Thursday, September 27, 2007

HTT, traffic blows! How can I cope?

Dear HTT,

I'm writing to see if you can send an APB to all of my fellow Triangle residents. Please let them know that when you see an upside down yellow triangle with the words YIELD on it, it does not mean that you must stop. If it was a red octagon, then yes, stopping would be appropriate.

I'm simply fed up with trying to get on the Durham freeway or 40 and having some schmuck- because they ran out of pavement- stop on the freakin on ramp! People, either you slow down or speed up, please don't stop on the on ramp- its dangerous! And if you’re on the lane that the person needs to merge on- slow down, speed up or change lanes- let them in people! For the love of all that is Holy!!!

But my real beef is with a specific Triangle traveler today. I was trying to get off 540 onto 40 this afternoon and I'm one lane away from the exit lane when my fellow traveler, ahead of me, slams on her brakes. I suspect she did this because she couldn't find a way to get onto the off ramp- so she slammed on her brakes to see if she could get on. Not only is this dangerous, it’s extremely non-conforming to the rules of the road. In this situation, one puts one’s signal on (showing intent) then merges into the lane- okay? - one does not slam on the brakes or stop to smell roses. Because if you did that, you would have a wave of rush hour traffic bearing down upon you at 70 plus miles an hour!

So then, (hopefully I'm not boring you), I'm finally merging onto 40 and I look in the mirror to see if I can merge when lo and behold someone behind me is merging into traffic from 540 way before the dotted lines appear…i.e., cutting right into high-speed travelers. I mean I saw cars swerving to get out of the way to stop an accident from happening. I shook my head and looked in rear view again. Who could it be except the same rider who gave me trouble on 540 previously.

Sorry to rant and not ask for advice- but if I may be so bold and venture my own advice- get off the damn cell phone, watch where you’re going, and please, please don't stop on the on ramp when you’re getting on the freeway.


Dear Zorro,

You’re lucky to be alive!

Yes, I think we can all agree that many people on the road simply don’t know how to drive. Oh, sure, they can operate a car, but should they? I myself had two near misses on a recent drive to Atlanta (to see Crowded House, who were fantastic by the way). Both times, people attempted to move into my lane without even looking. I had to swerve to avoid them and was lucky not to hit the median or another driver.

And let me tell you: the horn on a Suzuki Reno does not inspire fear or awe in other drivers. It’s got this tinny “meep meep” like the Roadrunner, which is sort of cute if you’re tooting your horn outside a friend’s house, but straight-up embarrassing if you’re trying to go Medusa on some jerk talking on his cell phone in the Escalade that almost ran you over. Even my road trip companion burst out laughing the first time she heard me beep. “Whoa, watch out,” she said, ostensibly to the other drivers but really mocking me. “She’s really mad now. If you know what's good for you, you won't get in HER way.”

But I digress. See how traffic makes us hot under the collar? Even just in the retelling two weeks later? You offer some excellent advice, although I think you’re giving me too much credit if you think that publishing it here is going to reach a wide spectrum of the Triangle! And although you didn’t technically ask for advice, I have some. Are you shocked?

So how do you deal with bad drivers and horrible traffic? Obviously, you can’t just stay off the roads, at least not in these parts where public transportation options are so limited. It sounds like you already employ excellent defensive driving skills. So, you might try one of the following:

  • Deep breathing: Sounds corny, but it really works for me, unless I’m PMS-ing, in which case, Katy bar the door. Then, in the throes of moodiness, migraines, and cramps, my NJ roots begin to show, and certain fingers get waved and curses uttered. I’m not proud of it. Just being honest.
  • Good music: If I’m singing along to a great song, I’m far less likely to be bothered by idiot drivers, at least in situations where my life isn’t endangered.
  • Smugness: When someone zooms past me at 90 mph, I just gloat about how much more they must spend on gas. And about how I am in no hurry to get to work, so clearly I have my life priorities in order while they clearly don’t.
  • Calling 911 or *HP: Oh, I’m like Gomer Pile doing a citizen’s arrest! I’ll call the police at the drop of a hat and rat out someone driving erratically (aka, possibly drunk). Granted, this doesn’t work for your typical one-off stupid move, but it makes me feel better. And isn’t that what we’re talking about here? Not losing your mind (or life) on the highway.
  • Refraining from tailgating: The surest way to remain in a Buddha-like state of calm is to try to keep as much distance as possible between you and everyone else. I know, sometimes easier said than done, but try it when you can.
Let’s all be careful out there!


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I want to be a cop, but my girlfriend parties all the time


I've been in a relationship with a girl for almost 3 years now. I am 20 and my girlfriend is 18. From day 1 her friends have not liked me for no reason and have tried to break us up. They don't like me, and I don't like them. But her and I have only been able to see each other on weekends because of different schools and jobs. That is all we see each other and we have made it work. But lately we have been fighting because she wants to go out with them and drink and do stupid things. I know it is a thing younger people do now, because I was guilty of it too.

