Sunday, July 25, 2010

Blowfish and I were in the car when he said, "Fishy, look at this!"

In the car on our right was a young teen girl.
She looked 12 but must have been at least 15 to be in a car alone. What had gotten Blowfish's attention was her actions. She was agressively sucking her left thumb while texting with her right. I beeped the horn and when she looked up I smiled a gentle mothers smile, shook my head no while holding up my cell phone. Right. She flipped me off, which at least required the removal of her thumb from mouth.

Later that same day I was talking to Bob on the phone when he suddenly exclaimed, "God Almighty! " and went on to expound at length about how he was seeing the craziest driving ever since the first Model T rolled forth. Of course our conversation was taking place from our respective cell phones in our respective cars.

Yesterday's paper offered a front page photograph of a head on collision between a car and an oak tree. The oak won, the car was totaled . The driver, a 15 year old and her 17 year old girlfriend survived with non life threatening or life altering injuries. There was this quote from the investigating officer: " I don't know what these girls were doing before they ran into this tree. Whatever it was had their full attentions because there is not a single break mark. They drove head on itno this oak at 50 mph. "

That comment made me think of a driver the day before who nearly drove into me at 80 mph, on a bridge with no place to evade. I definitely left break marks on the road in a serious effort to give the driver passing illegally on a 2 lane road, on a bridge, room to clear the car he was passing without having a head to head encounter with the Fizz. I felt true hostility toward that other driver . I wondered what made his schedule more important than my life?

Last night, I witnessed 2 startling driving events in the span of less than a mile. One was a near miss, the other sideswiped a light pole and proceeded down the thankfully empty sidewalk for a block before returning to the roadway . Wow.

Of course it is easy to think of these issues as foolish or careless when we are threatened or observing or reading about them but what about when we are the ones making the poor choices? I got to thinking about this because of my July weekends.

On the first weekend I visited a friend in the mountains. When she was showing me around the region she drove way too fast on twisting, curving, riddled with blind spots, narrow mountain village roads. I demonstrated my concern by the death grips I placed on available handholds. That communique was largely ignored while my friend gaily chatted about the vistas flashing by too quickly to see anything other than a blur. The very next day we traveled the same path but this time in the Fizz with my foot on the accelerator. My new transport is called the Fizz for a reason and so I was really in the moment enjoying the performance characteristics with the top retracted and the seats air conditioned when my friend yelled, " Fishy! This is far too fast for this road." I smiled and dropped the mph by one as we aproached a sharp curve. A mile or so down the road my friend yelled, " You know I haven't asked anyone to pull over and let me out of the car since my niece was a teen but I think I'm there." I did slow down and mentioned I did not think we were traveling at any greater speed than the day before with her at the wheel. She rolled her eyes , disagreed and mentioned she knew the road well while I was a stranger to it's hidden risks. Point taken. "Comfort zones" are also "control zones" in that we feel in control and therefore comfortable with the risks of the situation when we are the driver and not when others are driving.

Last weekend Blowfish and I went to visit our beloved Mermaid. On Sunday morning following a leisurely breakfast Mermaid drove us in the Fizz out to the farm to see and feed horses. It was a beautiful day and once we turned off the main highway we were on a fine tree lined, narrow, country road with mostly farms on either side. It wasn't long before I felt anxiety at our rate of travel which was roughly double the posted speed limit. I was about to say something when Mermaid sang out,
" Wow Mom, the Fizz handles really well ."
" Yes, she does but slow down please."
" Why? I am completely within my comfort zone."
" Well you are completely outside my comfort zone so cool it"
" Mom, that's ridiculous, you drive this fast all the time."
" Okay. My bad, now back off the accelerator "

No comment and no slowing down happened.
Precisely as I had done with my friend the previous weekend.
Then from the back seat came this command from Blowfish,
" Now".
Immediately Mermaid decreased the mph to almost the posted rate.
I did give some thought to the differences in her response to her Dad vs her Mom.
It wasn't hard to figure. Blowfish drives the speed limit, rarely talks on a cell while in a vehicle, even as a passenger, and he doesn't text at all. He is a responsible, careful driver. He is right when he says it is unfair that he is the one with the most speeding tickets and the only one of us who has totaled a car. He is right, it is unfair.

I found myself hoping with every trip to the horsefarm Mermaid will hear her Dad's instruction and heed it. I pray she will not use my bad example as her excuse to ignore her Dad's advice. I also wondered how I could impart to her the importance of the current need to be more vigilant as a driver than ever before. That it is no longer prudent to assume the other drivers with whom you are sharing the road have an equal interest in their next breath. Or even an awareness of the risks they present to themselves or others. Or the vitaly important awareness of when we are the driver posing a risk to others. Or if where our "comfort zone" is also the "dead zone".

