Tag Archives: Driving

Call Me a Goober. I Don’t Get Uber.

2 Mar

by Roger White

 

OK, my fellow aficionados of the absurd, before we slice into the juicy prime rib of this here column, let’s settle the squabbling once and for all: What color are these words? Do you see blue type on a black background or gold type on a white background? I’ll give you a minute. No, Leonard, fuchsia on lime is not a choice.

who gives a

Apparently, because of one silly photo of a dress that was e-passed around the globe in about, oh, twelve seconds, everything we knew and believed about how we human types perceive color is right out the window. I heard tell that there were acts of gun violence in many cities and more than a few divorce proceedings initiated because of this stupid dress.

Fox News even reported that Turkneckistan declared war on neighboring Rosannadannastan over this garment argument. Citing an anonymous source, Fox claimed that the dress was to be worn at a Democratic fundraiser and that the current White House Administration is to blame for all the hubbub. As the Fox anchor concluded, “Thanks, Obama.”

Anyway. That’s not my rant for this episode. (It’s blue on black, by the way.) No, the rusted bobby pin stuck in my lower craw this time out is this Uber phenomenon. If you haven’t heard of Uber, it’s an app—started in California, of course—that magically transforms any Tom, Dick, and Hot Rod Harry with a set of wheels into a taxi cab driver. Here’s actual wording from the Uber site: “Got a car? Turn it into a money machine. The city is buzzing, and Uber makes it easy for you to cash in on the action. Plus, you’ve already got everything you need to get started.”

So, if I may extrapolate, I need nothing more than my derelict little Ford Pinto, some free time, and a desperate desire to make some cash without really working in order to chauffeur my way to riches? What a fantastic concept! What could possibly go wrong?

ruh roh ruber

Hmmm, let’s see. If you’re the guy behind the wheel—we’ll call you the Uber-er—it’s all easy money—until you get summoned to the lower east side of town to pick up a half-dozen Hell’s Angels, whose request is something like, “Just drive us around town for a while, lights off, and DON’T look in the back seat! Got it?” Or, say you’re the one looking for a ride—you’re the Uber-ee—and you get picked up in a two-tone primer and day-glo yellow ’63 Impala by a dude with a patch over one eye and a tattoo of Jeffrey Dahmer on his bicep. “Um, Sixth Street, please. Wait, um, downtown’s that way. No, wait!”

waitYou see my concerns. The threat of death and dismemberment aside, did you know that if you—the Uber-ee— opt for the Uber route during a time that is considered “high demand,” you will be charged what the smiling Uber people (Uberites? Ubereeenos?) euphemistically term “surge pricing”? Yeah. So, say you’re having little luck getting an honest-to-gosh taxi at 3 a.m. on New Year’s, and you punch up Uber on your phone thingy. It’s only a five-minute ride from the bar to your house, but you’re a little tipsy—and besides, your neighbor used Uber for the same trip only a few weeks ago, and it was only $25. Uber to the rescue! Your Uber driver is a tad odd and smells like onions and cat litter, but he gets you home in one piece. You whip out two twenties, feeling generous, and your cat-litter-smelling-cabby laughs. “That’s $675, lady.” Yep, surge pricing.

You see her concerns.

If I may extrapolate further, where will this lead? Will we have Uberfied air travel soon? I can see the Uber site now: “Got an airplane? Got at least a student’s license? Turn your Cessna into a money machine. The nation is buzzing, and many people—especially those on cartel payrolls—need transportation fast! Uber makes it easy for you to cash in on the action. Plus, you’ve already got everything you need to get started….”

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Huzzah for Hard Line on Hardheads with Handhelds! …Huh?

16 Sep

by Roger White

 

Normally, I’m not one to send out hearty huzzahs to governmental entities for actions they’ve taken, and this is likely because governmental entities these days rarely take any action at all (unless it involves evasive action from pursuing police cars, gaggles of reporters, or issues of real import). But I must say that I feel a robust huzzah coming on for the gallant move the Austin City Council made in August. The council types put their pointed noggins together and approved an ordinance banning cellphone use while driving within the Weird City Limits. So here goes. Let’s hear it: Huzzah!

 

Carl, I didn’t see you huzzah-ing.

 

I imagine that this new law, which goes into effect January 1, 2015, will be called by some shorthand name like the DWP law. Driving While Phoning. Or maybe DWT—Driving While Texting. Or we could simply stick with the term DWI and call it Driving While Intexticated. distracted dudeRegardless, label me a cappy hamper. It’s about time we put these handheld monsters in their place. I mean, crikey, time was when you saw a car weaving all over the road and sideswiping lampposts it was usually 2:30 in the morning and the driver had a handful of cheap hooch. Now, any time of day or night you can easily spy a meandering motorist, but these days he’s got his head down, engrossed in his handful of high-tech hosannas. Holy high-speed highjinks!