But I don’t trust her friends, and I know she gets pretty drunk off of 1 beer. Not to mention about all her friends are guys. I really don't like that. But she says I am controlling....I mean who wouldn't be right??? Who lets their girlfriend (who I only see once or twice a week anyway) go off and party with almost all guys???? That just seems morally wrong. Last time she did it she got in a vehicle with a drunk driver. I won’t party because I am seeking a job in law enforcement. I don’t want to date someone who wants to party.

We have been fine all these years but now she say she wants to be a "teen." And that I am holding her back. I look at it as I am being protective of her. Who lets their girlfriend party with guys, not hang out with me on weekends when we barely see each other anyway?? She at least gets to see her friends at school, before and after. She sees them in the hallways, at practice and at games. But she and I only see each other on the weekends. And now she wants to see them all week long and rarely see each other AND keep a relationship. I think she wants to do like the old phrase "have her cake, and eat it too." She just now started this phase.

So what am I supposed to do? I don't want to throw away all the good times and all the years just because of this, and she is going to be graduating. Should I stick it out a few months more, or break it off? Thanks for your help.

Dear Letter Writer,

Sometimes the answer to our questions could not be more clear, but we ignore all the signs because the solution makes us unhappy. I think you know what to do.

You are a young man with a plan. You’ve left high school behind. You’re done with the crazy partying and drinking. You’ve set goals for yourself. Goals that include law enforcement and busting people who do stupid things when they get drunk. People like your girlfriend.

She wants to be a teen because she is one. And, it must be said, a reckless one at that. But it’s not up to you to “let” her--or not--get drunk or party with the guys or have her cake and eat it too. Obviously her behavior drives you crazy, so I understand your desire to change it. In this respect, though, you have been controlling, no matter whether your motivation was her safety or your jealousy or a little bit of both.

So try to keep an eye on that impulse as you move forward into other relationships. With luck, you’ll soon date women whose lifestyles are more aligned with your own, who are more mature, and who don’t need to be dragged kicking and screaming into spending time with you.

I doubt that her graduation is going to be a quick fix for what ails your relationship. I'm sorry, but I think she’s telling you through her actions that you should move on.

Good luck to you.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Cap'n Slappy weighs in on hooks

As some of you might recall from an earlier post, my stepmother, Faith, is a loyal fan of Cap'n Slappy, who founded International Talk Like a Pirate Day and writes his own extremely entertaining advice column. Well, when Faith read the question I answered about the hook, she just knew the Cap'n would have an opinion, so she passed on the question, and my reply, to him. See what he has to say! When you get there, scroll down a ways...or just read the whole column.

What do you call a man who has oral sex with another man?

Dear HTT,

I've had this question forever. I'm a practicing hetero male in the Triangle. I'm wondering if a male receives oral sex from another male, does that make him gay? In light of the current revelations about the Senator from Idaho who claims he's not gay, but nonetheless has taken part in some less than straight illegal behavior, and who claims not to be gay, would I be gay, had I engaged in such behavior.

Keep up the good work,

Your fan in Triangle

Dear Zorro,

I don’t think that having oral sex with a man necessarily means that Sen. Craig, or anyone else for that matter, is gay. But he sure isn’t straight, either.

Labels are so limiting, aren’t they? I buy into Kinsey’s theory of sexuality. He said

Males [and he came to feel this way about women, too, eventually] do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual…The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects.

While emphasizing the continuity of the gradations between exclusively heterosexual and exclusively homosexual histories, it has seemed desirable to develop some sort of classification which could be based on the relative amounts of heterosexual and homosexual experience or response in each history... An individual may be assigned a position on this scale, for each period in his life.... A seven-point scale comes nearer to showing the many gradations that actually exist.
  • 0--Exclusively heterosexual
  • 1--Predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual
  • 2--Predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual
  • 3--Equally heterosexual and homosexual
  • 4--Predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual
  • 5--Predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual
  • 6--Exclusively homosexual
  • X--Asexual
Notice that once this business came to light, Craig said, “I am not now, and never have been, gay.” O.K., right, but my guess is he’s not a zero, although I don’t know where exactly he falls on the scale. And I wouldn't care, either, if he weren't such a hypocrite.

I mean, please. He voted to deny gay men and lesbians the right to marry, claiming that the "sanctity of marriage" could be upheld only between a woman and a man, and all the while he's trying to cheat on his wife and hook up in a public bathroom? Yeesh.

Thanks for the question and for being such a loyal reader!


Wednesday, September 5, 2007

I stared at a guy's hook and I feel terrible!

Dear HTT,

This might just be too offensive or politically incorrect to address, but I think this might be an issue for others and I'm hoping that asking this question (semi) publicly might make us all feel a little better.

Last weekend, as I was approaching the door to enter a restaurant, a couple with small child was coming out. I reached out to catch the door as the man held it open for me when I noticed (not too subtly I'm sure) that he had a prosthetic hand. More specifically, a hook. Now, I'm an adult with good manners and I'm a healthcare professional. I know it is rude to stare. But you know how people who survive a car crash describe the whole thing as seeming to last for several minutes when in reality it only lasted a couple of seconds? That's how it felt for me. Here's how it went: I look at the hook, my mind processes, "Is that a hook? Hmmm... That is a hook. I knew someone with a hook once, I wonder what ever happened to Syd... Oh my god. I think I'm staring, did he notice?" I glance up, make immediate, accidental and very uncomfortable eye contact then say, with a pitiful look (as in with "a look full of pity"), "Hey... How are you?" He smiles back and nods and we keep going our separate ways. Basically I got busted staring at a guy with a hook.

