A Summer Spent Driving In Tucson Gives The Term 'Hot Rod' A Whole New Meaning.
By Tom Danehy
SCHOOL'S BACK IN session, so I've returned to my normal schedule of getting up way too early, going to bed way too late, and doing almost nothing of any consequence in between.
Last week I spent my mornings cleaning the house. When I was done in the kitchen, you could almost see the counter. Then I spent my afternoons shuttling back and forth between schools watching my kids try out for their respective teams.
I don't actually stand there and watch them; that might make them nervous. Plus, I might be mistaken for one of those idiot parents I can't stand having around when I'm coaching. I just walked through the high-school gym once to make sure my daughter hadn't injured herself or anyone else (again) by diving at something.
Then I took my son his shoes for football practice because he didn't have a locker yet. I have a message for fathers, gonna-be fathers, and all those jerks you see on Ricki Lake talkin' about, "It ain't my kid!"
One of the great moments in a man's life comes when he first sees his son in a football uniform. Even (or maybe especially) if his son isn't even five-feet tall yet and the shoulder pads stick out so far he looks like he's wearing a clothesline pole under his shirt.
I've learned some important lessons driving all over town these past couple weeks. One is that it's hot in Tucson in August. I mean nasty, unrelenting, please-God-just-one-little-breeze hot. It can make you a bit uncomfortable, and maybe even a little crazy.
Have you ever been driving along on a real hot day and suddenly find yourself recreating a scene from Good Morning, Vietnam for the sole entertainment and listening pleasure of yourself?
You're in your sweatbox of a car and suddenly you're Roosevelt E. Roosevelt, giving Adrian the weather report. "It's hot! Damn hot!! What fool, were you born on the sun? It's so hot I saw this little dude in an orange robe burst into flames. Tonight it's going to be hot and wet. That's nice if you're with a lady, but it ain't no good if you're in the jungle."
Then you look over and you see that the woman in the next car is staring at you in fear and disbelief. You do the only thing you can do. You keep talking, but also start snapping your fingers like you're going along with a song on the radio.
They never buy it. Never. And yet, still you make the effort.
Part of the problem lies with me. I virtually never use my car air-conditioner. It still has the original Freon, which, I suppose, makes me a hero to people living in shacks in Montana who think that the Freon grab was the first step toward the New World Order. Yeah, they need Freon to keep those black helicopters flying.
I'd say I've used the air-conditioner in my car maybe 10 times in five years. I just figure I live in the desert by choice, so I might as well embrace it.
Besides, it's really creepy to be sweating like a pig, get in the car and cool down, then get back out and start sweating all over again. It's like, why bother? Besides, if I did that, the shock would probably kill my fat behind. They'd find me on the sidewalk and forensic scientists would be able to read the sweat-stain salt layers on my shirt like tree rings.
"Lessee, he was sweating here, then he was in his car for 18...no, make it 19 minutes. Then he got out again and walked north-northwest."
They could probably use a formula combining my weight, the day's temperature, and the size of the Big Gulp cup in the car to determine how far I got before the sweat started pouring again.
Another thing I've found is that drivers keep getting worse and worse. They're less patient, ruder, bolder, and stupider. I think that when people engage in the "growth debate," they always seem to leave out what squeezing all the people into this valley is doing to the roads, the traffic patterns, and people's driving habits.
It's only about five miles from where we live to the high school. And yet I'd say that nine times out of 10 that I make that drive, I see another driver do something not just illegal, but dangerous and possibly life-threatening to themselves and/or others. And they do it like it's nothing.
The worst part of the drive is this one-mile stretch of River between La Canada and Oracle. The average speed on that road is at least 60 mph; long ago I abandoned any thought of driving at or around the speed limit of 45. No matter which lane you're in, people whiz past and scowl at you.
Just the other day, this old granny flew past and flipped me off. At least I think she was flipping me off. Her arthritis made it look like she was giving me the "Crip" sign with her middle finger.
A huge part of the problem is that a vast majority of people think they're better-than-average drivers. This not only makes them dangerously bad drivers; it makes them stupid in math, too. By definition, the majority of drivers are average or below. If you drink, smoke, and/or use drugs, you're automatically in the bottom half, so shut up and stay off the road.
My daughter's a junior in high school now, but thankfully she's still only 15. She won't be driving on her own for a while yet. Still, I hate having to start every driving lesson with her by saying, "Remember, all the other drivers out there are a-holes."
I even tried to get her to repeat it, but she's like her mom--she can't cuss. My beloved wife was well into her 20s before she cussed for the first time, and then it came out, "I don't give a Hell!"
I said, "What kind of mess is that? 'I don't give a Hell!'? All those post-graduate degrees and that's the best you can come up with? What's next, 'Go to Damn!'?"
She hasn't cussed since, even in traffic. The woman's a saint. Unlike most of the other drivers, who are...well, you know.
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