 

Alas, too, in the olden days, the term “distracted driving” meant that a guy was accidentally steering onto the sidewalk on Guadalupe Street because he was ogling a crowd of college coeds walking down the drag. Nowadays, it usually means somebody put his Dodge in a ditch because he was watching a Vietnamese potbellied pig play the harpsichord on Youtube. It’s insanity, man.

 

So I not only applaud the council for standing up to the mobile madness, I say we take it a few steps further. I vote we enact stiff fines, public shaming rituals, and/or jail time for the following:

  • WWT: Walking While Texting
  • WMWT: Watching a Movie While Texting
  • IYPWT: Ignoring Your Parents While Texting

And, of course:

  • CWRLPWT: Conversing With a Real Live Person While Texting

 

WWTYou’ve surely seen the videos out there of those unfortunate saps who’ve strolled into mall fountains or off sheer cliffs because of their single-minded attention to their devices. And I suppose some of the yahoos in these videos were actually watching videos of other yahoos walking into fountains or off cliffs. Gads. It’s a glimpse of infinity—the fractal geometry of the absurd. Don’t you see? Where was I?

 

Oh. Get this. The Chinese, recognizing the inherent dangers of WWT, have actually devised an urban solution. The city of Chongqing has decided to parse its sidewalks into normal human walking lanes and cellphone user lanes. Apparently, the cellphone lanes have warnings painted onto the pavement about such things as the fact that the sidewalk is ending soon, there’s a naked lady walking right next to you, and your neck could stay permanently frozen in that position if you don’t stop gawking at your phone.

 

I would guess that such walking lanes might need rumble strips or warning buzzers for the hardcore cellphone addicts who refuse to tear themselves away. Such measures may have saved WWT2the tourist in Melbourne, Australia, who walked right off a pier into the frigid waters of Port Phillip Bay recently. According to news reports, the woman thrashed about in the sea for about 20 minutes before being rescued. “There will be no need for a lost property report as the woman kept hold of her mobile phone throughout the entire ordeal,” said a local police officer. The woman’s child and two dogs, unfortunately, were never found. OK, I made that part up.

 

So, anyhow, here’s to our intrepid city council for taking a swipe at all the app-addled addicts out there. I’m with ya, pointy-noggin council types. Is it so hard for people to PUT THE PHONE DOWN? My hope is that once we move into the second phase of our fair burg’s sanctions—the laws against WWT, WMWT, and the like—that eventually we’ll develop edicts against the more grievous mobile device offenses. Such as SWT. You know. Nudge, nudge.

SWT

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

My Wife’s Haunted Car and Other Things

9 Sep

by Roger White

 

Let me get this out of the way right here and now: For all the times I’ve been a smartass to any of you out there in reader-land, I convey my sincere apologies. I used to think that just about anything is fair game in the name of humor. I was not above smartassery if it garnered some hearty yuks. But lo, being on the receiving end of a smartass barb recently made me understand. Funny is in the eye of the bee holder. Or something. So there, I’m sorry. Long-winded explanation to follow.

 

The preceding paragraph came about because my wife and I recently became thoroughly convinced that her car is haunted. True! It’s all true. The old Honda makes a strange humming noise—using ok not wifeys carDave Barry caps now—WHEN IT’S NOT EVEN ON! I thought wifey had been hitting the cooking vodka a bit when she unloaded this on me, especially after I pulled up a chair on two occasions and sat next to her car in the garage and heard: absolutely nothing. But the other night, as I was emptying the trash in the garage, it happened. The old rattletrap hummed at me. It was kind of a pleasant hum, nothing menacing. But it was a hum nonetheless—coming from a vehicle that had been sitting dormant for hours. What’s even weirder is that it doesn’t seem to emanate from the engine. It’s an overall, ethereal sort of tune, as if the entire car just decides to hum. Lasts a while, then stops. Somewhere near B flat, I think.

 

Unnerved, and after a dip into the cooking vodka, I called up our mechanic. I asked him, after catching my breath and pouring myself another helping of cooking sauce, what in the world would make a car, that hasn’t been driven in hours, mind you, hum? (If you know where this is going because you have a smartass mechanic, don’t ruin it for the others.)

 

And Mr. Mechanic said: “Maybe it doesn’t know the words.”

 

Rimshot. Applause, applause. Another helping of vooking vokda all around. After he stopped laughing, which was a good long while, he switched into mechanic gobbledygook mode: “Could be your ABS relay switch stuck in regenerate mode or perhaps your evaporator coils releasing pressure. Have you checked that?”

 

“Uh, yeah. No.”

 

“Or it could be haunted,” he concluded. Again with the laughing. “Bring it in, we’ll check it out.”

