BREAKING NEWS: Welcome to our very own Kaye Barley--who's joining Jungle Red as our resident commentator, reader, visionary, mystery maven, arbiter, pundit and prognosticator. Kind of like Andy Rooney, but nicer (much nicer), and with a darling husband, a perfect dog, a massive library and cute shoes. Watch for Oh, Kaye! Every first Sunday on Jungle Red!
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Is it Goofy? It's Goofy. One of those otherwise mild-mannered Disney character who turns into a raging maniac when--he gets behind the wheel of a car.
We all know people like that.
But there hasn't been a cartoon yet, that I know of at least, about the transformation of a person in the passenger's seat. And that's me. I'm mild-mannered as they come, in most circumstances. But put me in the passenger seat,and I morph into something else entirely.
Jonathan is used to it. But even he is still sometimes appalled.
"MERGE!" I yell. "DO you not know how to MERGE? You let us in, we'll let the next guy in."
I'll There's also the time-honored: "What, you can't wait ONE MORE SECOND? You have to go NOW? Pleeeeze, don't let us get in your way!"
I have been known, dear Reds, to roll down the window and yell at pedestrians. (This is risky, since I am kind of recognizable in Boston.) "The light is GREEN!" I yell. "That means WE get to go!"
"Use the crosswalk!" is also a favorite. I feel like Garp, a bit.It's for their own good, right?
"ARE YOU KIDDING ME?" is useful in many circumstances. And "TURN SIGNAL!" Newer, but also useful: "GET OFF THE PHONE!"
(Okay, sometimes, I do it to Jonathan. I admit it. I say--"Just let the guy in, you know? What difference does it make? It's two seconds!" I also floated "You become the powerful one if you let the other guy in." Which he kind of seemed to buy.)
I also have perfected what Jonathan calls "the look." This is an expression mixing horror, disdain and appallment. (Appallment? The state of being appalled. Sue me.)
I'm so sorry, I know its bad. And socially unacceptable. And really, probably Grace Kelly didn't do it. But I can't help it. I change.
Are you a good passenger?
LUCY BURDETTE: Oh my gosh, do NOT let my husband see this blog. He thinks I have become the passenger from hell. But here's the scoop--the older I get, the more I think about how we are riding in a flimsy metal cylinder going at obscene rates of speed with crazy people all around. So I can't help myself if I feel the urge to "help" him.
"Did you see that guy?" "Yes I saw him."
"Is there any reason why we can't go the speed limit?" "I'm going with the flow of traffic. If I go the speed limit, we'll cause an accident."
He reminds me every time we get in the car that there's no need to ride in the crash position--wedged into the corner, rigid...in fact if you're going to crash, better be as relaxed as possible.
HANK: I say that, too, Lucy! "Is there any reason we can't go the speed limit?" OH, I am laughing...
JAN BROGAN - I have a theory about what's happening to you, Hank. Only because it happens to my brother as a driver. He is my model of a (almost) perfect person. Kind, reasonable, non-reactive. I often say my siblings have always gotten along so well because my brother, as eldest, set the tone - and made it clear that none of us would ever be petty.
But listen to him when he's driving and you would not know it's the same person - the man has a criticism and nasty name for every other person in every offending car. He never lets a single real or imagined infraction go unnoticed. So my theory is: mean driving verbiage is just how nice people let out their aggression. I mean - why not? As long as the people in the other car really can't hear you, let your inner jerk fly.
LUCY BURDETTE: Jan this reminds me of a scene I saw in Key West this spring. We were sitting at a sidewalk table outside LA CREPERIE, when a car pulled up behind another car that was clearly dithering at the traffic light. The driver of the second car leaned on the horn and began to flash her middle finger and shriek at the other folks. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I recognized her as one of the sweetest, most giving women from our church....
This is me. I am that nice lady from church who becomes the bat-demon from hell inside the car. My kids grew up thinking, "You asshole" was something drivers had to say at least three times per trip. In my defense, however, I wouldn't have to snarl and seethe if people would just STOP BEING STUPID. Am I right, or am I right?
HANK: Yes, indeed, dear Julia. you are RIGHT.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: Does anybody really LIKE being driven? And for those of us who have had teenagers... Argghh. My daughter would say, "I can see you pressing that imaginary brake." Busted. But I usually manage to keep my mouth shut. It's when I'm driving by myself that my inner monster comes out. Oh, I'm polite. I signal, I merge, I let people in. But the things I say to stupid drivers when nobody else can hear me would make a sailor blush.
HALLIE EPHRON: I am rarely "in the passenger seat" with my husband. Most times I drive. Fortunately. Because he is a truly dreadful driver. He didn't learn until he was in his 20s (a Brooklyn boy) and drives like a beached whale. HE, on the other hand, has perfected the grab-for-the-door-handle and suck-in-air move whenever he's sure I do not see that BUS two blocks ahead of us.
HANK: I am trying to imagine a beached whale driving...aren't you?
HALLIE: My go-to word delivered while driving is "Jerk." Pronounced: Cherk. And offered up to anyone who drives too slow, cut me off, lingers in the crosswalk.
ROSEMARY HARRIS: The son of a New York cab driver taught me how to drive - so I think I am a terrific driver. Jerks, losers and morons abound when I am behind the wheel. It's uncanny.
JULIA: Uh-huh. See, it's not just me. They follow you around, too.
ROSEMARY: I have been known to say - Brilliant, you're twenty feet ahead of us! I have suggested that a certain part of the offending male driver's anatomy is, shall we say...diminutive. I hold up my little pinkie, convinced that from 50 feet away and through many sheets of glass someone will see and know what it means.
I'm less terrific as a passenger. I was taught to check the mirrors but look anyway because you never know, so when Bruce is driving I uh...sometimes say "on your right." Seems to me that last week in Yosemite I said "getting close" a lot, as we edged toward the sheer dropoff on my side.
Is that horrible??
RHYS BOWEN: Of course I'm always perfectly behaved and never exceed the speed limit :) However I do have a favorite road rage story. My son in law was driving his three year old and someone cut in front of him, nearly running him off the road. He wound down the window and yelled "You f***ing idiot!"
Then he realized Sam was in the car. Oh no.
Behind him a little voice from the back seat said, "Papa. You know you are not allowed to use the word 'idiot.'
Ah for more innocence.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: That's adorable, Rhys! (And not horrible, Ro. You are clearly saving lives!
Two quick things. No, three. Wait, four!
1. RuthDFW had her name drawn for the arc of DEATH IN FOUR COURSES. Ruth, send your mailing address to Lucyburdette at gmail.com.
2. I have an ARC of THE OTHER WOMAN for a Jungle Red commenter today! (Chosen at random with the time-honored "choose a number" method.)
3. My award-winning short story "On the House" is an e-book! (And it includes excerpts from The Other Woman!) Plus: if you send me proof of purchase, you'll be entered for your choice of a Kindle, Nook, or a big-bucks gift certificate to the bookstore of your choice! Here's the deal: http://hankphillippiryan.com/newsletter-7-12.html
3. SO, driving! Or--passengering. How are you as a passenger, Reds?