Posts Tagged ‘close calls’

“The Wrong Side of the Road”- by Alison Grambs

IMG_0428I drive this route all the time,” I hissed defiantly as my husband and I zipped down the golf cart path of our Florida community. “I could make this trip with my eyes closed, thank you very much.”

It was, of course, at this precise moment that my husband casually pointed out that I was driving on the wrong side of the road.

And by ‘other side’ I don’t mean I had just meandered a few inches over the dotted line; I was driving entirely on the other side of the golf cart path. A golf cart path that provides for two-way traffic- not just “Alison can drive wherever she wants” kind of traffic.

“Oh, puhlease!” I sputtered indignantly now, rolling my eyes for dramatic effect despite the fact it was pitch dark outside and Tommy wasn’t looking at me. (He was too busy clutching at the hang bar on our golf cart, shrieking that we were about to die.) “It’s not like anyone’s even coming this way,” I pointed out smugly, slowing down the cart so I could turn off onto the grass and reverse the cart. “So, just, ya know, calm down, dude.”

I mean, come on. My husband spent twenty years working in a profession in which he dealt with life and death situations every day. Seriously scary stuff. Hero stuff. Hardly was me and my cute little golf cart going off the road for, like, a nanosecond any reason to get all hysterical, right?

“It’s not like you can even tell which side is which in the dark,” I was stating even more smugly now as we continued down the path…in the wrong direction. 

That’s when my husband pointed out the fact that our golf cart has headlights. Very bright headlights. Headlights that light up the road for a good, oh, quarter mile or so. (Whatever.)

“Well, my contacts are bothering me lately, ” I snipped back annoyed. “I can’t see.”

That’s when my husband pointed out that I was not wearing my contacts. I was wearing my new glasses. The new glasses about which I have been raving because “I can see so clearly in these beauties!” (Whatever.) 

“Well,” I continue, still in defensive mode and still rolling my eyes, “whoever built this path should, like, have marked it way better than they did. You really can’t tell when you’re on the wrong side of the road.”

That’s when my husband pointed out the large median divider to our right. The one that was supposed to be to our left. The one that the designers of this golf cart path apparently added to certain points of the otherwise open path to alert commuters to the fact that there are two separate lanes of traffic.

Again, I roll my eyes, now adding a huffy huff for added effect. “Well, you can barely see that thing!”

That’s when my husband pointed out that the median is not only long enough, and wide enough, to accommodate several full-grown palm trees and bushes within its perimeter, but is also outfitted with myriad reflective devices. Reflective devices he claims are intended to discourage drivers like me from failing to see the median. (Whatever.)

“Well, it’s not like anyone is coming towards us,” I remarked casually. “We’re all alone.”

A comment my husband responded to with some murmuring about how that could ‘change at any time.’ That someone might come from the other direction. (Whatever.)

I was having none of it.

“Well, what can I say?” my voice now raised involuntarily to that slightly hysterical pitch that means I have lost the argument on paper, but am still fighting it hard-as-nails in my head. “I’ve got a lot on my mind. And the last thing I can be worried about is stupid traffic lanes.” 

Although certainly not the response the Department of Motor Vehicles would want to hear, this was true. I did, in fact, have a lot on my mind. 

Only ten days into the month of April and it’s been a whirlwind of activity and stress. Exactly a year has gone by since I was in the hospital. Pulmonary embolisms had sneaked into my lungs and threatened to take me out. Until now, I hadn’t ever really understood how much the whole almost dying thing can rattle a person’s psyche. The world looks different when you come lose to not being in it anymore. Yeesh. Close calls. And we’ve all had those close-calls. The only difference is, I was totally aware of mine at the time.

On top of that, all the longterm, personal writing projects I’ve been working on for the two years are finally coming to a state of finalization now. Which means I have to do the unthinkable: cease focusing on the creative writing (my strong suit and personal joy), and get to work mapping out marketing plans for each of them (so very not my strong suit and so very much not my personal joy.) It’s that time in the game when a writer no longer gets to say, “Oh, I’m still working on that project. Stay tuned.” The work is done, and now has to be pushed out and judged by the masses. (Or, in my case, the one person who will buy my books.)

Plus, I’m really, really disappointed with the season finale of “The Walking Dead.” Is Glenn still alive? Is Daryl dead? Does Alicia Florrick know that her new lover has a penchant for baseball bats wrapped in barbed wire? Not to mention how very weighed down I am by my failure to become fluent in French by the time my mother and I fly off to Paris this summer for a mother/daughter adventure. The best I can do right now is order un croissant. (And I’d probably mess that up by accidentally calling it a poisson.)