 

Funny guy. He has a point, though. It truly could be haunted. The wife and I used to scoff and pooh-pooh such notions, but through our long, strange trips together, we have both become convinced that there are — well, let’s just say there are things beyond our knowledge as mere humans trudging about on this little planet. Another schot of kooking sschvodka, please.

 

Two very peculiar examples come to mind: (1) a photo of Edgar Allan Poe’s grave and (2) a spooky stay in Santa Fe, New Mexico. So, pull up a log. Some years back, Sue and I were visiting Baltimore. EAs graveWe had one of those old cameras that actually used film, the kind you gave to the drugstore clerk for developing. Before the age of nude selfies and all that crap. We had taken all the usual tourist photos: the Inner Harbor, Maryland blue crabs, a downtown mugging, and a shot of the grave of E.A. Poe. Yes, the original Stephen King. When we got the photos back from the drugstore, all was pretty much normal—ya know, some fuzzy, some out of focus, some pretty decent shots. But the shot of Poe’s grave was truly bizarre. The picture appeared to have flames coming up the bottom and sides, as if surrounding the gravesite. Hand on heart here. We know we still have it somewhere, but we cannot find it. It’s the only photo of the rolls that was out of the ordinary. Way out of the ordinary. It looked like it was on fire.

 

No. 2 is even stranger. If you’ve ever stayed in Santa Fe, you’ve probably heard how it is purported to be one of the most haunted places in North America. Old Indian burial grounds, the site of extremely ancient civilizations, the works. In the dead of winter one year (no pun intended), our vacation stay there was extended because we were snowed in. Inches and inches of deep, beautiful snow. Our girls were tiny, and they loved it. Sue and I were perturbed at the cost of our unintended extension, and our dog, Ralph, hated every minute of it. Something about the room we were in, at the Las Palomas Inn, gave our fat daschund an extreme case of the willies. He would whine and mommyhesitate every time we entered the room. He would piddle nervously on the front step. Then Sue woke up in the wee hours one night convinced that one of the girls was calling her. She heard a distinctive little voice calling out, “Mommy.” But our girls were sound asleep. When Sue told me the story, as we sat on our hotel bed, I decided to call our ghost’s bluff. “OK,” I called out. “If there is something or someone here, give us a sign. Now.” At that precise moment, one of the two sconce lights on the wall surrounding the bed came on. Came on, mind you. If a light had gone off, I could explain that one away. Bulb went bad, that’s all. No. One of the lights came on. Wifey’s my witness. I still shiver about that one. We changed rooms, then hightailed it back home as soon as the snow cleared.

 

Who’s up for more cookling vkoda? Whew. Seriously, do you have a story like this? One that makes you think, hmmm, there is more going on here than we know. E-mail me at roger.white@tasb.org. I wanna hear them. I’ll post the truly creepy ones. It’s almost Halloween, ya know. Right now I gotta go, I think the wife’s car’s humming at me again.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

Life in the Closed Lane, Part Deux

14 Oct

by Roger White

 

I’ve harped on the many traffic woes of this sardine-packed city before, but now with my youngest chomping at the automotive bit and with the wife and me renewing our primal fears of bodily injury to our kiddos (and yours if they’re not nimble enough to get out of the way), I figured it was time to revisit the demolition derby that is life on these Austin streets.

 Packed like sardines

There are those who put forth that a car is merely an extension of one’s personality, and I am not one to disagree. In fact, I believe placing a human being behind the wheel of a 2,000-pound mechanical contrivance actually amplifies one’s basic behavior to the extreme. If you’re a bully in your daily existence, then you become a truly monstrous a—hole in your behemoth pickup truck. If you’re the extra-careful, nervous type, this translates into that modest little Yaris attempting earnestly to stay six carlengths away from every other vehicle—even in the Target parking lot. If you’re the meditative, peaceful sort, you transmogrify into Gandhi in a ghia, waving and smiling serenely at those who curse and aim middle digits.

 

Add to this car-as-extension-of-self phenomenon the stifling overcrowding of our byways these days and you get what we are experiencing now: critical car mass. We’re not simply employing our autos to get from one point to another—no, sitting in the sedan, waiting for the light to change or the wreckage to clear, has become a way of life. We’re in our Toyotas and Hyundais so much of the time that we eat, sleep, communicate, transact business, recreate (and, yes, re-create), and conduct practically every other function of living in our cars as much as anywhere else. I hear that Honda is actually working on a driver-activated toilet for its higher-end models. No pun intended. Okay, I made that up.

 

Despite the notion of having a potty on the go, I have come to truly despise driving now. Sadly, I used to enjoy getting in the ol’ jalopy. I envied the guys who had the gleaming hot rods. Now I see these immaculately restored muscle cars, and the occasional collector on the goPorsches (usually driven by guys old enough to remember Ferdinand Porsche personally), and I puzzle over these machines with their massive motors grumbling against the walking pace of traffic. I mean, it’s a bit like owning a racehorse in Manhattan. What’s the point?