We did not make it home from Mermaid's in the time frame expected. We took a scenic route for the last third of the journey, in an area of the Smokey's with little cell phone reception. So Mermaid's calls to both parents went unanswered for a few hours. So she worried and then worried some more. When she did finally reach us her anxiety level was acute enough for her to yell, " You scared me!" I get that kiddo, I get that. So forgive me my tresspasses , drive prudently and know beyond any doubt you are loved.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Visual Haiku: Smoothies

He's a real smoothie!
Youth's sigh now a fruitful drink?
Changing appetites


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Court Appeal

A dozen or so years ago when we moved here to the Pond our purchase was contingent on the findings of the inspections. The results regarding our WWII vintage home were excellent. But also within the report was this sentence, " The remains of a tennis court are visible in the upper yard".

Blowfish and I loosely planned to address the tennis court in time but it certainly was not a first year priority. When we did get quotes for the tennis court restoration we were drop jawed by the estimates. We then got quotes for removing the court and were  still shocked. So as
time marched along the court rarely made it to the top of the to do list.

The truth is we have added to the history of what we now know is the oldest private tennis court in the county.
 There is a  lighted basketball court on one end which has hosted many a family game of HORSE. It also has been a fine locale for practice catching or pitching, also  a safe place for setting up obstacle courses for inline skaters. When Mermaid reached the age of bigger wheels then the tennis court became a parking lot for friends to gather.  It has hosted many an improptu dance  and makes an awesome canvas  for a large gathering armed with buckets of sidewalk chalk.  It even has hosted over the years, a few family tennis lessons.  It is true a ball could go askew if it landed on an uneven part of the court but  as the games were more about exercise and  family than competition we just laughed  and replayed the point.

Over the years our plans for this area have changed. Instead of  a tennis court restoration we've come to want a grass "sport court"  where we could host games of  tennis, badminton, volleyball. We have envisioned playing croquet, bocci , horseshoes , miniature golf, kickball and soccer  too. For years now, this has been our "someday" plan.

A while back we noticed an ad in the paper which said, " dozer work, reasonable rates".  This motivated us to start the  bids process again. It is an extensive process  starting with determining  a way to get big equipment into the yard. The project requires removal of 2 layers of asphalt, 8 inches of gravel , hauling all that off the premises,grading the subsrtrate, bringing in 4-6 truckloads of top soil, grading again before disbursing  fertilizer and grass seed. It also requires a talented equipment operator to keep retaining walls in place and to keep the stantions for supporting the nets. We found we could not afford the man with the " reasonable rates".

Blowfish shared this disappointment with a friend,
who knew a fella ,
who might could do us some good.

So someone called someone who called someone who called us and,
offered to come have a "looksee".

Unlike other bidders he did not come in a shiny new pickup with surveying equipment and laser measurers or e-mailed quotes 2 weeks later.  Mr. Trace came hot, tired, dusty at the end of a long day with his trailered earth moving equipment left parked on the road with the flashers winking. He walked the court, shuffled his feet across a few rough spots, took a hard look at how the retaining walls were set then said it would take him and his boys a fistful of dollars and  two days to do everything. Two days???? All the  other bids had been more complex, double the price and of much longer duration. I tried to be discrete in asking if we had been clear about the scope of our project?  W had.  The difference is this fella owned all his equipment, he was doing another project which required quite a bit of fill and the removal part of our project would serve both clients well,  the top soil would be coming from property he owned and  the seed from the farmer's co-op he belonged to at about 10% the cost of normal sourcing for lesser seeds. As the triangle between his location, his fill project and our project was "manageable" there were no fees for hauling or dumping. What did need to happen is the schedule of our project needed to be determined by the schedule of the larger, fill needing project. Fine with us!  No contract, no deposit, a handshake and a smile were all he required.  Amazing.

After he departed Blowfish and I reflected on our good fortune for a bit then I said,
" Did you ask him about license, bonding, or insurance?"
" No"
" Do you have any concerns the price billed at the end of the project will be more than the verbal agreement?"
" Are you 100% comfortable with this?"
"Me too but, I would never advise any of my clients to do business this way."

The good news? Mr Trace came as scheduled, did everything in two days as promised, did everything for the handshake price, did everything with a courteous skilled crew.  As I watched from the deck I thought what a fine antidote  from these tough years of bad business, bad ethics, bad economics, bad politics. I would far sooner trust the word and handshake of this man that any "leader" at any level. It is clear Mr. Trace would never let anything bad define him. We could use a lot more of that.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Visual Haiku: Gulf Oil Spill Tragedy

Heaving, suffocating, grief
Species death by greed

Methane bubble growth
Threatens extinction event
Eternal losses

The culture of greed
Defines risks by percentage
Sums of lives ignored

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Visual Haiku: Easy Living Summer's Time

Lessons from Clemens:
Infuse Summer work with play,,
Sweet experience!

Huck and Tom sure knew
Best Summers are a balance,
Quick brains and quick feet

Lazy hammock rides,
Spawn summer kitchen designs
Pass the fried chicken

Friday, July 2, 2010