“Just get back into your lane please,” my husband, his voice now palpably testy, advised with an exhausted sigh.

It was the kind of exhausted sigh I hear him often. The one he lets out every time I break the kitchen garbage disposal by shoving artichoke leaves into it. The one he lets out when I decide to spray paint a piece of furniture in the house hot pink and accidentally end up spray painting parts of the house itself. The kind of exhausted sigh he lets out when I use the pointy ears of his full-size Yoda figure to dry my wet bras while doing laundry.

“Please…” my husband groans.

But I’m not ready to get back in my proper lane yet. Being on the wrong side, if only for a few seconds, feels good. I feel alive. Granted we’re traveling only 10 m/p/h, but it’s an exciting 10 m/p/h because it feels different. Defiant. Dangerous. Wild. For two years now I have been driving this golf cart of ours down the proper side of the road, following all the rules (well, except for that time I accidentally drove into the exit of a golf cart tunnel, but I digress.) 

There are people in the world who don’t follow the rules. Ever. People who do precisely what they are not suppose to do. People who climb mountains they’re told not to climb. People who write books they’re told will never sell. People who instigate fights they’re told they can never win. People who take up causes everyone else deems futile. People who drink milk not just past its expiration date, but waaaaaaay past it.  

As the golf cart keeps traveling the wrong way I do a quick mental check on where I stand among these people. Do I break the rules? Sometimes, yes. I can be just as impulsive as I can be practical. And, at least creatively, I am quite certain that I function way more out of the box than it in. And I like that. But sometimes I’m so busy functioning outside of the box that I have trouble finding my way back in it when it’s clearly time to grab hold.  That sucks. Then again, sometimes I think I play it too safe. Way too safe. And people who play it safe don’t make history.

But then again, do I want to make history? Not so sure. If it’s making history because I do something important like save people’s lives or invent a cure for a disease or discover a new country, sure. However, with my luck, the only way I’ll ever ‘make history’ is by getting attacked by a Megalodon in a swimming pool. Making the 10 o’clock news for being the first victim to die in the mouth of a previously extinct shark- a shark that then dies of Salmonella poisoning after eating me because I had sucked down expired milk that morning. Well, call me crazy, but that’s not the kind of history I want to make.  

I don’t exactly see my parents bragging at a dinner party about, “how very proud we are of our little Alison. Getting eaten by that historic shark in the kiddie pool at the Motel 6. (And yes, she’s even littler now haha!)” 

Breaking rules is fun. But man, it’s hard to know which ones to break. Hell, do I even know what the rules are on any given day? I mean, when you’re in your 40s, it sort of feels like the rules are always changing and somehow staying exactly the same. Weird. It’s hard to know which rules are for breaking and which are for following. What to challenge and what to accept in life. Which dreams are worth pursuing and which should just be dumped on the shoulder of the road as we drift onto a familiar exit ramp.

I stayed in the wrong lane of that golf cart path for a tiny bit more, trying to come to terms with what kind of person I am when it comes to rules. I doodled along just long enough to enjoy the sensation of the wrong direction breeze in my hair and chuckle at the sideways, wrong direction expression on my husband’s face. I was laughing; he was not. 

And then I freaked out and got back into the proper lane.

Tommy stopped clutching at his heart.

And we moved on…back on the right side of the road. 




“Close Calls” – by Alison Grambs


Whenever I announce to those who know me well that I am ‘taking a drive’ the reaction seems to be the same. Whoever happens to be on the receiving end of my announcement instantly winces. Then cringes. Then steps back a few feet and asks me the same question. “You sure that’s a good idea, Al?”

Apparently, I have a reputation for not being able to operate a moving vehicle, of any kind, without cloaking the world around me in a blanket of fear and angst. Whether I am operating a car, an ATV, a snowmobile, riding shotgun on a sidecar motorcycle, or steering a golf cart, the chances are that something will go wrong while I am behind the wheel.