 

Anyway, from my daily stop-n-go grind I’ve concluded that there are five basic automotive personality types. And here they are, in no particular order: You’ve got your breakneck-speed, tailgating Reckless Kellys. These guys are always late for something, and you are always in their way, for heaven’s sake. Every lane that a Reckless Kelly is not in is the lane that he or she wants desperately to be in. Conversely, you have your Vehicular Vigilantes. These are the self-appointed regulators of the Reckless Kellys, and they can be just as annoying. VVs are the ones who speed up just enough to not let others in if they feel a traffic injustice has been done. Vigilantes enjoy wagging their fingers and shaking their heads correctively at other drivers. On the other end of the extreme, you have your Motorized Milquetoasts. More than three cars on the road at a time frightens MMs, and decision-making is tough for this mild-mannered sort. Keep your distance. MMs are often seen waiting for a stop sign to turn green. Clueless Cloggers used to be an obvious category; these were the very young and very old vehicular pilots. Currently, however, CCs have grown to include every one of these imbecilic drivers who insist on monitoring their mobile devices while they themselves are mobile! Lord help us. And last but least, you have thback off pleaseose temperamental types who think of themselves as Vigilantes but are in actuality a lethal and unpredictable combo of every known personality on the road. These are the most dangerous, maddeningly volatile drivers you can ever come across. They are convinced that their path and their mission are the most important, and they will compromise with no other automobile. If anyone gets in their way, these asphalt autocrats will do anything in their power to seek vengeance—to the point that they are willing to shut down the whole traffic system to get what they want.

 

These frightening folks are, of course, the Boehner Beamers. Steer clear of BBs; you’ve been warned.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

How to Unclog the Duodenum of Texas

8 May

by Roger White

Guess from whence I’m writing this installment, my kaleidoscopic cohort. In my car. That is correct. I haven’t touched the accelerator or the steering wheel in the last six minutes and nineteen seconds—traffic is this clogged—so I figured I might as well put the time to good use. Or silly use, anyway. I can now see a spider web forming from my front left hubcap down to the highway pavement. And I swear that little fuzzy monster is grinning at me. One should not be able to see spider webs and smiling arachnids on the highway.

puttputtSuch is life in Austin. I read the other day that traffic here in the duodenum of Texas ranks fourth-worst in the nation. The entire nation! Only LA, Honolulu, and San Francisco are worse. We’re more cars-trophobic than New York, Boston, and D.C. even. Get it? Cars-trophobic? I made that up, so no copying. I mean, cripes, Forbes magazine recently named our little—correction—NOT little burg as the fastest-growing city in America. It’s gotten to the point where I, your most genteel of scribes, have sunk to the point of using crude, contemporary slang that I vowed I would never employ. Alas, here goes: Trying to get from Point A to Point B in this town now officially … cough, “sucks.” Ew. I said it. I hate that verb. Kids today do not have the verbal alacrity to describe any experience, flavor, relationship, teacher, concert, class, ex-friend, or social exchange with any nuance at all because all they can say is that this or that “sucked.” This is why I hate the word. It bashes creativity. That being said, however, I again acquiesce because I, too, can conjure no other description of living in this town today. Other than it sucks. Like, man.

where am iWhy doth it sucketh, you ask? I’ll tell you. There are too many of us here. Come on, already. Stop moving here. Get this, and I quote from a local news source: “The Austin metro area added 67,230 people during the last 15-month period—4,482 people a month.” Cheese and crackers, folks, that’s 149.4 people glomming onto the city per day. I’m not sure where the .4 comes from, but for the love of Mike, somebody shut the gate.

It’s our own fault, really. Austin is so artsy-craftsy. Everybody and their therapist is an oh-so-sincere musician with a new folk song coming out about riding the backroads to Babylon or somesuch; we have organic food fairs every weekend that feature gluten-free honey-caressed love veggies that have been hand-raised by Buddhist hippies who live in a house made of dirt; everyone young and old runs and bikes by the lake—even the fat people; Robert Plant shops for groceries south of downtown, even though nobody recognizes him anymore because he apparently looks like Marty Feldmanmarty er robert now. Plus there’s a god-forsaken concert or charity run or awareness walk or some civic-minded, hug-inducing love-in wherein they block off every street in or around downtown—every goddamn week! It, uh… well, it sucks.

So, my clarion call to you, my fellow dwellers of the duodenum, is to, um, suckify the city its own self. If people are coming here by the droves because we’re so weird and wonderful, then the only way to reverse the trend is to unweird ourselves. You, over there in the hipster jeans with holes in just the right places, put down the guitar. That’s it, don that gray shirt and apply for that assembly line job at the pliers factory. You there, the lazily grinning hippies selling arugula out of your van. Take a shower—separately, please—put on some real underwear, and drive to Phoenix. You see, we have to tone down the originality and show some real, authentic normalness. Drabness even.

