the white line at an intersection, and the ones behind them who won’t close the gaps to the cars in front.  I thought it might be time to make fun of the doofuses who protrude into the crosswalks, or even into the cross traffic, how Freudianly phallic!

We seem to have a timid Timothy police officer who patrols this area.  I’ve seen him numerous times at three or four near-by intersections.  Pull up beside him at a red light, and realize he’s back there, a car length or more, in the other lane.  It’s so different from the usual Type-A Personality police driving style, I almost want to get out and ask for verifying ID to prove he’s really a cop.

There are about three types of asshats with their protuberant power-plants.  First there is the creeper.  This dip-stick might have actually stopped at the line at first, or (s)he might be one of the hang-backs from my first rant.  Wherever they originally stop, they then start inching forward, six inches, stop, another six inches, stop, etc., etc., etc!  It’s not as if the orange light for the cross traffic has come up.  They’ve still got a green, but, creep, creep, creep!  Out into the crosswalk, so the kid on the bike and the young mom with the stroller have to go out and around.  Pick a spot, even if it’s a wrong spot, and stick with it.  You can’t make the light change any sooner by your stupid creeping.

The second entry into the intersection brain trust is the leaper.  He’s similar to the creeper.  He may stop at the line, or a car-length back, but suddenly, it’s as if a drag-strip Christmas tree counted down in front of him.  VROOOM!, and forward he lunges….and slams on the brakes, scattering the two old ladies with their shopping bags.  I’ve almost been caught a couple of times.  Somebody movin’ out that quick must mean I’ve dozed off and the light’s green, so I go to drop the hammer, and realize the same as above.  The Don’t Walk lights on the cross street haven’t even begun to flash yet.  Why are you in such a Hell of a hurry to get nowhere?

The third winner of the used toilet-paper lookalike contest, is No-Brakes Norman, or is that No-Brains?  The Transportation Department paints those white lines on the road at specific places for a reason.  Especially where narrow side-streets meet larger thoroughfares, the lines are set back from the corner to facilitate turning traffic.  Whether from gross stupidity or egotistic entitlement, these geniuses just breeze past the line and stop as far forward as they want.  Every once in a while one of these thoughtless ego-trippers gets his comeuppance, and, if you’re there to see it, it feels so GOOD.

If I drive home by myself, I go up the hill to the lights, turn left, come halfway down the hill, and turn right, into the subdivision.  If I were to take the wife that way, the deceleration and twist to turn across the hill creates G-forces that cause her pain, so I go straight through.  It’s a bit longer, but it’s flatter and smoother, and pain-free.

One day I had her in the car, so I stayed in the go-through lane.  As we waited, I kept watching traffic around me, and spotted Harry Hotrodder come screaming up the hill, and into the left turn lane without signalling.  There’s no rush.  The pedestrian signal hadn’t started to flash.  This is one of those spots where there are magnetic strips to activate the signal, but he flashed past them, and finally came to a stop blocking the crosswalk.  The teenagers going home from school had to step out into traffic to get around him.  Finally the light went orange the other way, and he jumped forward yet another foot, ready to power into the turn, just in time to almost get hit by some fool running the red light.  Damn, I wanted to see an accident.  I’ve seen several immediate outcomes, but I’ve only eye-witnessed four accidents in my life, and that one would have been a good one.

Because he’s not on the mag-strip, he gets no advanced green.  He’s still edging out, but only the guys on the other side get to make the turn.  Finally all the lights go green, but now he’s got to wait for a block of oncoming traffic.  Did he learn anything from this?  Probably not!  Did I laugh my ass off as I drove by and waved at him?  OH yeah!

The son was riding the bus one day.  It went down a big street, and then had to turn off, onto one of those smaller cross-streets.  The Stop-Here-Fool line is painted a car length back, to facilitate busses turning, but there’s Joe Jerkoff, right up at the front.  The driver swung the bus left, aimed for his lane and came to a stop just a foot off the nitwit’s grill.  Then he leaned forward and put his forearm on the horn.

Then the arm waving began.  First it was Oh, Am I in your way?  Then it was backwards, to show there were several other cars, tidied up behind him and he couldn’t do anything to fix the situation.  Finally it was desperately out the driver’s window to tell his followers to wake up and back up.  It took three traffic light cycles to allow the bus to make its legal turn, and the driver never lifted off the horn.

The son said that he hoped the bus driver would get out with the fire-axe and tell the idjit if he didn’t move his car, the driver would, piece by piece.  Why is stupidity so often married to arrogance?  Oh dear, now the Catholic Church will be angry at me.  They insist marriage can only be between one man and one woman.

