Friday, July 21, 2006

Rage Against Road Rage

So my home city drivers struck again last week, and as a result, I've been sorely tempted to start executing my long-ago idea to saw Florida off the continent and watch it float away. A few months back, when I first hatched this nefarious plan, it was mainly due to the sheer number of buzzing, twitchy, fangy, nastyass bugs and arachnids that keep scuttling into my house despite the fact that I've practically put a thick layer of caulks and sealants around the entire structure--hairy spiders, quick little scorpions, beetles the size of my head, and one giant, crunchy millipede that nearly carried off the baby before I threw an ottoman at it. (It might still be flailing angrily under there, for all I know, since I haven't moved said ottoman since the traumatic millipede sighting. The ottoman still sits in a totally random spot in my living room, tilted at a crazy angle between my TV and the wall....)

This time, the resurrection of my Free Florida! plan is due to the road rage. (OK, and the bugs. Always the bugs.)

Let me just say that I'm tempted to buy one of those neon advertising signs that some cities put on their taxis, and program it to say, "I have small children in this car, YOU FREAKING MORON." Because the road rage in my city is really starting to freak me out. Keep in mind that I've lived and driven in some cities with the alleged "worst drivers" in the US--Boston, DC, Chicago, Los Angeles--and I reguarly played chicken with the buses and taxis in Seoul, Korea. I've NEVER been afraid of driving. You simply keep up with the speed in DC, use your turn signal and let people merge in L.A., try not to let the construction in Chicago make you insane, and close your eyes and pray in Boston (Flailing your hands and swearing helps sometimes, too). In Seoul, you always, always let the taxis and buses win. But THIS stupid, smallish, deceptively benign-looking Florida city that I live in? It's horrifying. It makes L.A. freeways look like the country roads around Random Lake, Wisconsin.

I suspect it might be the poor water quality here--I've read that excess quantities of lead can lead to aggressive tendencies and a loss of I.Q. So maybe my area is devolving into a bunch of slow-witted slackjaws bent on mutual self-destruction by automobile--like the Morlocks in HG Wells' The Time Machine if someone had given them a bunch of Hummers and pickup trucks. If I just wait a few years, they might all Darwin themselves off the planet by crashing together into the ocean out of sheer spite.

Problem is, I have my girls in the car with me most days when I'm driving, and I don't think I can wait that long. People tailgate in the RIGHT LANE here, even when the left lane is empty. If they don't like something you did, no matter how legal, they'll veer around you and slam on their brakes when they're directly in front of you, causing you to slam on yours and give your entire family a nasty case of whiplash. (I think I've mentioned before that a doctor here KILLED a woman with this brilliant manoeuver.) Nobody uses his/her blinker, opting instead to come to a careening halt seconds before making a surprise turn.

Last week, I was driving along in my calm, quiet, newly built neighborhood-with-no-soul, with a large white truck a polite, one-car distance behind me. As the four-lane road we were on changed to a two-lane road, some blisteringly stupid driver in a BMW suddenly veered around the truck and abruptly squeezed into the space between us, causing the truck to slam on his brakes. The BMW started tailgating me (apparently because I had made the unfathomable decision NOT to go 80 mph in a residential area), and the obviously peeved driver of the white truck started tailgating him. We made a nice little cars-and-truck sandwich all the way down the road, until I turned into my subdivision-with-no-soul, hoping that the two would just keep going. Instead, they followed me, and we sandwiched our way closer to my house. And then, in my rearview mirror, I watched the BMW driver wrench his wheel to the left and U-turn RIGHT INTO THE WHITE TRUCK.

Why this sudden display of driving brilliance, you ask? Clearly, it was road rage: The BMW driver wanted to surprise the tailgating truck driver and make him slam on his brakes. Instead, Beemer McAngryPants crunched up his shiny new BMW, then got out of said car and started puffing out his chest, obviously itching for a fight.

I left before the two "drivers" could start throwing punches, afraid that if I stuck around, they might get back into their vehicles and start slamming them into my Scion for fun. And regular visitors know that my Scion has been through a lot already this year.

I won't go into the 911 call I made to report the accident and the reckless driving, because it makes my head want to explode, but suffice to say it involved repeating myself slowly and loudly several times over while the operator interrupted me now and then to discuss her manicure with a coworker.

Sometimes, a girl just needs an idiot-seeking ray gun....

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Odds and Ends

OK, I've gotten a few worried emails from friends about that last post, so let me clarify a few things:

1) I am hardly a paragon of sartorial excellence, so you are free to point and laugh at my outfits if you ever see me in person. Most of my clothes now have spitup on them within five minutes of my putting them on. Ergo, I am no glamour goddess.

2) I very rarely make fun of people for what they're wearing (OK, the leather pants dude at RT was an exception, but mostly because of his shameless flirting with passersby.). My philosophy is if you like it and are comfortable in it, you go. (With the possible exception of a sweater with a giant barn on it. Moo.) The Frumps R Us catalog had some cute things in it, but the ugly stuff was just SO "old lady," it provided something to riff on here.