While researching the absolute worst cities in America, I read on more than a few sites that Stockton, California, ranks as a shining example of, er, genuine suckitude. Take a look (and I quote from the internet, so it’s gotta be legit): “In July 2012, Stockton became the largest city ever to file for protection under Chapter 9 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Also in 2012, the city was ranked one of the most dangerous cities in America. In 2013, Stockton was ranked as the third-most illiterate city in the U.S., with less than 17 percent of adults holding a college degree.”

Ah ha! Citizens of Duodenum-ville, rise up! And dumb down! Engage in some petty thievery. Kick a tourist or two in the groin. City planners, dabble in a little malfeasance. Cook a book yea stocktonor three. Mr. Mayor, get caught with a city secretary in a Bangkok hotel. Then, and only then, will we stem the tide of people crowding into our fair hamlet. In short, to prevent this city from sucking so badly, we must make it suck somewhat. I think.

In the meantime, I’ll sit here, watching that little smirking spider make a home in my hubcap. Man, this sucks.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Falling Off My Very Own Personal Fiscal Cliff

31 Jan

by Roger White

 

Pardon me while I faint. KLOMP!

 

Whew. Okay, I’m back. You see, I just checked my bank balance after the deposit of my first paycheck of 2013. I was anxious—fretting is the better word—over what sorts of new and exotic deductions would further erode my take-home income this fine year. But I had no idea it would be this bad.

 

Well, my Social Security deductions went through the roof; health insurance coverage for my family soared like a Roman candle (ooh, ahh); and we just added our oldest daughter ouch ouch ouchto our automobile insurance coverage because she’s of that age so new and terrifying to all parents. Lindsey’s actually a good driver, but try telling that to a car insurance company. To car insurance companies, teenage drivers are like the proverbial golden geese, except with braces and acne and blue jeans full of holes.

 

Holy smokes. Counting federal income tax, Medicare tax, dental insurance, life insurance, anti-insurance insurance, death insurance, dismemberment insurance, dismemberment cleanup insurance, disability other than dismemberment insurance, retirement, retirement insurance, and, of course, insurance against not having enough insurance insurance, I’m practically taking home less actual money than if I wasn’t working. Counting cost of gas, car upkeep, work clothes, lunches, the imposition of regular hygiene, etcetera, I do believe I’m virtually paying for the privilege to go to work.

 

Wha? Wha happen? How did it get to be like this? I thought that after about 30 years of the daily grind, I was supposed to be doing at least okay, relatively speaking. And speaking of relatively speaking, I’m certainly glad my relatives are speaking to me, because I may very well have to hit them all up for some low-interest loans. These be hard times, people. And the weird part is, my family’s not extravagant. We really don’t have any corners to cut to re-mash our household budget because all of our cuttable cutting cornerscorners have already been trimmed long ago. We’ve cut so many corners that every piece of furniture in the house is circular. We’re so bent on cutting corners that we switched from Saltines to Ritz crackers. (Get it? No corners. Bah-doom boom.) We’re saving coupons, taking cold showers, eating at home, bundling services—you name it. We’ve bundled so many services that AT&T provides our cable, phone, internet, water, electricity, sewage, and even medical and pharmaceutical needs, I think. The last time I was on the phone to the AT&T technician in India about a cable outage, he reminded me that I needed my regular allergy shot. That’s how bundled we are. I eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch just about every day, and I’ve worn the same dress shoes since Bush was president—the first Bush, that is.

 

Yes, if this first measly paycheck of the new year is any indication, my little family has barreled over our own personal fiscal cliff. All we’re waiting for is the big thud. I’ve actually sought out assistance to soften the thud. I’ve been to many an online “cost savings” site. They all say about the same thing. Buy store brands. Duh. We’ve been doing that forever. And I must say, “Everything’s a Dollar” brand beer is quite the sacrifice. They say to use up your leftovers and freezer foods. We’ve done that. Just last week, we Our Gourmet Joeused up our last can of Manwich and our final jars of Tang powdered orange juice and Taster’s Choice instant coffee, all circa 1972, I believe. Another savings tip from these online cost-cutting gurus is to buy only what’s on sale. Well, we tried that one, but now we’re stuck with 30 jars of gefilte fish, 10 pounds of leeks, and two dozen turkey necks.

 

Who’s up for pot luck?

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Our Winter Trip–to the Tune of ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’

7 Jan

by Roger White

 

Come andHere We Go listen to a story ’bout a man named Rog,

For their winter getaway got the car out the garage,

Packed the family up and drove to Santa Fe,

But here’s some weird stuff that happened on the way.