It’s Only Fair

First, I attended the Multicultural Festival.  All I had to do was eat and ogle, for both of which I am eminently over-qualified.  Then I had to expend a little more energy to transport the daughter and her stuff, and set her and her friend up for the Cherry Park Festival.

Friday night, the city held its annual cruise night.  They block off six blocks of the main street, centered on the city hall, assemble three hundred antique cars at the big park, and have them do a drive-past to their assigned spots.  Antique to them is anything over twenty-five years old.  Antique to me is anything older than I am.  I don’t want to see a Bondo-filled example of some rusted-out piece of crap I had to junk.

Sadly, there were only two Corvettes, neither of them the scoop-side model that I adore, but the newer StingRay.  There were some older vehicles. The oldest was a 1902 something whose name I don’t remember.  Back then, there were lots of tiny little companies which made a few cars a year.  Ford was the first to install the assembly line.  It’s like the local Bob’s Motors, a real name to conjure with.  Would you buy a car from a place called Bob’s?  Some people do.  I see the occasional licence-plate ring.  Or the German-named Wunder Car Sales.  I think his motto is, “If you get a good car, it’s a Wunder!”

Sunday, the daughter and I went to another Free-Thinkers’ meeting, more on that in a later post.  The first time we went, the city was having a Car-Free Sunday, and the entire main street was closed to traffic.  The handicapped lady had to hobble two blocks to the venue.  This  Sunday they merely closed off three blocks and lined up tables in an attempt to set a Guinness record for the longest/largest picnic.

Saturday I transported the daughter, her friend and all their stuff to the big park and helped (?) set them up for the Anti-Violence Festival.  It’s held on a wooded island.  The daughter’s gazebo tent and a couple of other, unprotected displays were the only ones to be in the sun most of the day.  The Liberal Party suddenly packed up and left about 2 PM.  Maybe they got too hot.  Maybe they had to rush off to buy another vote.  Attendance was poor, perhaps because of the heat.  Once you got there, under the trees, it was nice, but the getting there was hot, hot, hot!

Again, commerce was the unifying factor, but both the sales and community-service displays were a little more towards the “hippy, tree-hugger” end of the social spectrum.  Booths included Bahai, Sexual Assault Support, the YM and YWCAs, Healing Gemstones, Hatha Yoga, the Liberal political party, who bailed early, Transition K-W, which is a bit like the Unlearn group, teaching new ways to conserve and preserve water, air and land.

There was the Qigong Oasis teaching oriental ways and thought processes, a Ride-For-Cancer sign-up booth, some mostly organic-type, snacks and drinks, and a booth teaching meditation.  The local Aids Awareness group was there trying cut down on bullying and harassment of gays.  The Barterworks group was there, and a group called Time Banks.  They trade services.  I fix your toilet, you repair his car, he shampoos someone else’s carpet, and so on, and so on.  The Conservative party was not represented, but the NDP was, as well as the save-the-environment Green Party.

The Human Rights people were there, as was the Right To Vote group.  That surprised me.  I thought that everyone, of-age, in Canada had the right to vote.  There was a booth promoting the upcoming Link Festival, which is like the Multicultural Festival, just without all the food.  I saw Dollars and Sense, a monetary reform advocate group, World Without Wars, Earth-Friendly Living and Hope Stream.

I picked up a lapel button which reads Imaginez La Paix, which means Imagine the Peace, in French.  The French are serious about peace.  The only country which has surrendered more, and faster, is Egypt, during the Six-Day Israeli War.  Put down the guns, put up the hands.

There was a group called Fair Vote, which is a proponent of proportional representation.  They don’t think it’s right that any political party which garners only a few more votes than its opponents, gets a majority government, while, for example, the Green Party gets a million votes, but only one seat in government.  They had a huge bowl of wrapped caramel candies that they urged people to take.  Once you’d peeled the wrapper off, you were supposed to vote for one of the three main parties by dropping the wrapper through one of three labeled holes in a sheet of Plexiglas.  When you did that, you saw that every wrapper wound up in the same shiny galvanized garbage pail with a sign that said, “That’s where all your votes go.”

On Saturday, as we were doing Anti-Violence, our twin city up the road was holding an AfroFest.  Next week, in our big park, there will be a Craft Beer and Ribsfest.  On the 28th, in a smaller park, nearer to us, is a Croatian FoodFest.  There’s food and foreign culture from all over the world in this city.

The Link Festival is in early August, and, in early September, there will be a Word On The Street Festival, with book sales, free books, learn-to-read groups, and lots of other Printed S**t.  There is a small WordsWorth bookstore downtown, and three book exchanges/second-hand.  The entire family are friends with two of the proprietors, with me going back 45 years, five locations and three owners, at one.  I imagine we’ll all turn out for that one.  Among the three of us, we have almost as many books in this house as the smallest of the three stores.