Sunday, August 22, 2010

Road Warrior

I'm actually surprised that I've had an updated-daily blog for about two weeks and I have not written any rants about driving. Seriously shocked, in fact. While I can appreciate that 95% of the drivers out there are good at driving, that other 5% makes my life behind the wheel a frustrating schnut-busting crapfest.

That being said, you probably are assuming that I'm going to bitch about other drivers in today's entry. You may assume that I'll talk about the moron who cut me off while having a clearly visible for sale sign in his rear window (he was such a pushover when I called to tell him off, by the way). Or maybe you assume I'll talk about the lady who thought it was all right to STRADDLE the segmented lines (thus using two of the three lanes) while driving 65km/h on Deerfoot Trail (that one was reported to 911 by yours truly). Maybe you assume I'll talk about some general WTFisms I see on the road on a daily basis.

But nope, that's not what this blog is about. I want to tell tales of humour, intrigue, or ones that just make you go "huh?" That's why instead I want to share the story of the worst day of driving I have ever had.

I was still fairly novice as a driver at the time (this was late summer or early fall 1999). I had a blue 1982 Mercury Zephyr that usually worked. It wasn't the sweetest ride you've ever seen but it didn't clunk when it drove and it almost always got me from point A to point B (more than I can say for my second car). Most of the things that happened to me that day were the result of poor judgment due to my lack of experience.

At around noon on a weekday, I left my home and hopped into the Zeph. I had school later in the afternoon but wanted to run by A&B Sound and HMV in Sunridge Mall to find some Smashing Pumpkins singles (I was really into the Pumpkins back then). There was little time to waste, so instead of pulling away from the curb and driving to an intersection to perform a legal u-turn, I decided just to do a 180 degree turn from where I was parked. The Zeph was good at a few things, but tight turning radius was not one of them. I began to turn when there were no cars coming from either direction. My car swooped away from the curb and arced its way around. However, I was clearly able to see that I was not going to complete the turn without going on to the curb. I went to hit my break but WHOOPS! I hit the gas instead. My car and I flopped on to the curb and zipped up on the neighbour's grass, knocking over three garden gnomes and countless plants in the flower bed that traced along the walkway to the front door.
"FUCK!" I yelled as I threw the vehicle into reverse. I pulled back out on to the road, greeted by the sound of a horn from the car that I didn't bother to look for before I darted back into the road. I pulled forward and parked along the curb and the driver sped past me, giving a dirty look and a "thumbs up." I looked over at the damage on the lawn. I didn't think the gnomes were broken, and the plants were going to die soon anyway. I looked carefully around. I didn't see anyone ogling me from their windows so I assumed no one saw me. If the dude in the car saw what I did, he didn't care enough to stop and let someone know. I pulled away from the curb safely and went on my way.

This next part no one ever believes. And I don't blame them. It does sound made up. But I swear to you that it is true. I was driving along Yankee Valley Road (to those not in the know of Airdrie's roads, this was once a single lane each way thoroughfare from one side of Airdrie to the other (it has since been expanded to three lanes each way). Minding my business, I'm following the rules of the signs that I pass, when a large red pickup truck comes barreling along the road in the opposite direction. A couple of cool kids were driving so this was no shock. In the bed of the truck, there were several girls sitting. Suddenly, one of the girls turns to the side and looks at me. Maybe she liked me or maybe she wanted attention, but this girl lifted her shirt and flashed me! She was wearing a bra but she was hot so I HAD to look. Perhaps a little too long I looked, as I felt my vehicle begin to vibrate and tip. When I replaced my gaze to the road, I discovered that I had let my car start to drive into the ditch! I was completely off the road. Half my car was on the shoulder and the other half on the grass getting ready to head down where I wouldn't be able to get it back out. I quickly yanked the wheel the other way and reclaimed the safety of the road. At least this time I didn't cut someone off terribly, but it was still quite embarrassing. After two incredibly bad things happened in a span of under five minutes, I should have turned around and went home for the day. But I was either too brave or too stupid. I continued.