 

’Bout five in the morning just outside Fredericksburg,

With temperature readings like an Arctic iceberg,

Steering got squirrelly and a tire went POP,

Two hundred bucks later we leave the tire shop.

 

We Is NowhereOn I-10 past Sonora I decide to take a snooze,

Wifey’s at the wheel, what have I got to lose?

I wake and we’re smack in the middle of nowhere,

Fifty miles from a town with no gas to spare.

 

Fort Stockton’s now roughly thirty miles away,

With the “Empty” light on we both begin to pray,

Then out of nowhere an Exxon comes in sight,

We laugh and we cry and soon forget our plight.

 

Up 285 into old New Mexico,

Night begins to fall and the wind begins to blow,

There in the darkened road with no time to stop,

We almost run over a New Mexico cop.

 Stop in the Lame of the Naw

Fuzz, that is. Black uniform. Gun and all.

 

Well, the next thing ya know we’re into Santa Fe,

Wife and I relax while the girls go out to play,

We realize we’re now about a thousand in the hole,

For Christmas, we figure, we’ll give the girls coal.

 

Anthracite, that is. Black fuel. Fossilized carbon.

 Everybody loves Coal

Heading back to Texas we drive all day and night,

With fast food in our bellies the car sure smells a might,

We all begin to wonder why this far we did roam,

Next year we figure it’s best to just stay home.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Nothing Says ‘Thank You’ Like ‘Thank You’

18 Dec

by Roger White  

 

Sitting cozy in my den the other day, admiring the flames in the fireplace as winter raged outside (it got down into the 40s!), I was given to pause and reflect. Seldom am I given to pause, seldomer still to reflect. Yes, I have been writing long enough to invent words. Seldomer is now a word. I shall even copyright it: Seldomer©. There.

I believe at least once a year, everyone should be required to stop whining, cease shooting the finger at the guy who cut you off in traffic, quit yelling at the idiot politicians, and simply be thankful. As bad as things seem to be, as completely insane as the world appears to have become lately, as absolutely untrainable as the damn cat stubbornly cat from hellremains, I still feel like a very lucky guy. I know there are so many things in this world—this nation particularly—that need to change, but for the most part, things are good. People are good, by and large. I must believe that, or I will drive my car into the Palo Duro Canyon.

So I thought I’d share with you my list of the things I’m thankful for this holiday season. This list is not in order of importance, nor was there any payola involved. If anyone on this list wants to discuss payola retroactively, that can be arranged.

I, Oldspouse, am thankful for the following, give or take:

  • “Relaxed-fit” jeans. Not only am I extremely grateful for relaxed-fit jeans, I am most appreciative of the term “relaxed-fit.” Whoever came up with this wonderful euphemism is a marketing genius. Sounds so much better than the truth: “Old & fat-fit” jeans.
  • Affordable second-hand cars with airbags. My daughters are driving now. Nuff said.
  • Affordable miniature GPS tracking devices. My daughters are dating now. Nuff said.
  • Jon Stewart. The last bastion of straight news, of the real story, Jon is. Without him, the man“Breaking Bad,” and “Seinfeld” reruns, television today would be utterly unwatchable.
  • Mississippi. If it weren’t for the Magnolia State, Texas would be at or very near the bottom of many, many dubious lists, such as education, teen pregnancy, idiotic laws, etc. You can criticize Texas for many things, but at least we don’t incorporate the Stars and Bars into our state flag.
  • Five-hour energy drinks. I know, this one may be controversial, but WOW. The wife and I tried a couple of these tiny little bottles of verve one morning. We’d been out late the previous evening, pretending we were young’uns, and oh, how we felt it. On a lark, we imbibed the “energy supplements.” All I remember of the rest of that day is that after our 10-mile morning run, I rebuilt my lawnmower engine, self-audited my tax returns back to 1987, played my girls one-on-two in tennis, then wrote three chapters of my long-forgotten novel. Then I slept for 18 hours. In the yard.
  • Our Bubbie. Now, this may seem to you a blatant attempt to get in good with the mother-in-law, and you know what? It is! But I have to tell you, this gal can cook. Bubbie’s been the primary source of our Sunday night dinners since I can remember, and if anyone can do better things with a chicken, I need to see it—and taste it. Although I have to add that Bub is one of the main reasons I am thankful for “relaxed-fit” jeans. Well, and beer.
  • Beer. Where would we be without beer? Maybe I should rephrase that. Let me just yea beersay that beer has helped me through many, many horrible Dallas Cowboys games. Without beer, I could not stand to listen to my own garage band play. Without beer, our annual neighborhood holiday parties would be intolerable. And I mean that in the nicest way. I dare say that without beer, no one would ever listen to ZZ Top or Billy Squier.
  • My babies—all three of them. You know who you are. Tolerance, patience, forgiveness, and love are mighty, mighty powerful things. For that, and for my three lovely gals, I am eternally thankful. Seldom do I really say how thankful I am for you—and seldomer still do I say how much I love you. Well, and beer.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Drinking Gold and Other Extravagances