Uhhggghhh! I have thought about those few seconds and winced with embarrassment countless times since it happened. I'm trying to figure out why it was so awkward and why I still feel so guilty. Is it as simple as seeing something outside the norm and my brain taking a few extra seconds to process? Isn't it normal to take few extra seconds to process what you're not accustomed to seeing? It's not as though there was any judgment involved or fear or revulsion. But what if he thought there was? Am I just an insensitive clod? Isn't honest curiosity or extra processing allowed? What do you think?


Dear Red-faced,

You are not an insensitive clod. The fact that you’ve written this letter, the fact that you’re still cringing with embarrassment days after this incident, these things tell me that you are not a boor.

Yes, I do think the brain does a little hiccup of sorts when faced with something visually jarring. And unless one comes into regular contact with someone who has a similar prosthesis, a hook in the place of a hand will strike most of us as unusual. It is, in fact, not usual. So your description of your thought process makes perfect sense to me. Your brain is a wonderful thing! Even though it felt like minutes, your brain needed just a few extra microseconds to make sense of the hook. It then helpfully fired up some synapses and pulled out a memory of someone you know who also has one, thereby attempting to normalize that which is not normal in your day-to-day life.

Having established that your reaction is probably pretty typical, let’s talk about why you feel so badly about it. I think shame rears its head if we believe we’ve been caught in the act of pitying, not simply looking. Plus, as you allude to, we’ve had it drummed into our heads that staring is rude—and that staring at someone with a disability is super rude. So with all this conditioning, your tiny slip-up felt enormous, which only made your interaction all the more uncomfortable. Imagine if you hadn’t instantaneously felt like you’d broken a social taboo, done the unthinkable…maybe you’d have stared at his hook for a moment, then simply looked up and smiled.

A quick side story: I have a friend—I’ll call her Jane—who used to live in New York City. Every day, she faced a long subway commute. She hated it. She grew more embittered with each trek. She hated the smell, the noise, the heat, rude people pushing and shoving. Most of all she hated people who did not follow the cardinal rule of escalators: you can stand on the right, but you must walk on the left. One day, in a hurry to catch the train, she got caught behind a woman planted on the left side of the down escalator. The more Jane huffed and muttered, the more this woman clung steadfastly to the handrail. Finally, Jane found an opportunity to pass on the right. As she did, she flashed the woman a look that could kill, which then prompted the woman to cry out, “I can’t help it that I only have one arm.” And she did. A left one. You know what my friend did? She laughed! At herself, at the situation, at her mistake. Then she apologized for being rude, but no more profusely than she would have to anyone else she might have sassed on her flight down the escalator stairs. The woman accepted, and my friend dashed off for the train. End of story, no lasting guilt or trauma.

My point is not that we should laugh at the disabled. I am not advocating gawking at people with hooks. We should do our best not to be rude to anyone, but don’t assume that the disabled are more delicate in the self-esteem department than the rest of us.

You’re human. Forgive yourself. It sounds as if he did. He smiled at you, said hello, and moved on.

Thanks for writing!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Crafting: a Labor of Love

Two excellent questions await my response, but I proved too lazy to answer them this weekend. So, for now, I'll instead regale you with Tales of a Very Short Road Trip.

My friend Tina and I decided to take a mini (or maybe micro) road trip on Labor Day to a nearby town known for its stately Victorian homes and quaint downtown. One of the downtown attractions is a refurbished warehouse, partitioned into booths that display the wares of local craftspeople. In fact, not just craftspeople...this place bills itself as "yesterday's architecture, today's artisans."

Well, I'll leave it to you to determine whether the offerings qualify as artisanal.

Yes, indeed, that's a hand-made Elvis knick-knack box.

Tina, looking very stylish in this lovely hair bow.

You know, Tina, Dawn, and I are planning a trip to Rome. Maybe the chic rolling bag, above, will come in handy. Or this special purse, as Tina demonstrates with her cab-hailing pose:

But, then, these are nice, right? Dignified pictures of someone's great grandparents, perhaps?

Nope. Wrong. When you shift your head from side to side, Maw-maw and Paw-paw morph into this freak show:

After hamming it up throughout the store, snapping pictures and giggling like little girls, we were somewhat chagrined to find this sign tucked away amidst the Barbie doll fairies:

Yikes. At first I brushed it off, figuring that this sign was just a ruse to put off would-be shoplifters, but then I noticed a huge monitor that was, in fact, being monitored by a salesperson in the front of the store. Fortunately, because the views from about 12 cameras appeared on one television screen, no one picture was big enough to do justice to our antics.

And, finally, on the way back to Durham, we stopped at a grocery store, where I was sorely tempted to purchase this magazine:

I mean, I've been fed up with squirrels digging up my impatiens, so maybe this would be the perfect subscription! My birthday's coming up in November, hint hint.