The only other exception to my "wear and let wear" philosophy was this woman I met when I was a lifeguard in college. She regularly brought her seven-year-old son to swim lessons and would talk to me while he swam. One day, she voiced her puzzlement that people thought she was her son's grandmother--which made me pull out every ounce of acting ability I had to say, "Get out! Anyone can see you're not his grandmother." Because with her old lady perm and unflattering house dress that looked like the one my grandma wore to kill chickens on the farm in Minnesota, she easily looked three times her age. And when I looked a little closer at her pretty, unlined complexion, I realized she really was just in her early 40s. I didn't make fun of her, but I REALLY wanted to give her a makeover, stat.

3) I probably made myself sound like a short, not-so-bodacious, Latina Pamela Anderson, but I do not dress in Daisy Dukes and cropped shirts cut down to South America. My clothes are age-appropriate. Really.

4) Loose-fitting does NOT equal Frumps R Us to me. Given the state of my stomach after two pregnancies that turned my waistline into a cannonball, I'm not wearing anything overly fitted without a whole lot of lycra. (Wasn't that a Led Zeppelin song?)

In other news, my friend and excellent Bombshell author Sharron McClellan moved to Oaxaca and is blogging about it. So if you, too, spend your days working, chasing around small children, and washing the spitup off your clothes, pay her new Oaxaca blog a visit and live vicariously through the adventures of an expatriate romance writer and the men who adore her.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I'm Baaaaaack.

Wow, that was a long break. Sorry about that. Basically, it was just the same old, same old, times twenty--work, deadlines, family craziness, and a nasty bout with a virus that had me huddling under two quilts in 90-degree weather. All is well again, and I'm relatively on top of things, so I'm back for the moment.

Today, I'd like to ramble about something that arrived in my mailbox this afternoon. Something so horrendous, so insidious, so terrifying, I could barely contain myself while I ran it into the garage and hurled it into the recycle bin, piling several empty milk cartons, cans, and newspapers on top so it would never, ever come out again.

That something is the Frumps R Us catalog.

Of course, there isn't REALLY a catalog called Frumps R Us, but I'm tempted to write to this company and strongly recommend that it change its name. WHAT is it about turning 35 that makes the catalogs target you with sack-like jackets, shirts made out of Navajo blankets, and boxy sweaters with giant barns slapped on the front?

I blame the J. Jill catalog.

Now, I like J. Jill. I've liked them since before I entered their target demographic. Their clothes are pretty, they're sometimes made from eco-fabrics like hemp or organic cotton (which I support, because every non-organic T-shirt adds one-third of a pound of toxic pesticides to our atmosphere), they're fashionable yet timeless (meaning I won't have to stop wearing them after a few months), and they're usually flattering (except for their unfortunate propensity for putting side-seam pockets on all pants, creating a stunning saddlebag effect on anyone who actually has hips--why hasn't some woman in their offices pointed this out to them yet?).

But J. Jill markets their clothes as "for women 35 and up," which, leads me to the conclusion that they're the ones selling my name to Frumps R Us and their ilk. What are these non-J. Jill companies trying to say? Am I just supposed to give up now and buy a rainbow assortment of floor-length, no-waisted jumper dresses to get me into my golden years? Must I drown my figure (and I do still have one, thankyouverymuch) in entire suits made of inch-thick performance fleece? Am I now obligated to wear boxy flood-pants-and-shirt ensembles in thick corduroy? Did these people not see the episode of What Not to Wear where Clinton and Stacy point out that blocky jackets that cut you off mid-torso eliminate your waist and make you look like a slab of beef, and a little judicious tapering can easily "create the illusion of a waist" even if we don't have one?

Curse you, Frumps R Us, and your nasty, unflattering clothes that make the mannequins you put them on look like refrigerators. You and your star-spangled sweaters and your floor-length hobo skirts and your moose-print pajamas make women feel like they should hide their 35-and-older bodies and give up on ever looking pretty again, opting instead to frump around in a blaze of box-pleated glory. (OK, the moose-print pajamas were kind of cute, but ONLY as pajamas.) We can be pretty after 35, even if we're not stick insects.

I say no! I will not go gently into that saggy night. I will wear my Lucky Jeans (made in the US in one factory in L.A.) and my tapered jackets and my flattering skirts well past 35, and I will not succumb to the impulse to give up. No matter how full-figured I get, I will not allow you to brainwash me into hiding under my clothes! No matter how wrinkly or gray-haired I get, I will not give in to your insidious urge to wear a sweater with a giant barn on it to distract people from my face. The siren song of the Navajo-blanket-as-clothes will NEVER be heard by me!

Just had to get that off my chest. Thank you.

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Tracy Montoya writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue.

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