20 Nov

by Roger White

 

Every columnist, blogger, reporter, broadcaster, tweeter, facebooker, and crackpot correspondent within 500 miles of Austin has had something to say about all the hoopla surrounding the brand-spanking-new F1 Circuit of the Americas auto race here recently, so I thought I’d do something different. I’m going to say something about all the hoopla surrounding the brand-spanking-new F1 Circuit of the Americas auto race here recently, but I’m going to DO IT IN ALL CAPS! FURTHERMORE, I’M GOING TO REPLACE ALL THE G’s IN MY STORY WITH K’s JUST FOR KRINS. HERE KOES:

 

FOR ONE THINK, I HONESTLY DON’T KET ALL THE EXCITEMENT CONCERNINK THIS KOSH DARN F1 RACE. IT’S A BUNCH OF RICH BRAZILIANS AND SOUTHERN EUROPEANS ZIPPINK AROUND IN OVERKROWN HOT WHEELS CARS…oh, forget it, I can’t keep this up.

 

But honestly. I really don’t get it. I watched news reports of what appeared to be sane-looking people standing in snaking lines for hours, just to board a shuttle to take them out to the track way east of town, where they’d stand in line for more hours just to get in to the place. The whole town was so crowded, even days before the big event, that my drive home from work took an extra hour and a half—and the F1 facility is nowhere near my workaday route!

 

I know, I know, local income, healthy economy, good vibes to the world, yadda. I still don’t get it. Plus, on race day, helicopters buzzed over our neighborhood all day and night, ferrying the ultra-rich from their rented villas to their VIP viewing boxes and back. I read in the paper that the champagne being served to these typhoons was on the order of several thousand dollars a pop—and get this, it’s infused with 24-karat gold. Yes, these lords and ladies are so disgustingly wealthy that they’re drinking gold. Some, I heard, were a trifle miffed that they couldn’t have their luxury yachts airlifted into Lady Bird Lake south of downtown.

 

Yep, these aren’t NASCAR fans. These are the crème de la crème de la crème. Crème x 3. I did a little studying up on this, and apparently F1 followers are the Donald Trumps of groupies. They travel the globe following their fave drivers, throwing money around like it’s Enron stock. You wanna know how rich these people are? My journalist pal, Carlos Carlos Moore, was able to tag along with one of these typhoons during race weekend. Carlos Carlos wouldn’t divulge the guy’s name, but he said something about oil, Dubai, and the patent on Styrofoam packing noodles.

 

Here’s some of the stuff this typhoon had:

• Cashmere toilet paper. That’s right. Cashmere TP. It’s all too real. A British company called Waitrose came out with TP that contains not only cashmere extracts but a mixture of jojoba and aloe vera. The science behind this way-over-the-top wipe, according to the developer, is “designed to deliver the most luxurious bathroom tissue yet. The infusion of jojoba and aloe carries the additional innovation of having a scented core, providing a refreshing aroma to the bathroom.”

• A Swarovski-crystal-studded toilet. Yup, this $75,000 can is entirely encrusted in Swarovski crystals. Well, if you’re gonna wipe with cashmere, you gotta have a crystal john. And besides, after imbibing all that liquid gold, it only stands to reason…

 

• The M55 Terminus E-Bike. This electric bicycle, which retails for about $35,000, is plated in gold and silver, adorned with crystals, and rests on a carbon fiber body. It even has disc brakes designed for sports cars. Carlos Carlos reported that the typhoon dude even hired a guy to ride it for him.

 

• A $2.4 million mobile phone. Made by jeweler Peter Aloisson, this handy little iPhone 3G is smothered in 6.6-carat diamonds and white gold. Carlos Carlos said this was the kid’s phone. He wasn’t allowed to see the expensive one.

 

• A bottle of 64-year-old Macallan Scotch, valued at $460,000. This hooch, apparently the oldest whisky ever bottled at Macallan, sold at a charity auction a couple of years ago for nearly half a million bucks. The typhoon told Carlos Carlos that guests have offered him $500 just to sniff the cork.

 

• On an end table in the typhoon’s villa, Carlos Carlos spied what he determined was none other than a slice of what is known as the Sultan’s Golden Cake. This delicacy hails from the Ciragan Palace in Istanbul. The dessert takes three days to make and has figs, quince, apricot, and pears marinated in rum for two years. Two years. It’s topped off with caramel, black truffles, and, yes, edible gold. And I don’t even know what quince is. Anyway, this goes for roughly $1,000 a mouthful.