The drive on the highway was serene and uneventful. In fact, I successfully managed to get *almost* to Sunridge Mall before something else bad happened. I had to make a left turn from Barlow Trail onto Sunridge Blvd. I hated this turn because it was before a turning signal was installed at the lights, so you had to take a chance whenever you turned. When it was my turn to go, I crept into the intersection and waited for an opening. Waited, waited, and waited. But there were too many cars pouring north. When the light went yellow, I waited for oncoming traffic to stop and then I hit the gas to clear the intersection. Fail. My car decided it was a perfect time to stall out on me. I don't know HOW I managed it, but my Zephyr ended up blocking half of the left lane for westbound travelers, the entire left lane for eastbound travelers, and a chunk of the right lane for eastbound cars. Not to mention blocking one and a half lanes of the northbound lanes (though they had a red light at the time).
There were SO MANY horns being sounded. I cranked the ignition over and over, nearly in tears. I begged my car to start again. No exaggeration...I BEGGED IT! I turned it over, and over, and over. People were screaming for me to move my quote "fucking piece of shit," yet no one got out and offered me a push so I could let people through. People threw up hands with various fingers lifted as they squeezed by. The light for east/west traffic turned yellow as I still desperately struggled with the ignition. Then...oh yes, then! FINALLY! My car roared to life. Cars began to move into the intersection to head north but I didn't care. I floored the fucking thing and blew through the intersection. More honking. I didn't care. I was free. I was on my way to the mall!

Bad luck comes in threes. I remember telling myself that as I approached the mall. What the hell did I know?

I drove into the parking lot and decided I'd try and find a place on the lower level near the Zellers (west) doors. The parking lot was PACKED because a large section of the lot was undergoing repairs and was blocked off, so everyone had to make do with what was left. Sure, I could have probably gone around to the east side to park, but I was already in the west side and I was sticking with it. I wheeled up and down the aisles, looking for a spot. Up one, down another. Nothing. I tried stalking a couple as they walked away from Zellers with bags in tow. However, they dumped the bags and went back in. Who the hell does that?
Anyway, as I paced the aisles, I FINALLY saw it. The spot. A shiny, happy, gleaming spot about three quarters the way down the aisle! I pushed on the gas to get there as fast as I could. NO ONE would trump me! The spot was mine! I got closer and closer...but wait! A car pulled into the aisle from the opposite side! No way was I letting him have the spot. I flicked on my turn signal (the universal sign for "piss off...that's MY spot") and I accelerated. Fortunately, he didn't seem to be challenging me. He drove past the spot. Yes! It was mine. As I got close enough, I turned the wheel to coast triumphantly into the spot. As it turned out, I almost coasted triumphantly into the damn motorcycle that was parked in that spot. ARGH! Even to this day I can't stand when you see a spot that appears empty and it turns out to have a compact car or bike in it!

Defeated, I backed up. I heard a SMACK come from behind my car. I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw a Chinese couple. The man had his shoulders raised and hands up in a "what the hell, man" expression. The woman, her hand still stretched forward, was likely the person who hit my car with her hand. So yeah, I could have killed a Chinese couple. I let them pass by and gave the obligatory "sorry" hand gesture and then continued to back up. The parking stall hunt continued.

Minutes turned into more minutes and still there was nothing. No one was leaving. The number of sharks in the parking tank was also increasing. But no problem. At the end of an aisle I saw yet another spot. I was excited! I began to drive for it, conscious of the fact that it may be occupied by someone's tiny piece of shit vehicle, but I had to remain optimistic! As I drove at a reasonable pace, some assface in a Celica zoomed past me. That's right, in the opposing lane, he decided to go past me because my 20km/h was too slow. Shit! He was going to take my spot! I sped up so he couldn't get back over (thus unable to get the turning arc required for the spot as it was on the left. The aisle was coming to a close and so Celica backed down and got behind me. I soared like an eagle into the empty spot! I got out of my car with a grin on my face. The ass couldn't even beat me while cheating. I got the middle finger straight up as he drove around and into the next aisle. But I won, and nothing would take that away from me.

Well, almost nothing.

Sure, it was a handicapped parking stall. But I figured I was only going in for a minute. I began walking to the mall when some egg-shaped security guard walked over to me. He told me I couldn't park there because it was for handicapped parking only. I said my sign was in the car (just not in the window) and I was picking up my ailing grandmother. He said that was all right and I went on my way.

Unfortunately, HMV did not have any new singles for me. Fortunately, no one ticketed my car for being parked where it was. A small victory in an otherwise travesty of a day. I experienced a lot of shit in a short period of time but I learned a lot as well.

Namely call a store ahead of time to make sure they have stock.

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