Of course, my forbidding track record is, in no way, my fault. I grew up in Manhattan, and thereby, did not get around to learning how to drive until I was well into college. We always had a family car, of course, but it was my parents more often than me operating that hunk of Volkswagen metal. In fact, it wasn’t until I got married that I had a car of my own. And even then I barely got to drive because my husband is a complete control freak when it comes to driving. (I careen off the road a few times while we’re driving across country and suddenly, I’m labeled a ‘hazard’. Whatever…)

Part of the problem is that I find all the rules and regulations that come along with the ‘privilege’ of driving rather overwhelming. Don’t do this… do this… don’t turn here… do turn here. Ugh. So much to learn. Then there is the fact that I have the attention span of a gnat, especially on extensive road trip around the country. I mean, for God’s sake, what is the point of taking a road trip if you can’t enjoy the scenery, right? So, yes, it is possible that I have, on occasion, gotten caught up with reading “GIT YER BEEF AND FIREWORKS HERE” billboards. But can you really blame me? I mean, my god! Beef and fireworks under one roof?! As for having a marital spat while driving? Well, in my humble opinion, it is far more important for me to make sure Tommy knows that he is in the wrong than to be paying attention to speed limits.

Still and all, I am determined to perfect this whole driving thing.

So, it was with great pride that yesterday, I took my first solo road trip… in our golf cart. Oh, yes! I was Danger Girl, speeding along the golf cart lanes of our vacation home at a rockin’ 20 mph. Music blasting, wind whipping through my hair, feeling like I was reenacting a scene from The Fast and the Furious. And dammit, I was feeling soooo good. Like I could go anywhere (at 20 mph) All was going really, really well. I was confident behind the miniature wheel, sipping my beverage which was easily reachable in the cute cup holder. I was making all the correct turns, and avoided oncoming traffic with such skill! Oh, yes, I was finally in my driving element, and looking quite forward to the bragging rights I had earned. No more me being humiliated… No more me being banished to the passenger seat of whatever vehicle we were using at the time.

You see, the list of my driving failures is long. There was the time I crossed four lanes of swiftly moving traffic on Long Island’s Sunrise Highway in an attempt to get to the IHOP and nearly caused a ten car pile up because I didn’t remember to change gears (or signal) in our $ 6,000 Hyundai Accent.  Then there was the time I drove our Jeep to meet a friend at a Starbucks in a strip mall and found myself alienating every single member of the Syosset community when I attempted to park the Jeep by making a 25 point K turn.

Then there was the time I was racing an ATV with Tommy in an open field and hit the accelerator so hard I failed to notice the upcoming end of the trail and nearly catapulted myself over a cliff. And the time we were taking sailing classes in the Hudson River and I somehow managed to bring our 23 foot sail boat within yards of colliding with the QE2 cruise ship,. Not to mention the time I locked the keys in our Jeep, and thereby, locked myself out of our Jeep in the middle of the night in the middle of a stretch of New York State that had been experiencing a recent burst of dead bodies cropping up along the roads from a serial killer.

“Where are the spare keys I gave you?” Tommy asked through my cell phone from three hours away.

“I was keeping them in a safe place,” I replied smugly. “In the Jeep.”

So, yeah, I was really looking forward to getting home from my solo road trip on the golf cart and bragging to my husband that I was finally up to driving snuff.

But the moment eluded me because, well, about two miles from home I was puttering towards a golf cart tunnel entrance and well, darn it if a “One Way” sign didn’t rudely pop up right at the entrance to the tunnel. I hesitated for a moment because the sign was so oddly positioned, tucked low and sort of into a bush. “ONE WAY” I debated. And then I proceeded right down that tunnel entrance.

How was I supposed to know that “One Way” didn’t mean way?

Now, before you go calling the golf cart police on me, nothing bad happened. Yes, I almost crashed into an oncoming golf cart coming through the other end of the tunnel. But thankfully, the man driving towards me led me out to safety and promptly admitted that he, and many people he knew, had made the very same mistake at this tunnel entrance. Yes, I suppose one could argue that common sense dictates the “ONE WAY” sign meant NOT ‘my way’. But we can’t all be idiots, right? Besides, I’m a writer, so as far as I’m concerned, signs such as “ONE WAY” are open to interpretation.

Despite that, however, my ego was sorely bruised. Another driving failure. I slinked home at about 10 mph and confessed my incident to Tommy. Surprisingly, he was sympathetic. So much so that he suggested we take the Golf Cart Of Death right back out to that spot so he could see the signage for himself. Whether he was being kind or actually agreed with me that the sign was a bit confusing, is besides the point. The point is that I wasn’t made to feel stupid, even though, clearly, I am a complete idiot.

And for that, I am most thankful.

We are off to dinner now, and taking the Jeep. I asked Tommy if I could drive. He said “NO!!!!!!”

Oh, well.