 

By the way, a Brit named Lewis Hamilton won the actual race, but Carlos Carlos reported that his typhoon friend didn’t get to see the finish. Seems he overindulged and had to have his stomach pumped at a local hospital. ER physicians said that byproducts of the procedure more than covered the man’s bill. I just don’t get it.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

 

Is It Legal to Yell ‘Ants!’ in a Crowded Car?

12 Nov

by Roger White

So I was chauffeuring my younger daughter home from her latest must-attend gathering of friends and frenemies du jour, daydreaming of the day when my offspring have cars and licenses and gas money of their own, when we stopped for said gas. It was evening, and as I pulled in under the station’s fluorescent-lit awning, daughter Jamie began screaming at the top of her lungs and leapt out of the car as if it were on fire.

“What? What?” I hollered.

“Ants!”

 

“Ants?”

Sure enough. Ants. All over my car’s dashboard, big nasty red ants were scurrying around like something out of a Stephen King novel. I shooed as many of the critters as I could out of the car, and when we got home, I investigated. I must admit, I’ve never suffered from vehicular ants, so I was flummoxed. Where did they come from? How did they get in? Are they nesting in the inner workings of my little car? What will the neighbors think?

I pictured myself driving down our street.

“There goes ol’ Roger.”

“You heard, didn’t you?”

“What?”

“Bad case of car ants.”

“No. Shocking.”

I found a big, dead pile of them (ants, not neighbors) near my wiper fluid reservoir under the hood, and I thought, aha, reservoir ants. I had no idea what that meant. Then I turned my A/C vents on high, and it began raining red ants in my interior like a tiny, rusty snowstorm.

I got online to see if there were experts in car infestations, but I suppose I should have been more specific in my query. Here are some of the results I found:

 

·        A gross little hairy arachnid called the yellow sac spider was found to be nesting in the fuel hoses of so many Mazda 6 cars, causing fuel clogs and leaks, that the car maker actually recalled more than 65,000 of them not long ago. Spokespersons said they couldn’t determine why the spiders preferred this particular model—could have been the leg room, I suppose.

·        A guy driving in Rhode Island recently slammed on his brakes when a fluffy little hairball of a dog came trotting out onto the highway right in front of his car. The guy never heard the anticipated, awful thud, so he kept on driving, noting that there was no pancaked pooch in the road behind him. He drove for 11 more miles before finding the dog clinging for dear life, hanging out of his front grill. The dog was treated for a concussion—and given a jaywalking fine, I imagine.

·        A woman in Connecticut wrote in that she was driving behind a car recently when she saw what looked like mice or gerbils dropping out of the tailpipe, one by one. More bizarre than that, when they hit the ground, the rodents took off running like crazy—somehow still alive. In a completely unnecessary side note, the woman said the driver of the car bore an amazing resemblance to Richard Gere.

(Editor’s note: I have no idea why the font/type just got all cattywampus there; I blame WordPress, so there.)

Don’t ask me why, but this made me think of my sister, who lives in northern Montana. She said it’s common knowledge up there in the land of frozen tundra that every winter cats far and wide that are not tucked away inside a cozy home will inevitably find shelter under the hood of any available car. That’s why anybody who’s lived up there for any length of time pounds on their hood before they start their engine. This usually scares the bejeezus out of whatever is snoozing on their engine block. Otherwise, you end up with chopped cat casserole.

What all this has to do with ants in my little Korean vehicle I have no idea, but it was an adventure discovering all the different creatures that can clog one’s car. There was even one video I had to share, this from a police officer investigating an abandoned car. If you have the time and the stomach for this, aim your web browser here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UOxR4-p9-k. I’ll say one word: Roaches. OK, I’ll say three more words: Lots of them.

So, back to my ants, I e-mailed an exterminator guy who apparently has dealt with this sort of thing. He gave me what I suppose is good advice, but his sense of humor I could’ve done without. He wrote, and I’m quoting here, that “it’s hard to ANT-icipate where they come from, but you must be hypervigil-ANT. Some people think they are attracted to ANT-ifreeze or even A/C refriger-ANT or propell-ANT. That is not the case. Usually, if you ate at a drive-thru restaur-ANT, you dropped a fry or something under your seat, which is an intoxic-ANT to them.”

Funny guy. He did say to spray the tires and the garage baseboards with bug spray—and maybe even put a few bait traps under the hood. But whatever I do, he stressed, don’t bug bomb the car. The smell never, ever leaves, and it becomes “this vile, mut-ANT odor.”

I wrote back the only way I could. “That’s brilli-ANT. Pursu-ANT to your suggestions, I will undertake this regimen of repell-ANTs. I shall write you again if my car becomes infested with ANT-elopes, ANT-hrax, or eleph-ANTs.”

Everybody’s a comedian.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.