Copyright 2004 Linda Marcas - All Rights Reserved

Crank's Corner                                                                    24 June 2004

                                           She Drives Me Crazy

  My cousin had a barbecue yesterday, a mini-reunion of the remnants
of my mother's family, and it was my task to collect my mom and fetch her
along to the feast.  I'd never been to my cousin's house, but I had good
directions for what should have been a fifteen-minute trip.  "If you're in the
lake, you've gone too far."  Okay, fine.
    It's been a while since I drove around the East Side very much, and
I've forgotten the precise ways in which many of the streets link up.  Really,
though, how hard can it be to find one's way around what is mostly a simple
grid, with main roads a mile or half-mile apart?  Piece o' cake, at least until
you run into railroad tracks with a train in the crossing, and "you can't get
there from here" without going somewhere else, first.
    So there we were, my mother and I, stuck at the tracks on Otter Creek
Road, while the train that blocked the crossing moved a tantalizing six
inches back, then three inches forward, before coming to a dead stop and
sitting there going "phsst! phsst!" every fifteen seconds.  I usually don't mind
waiting for trains that are moving, because I like to look at the graffiti and
hobo markings; I'm even usually patient for trains that aren't moving, for a
few minutes.  So I got out of the car and smoked a cigarette, looked at the
surrounding marshy areas, watched a heron fly over, observed butterflies,
the usual waiting-for-a-train routine.  After a bit, another vehicle pulled up
behind us, and my mother started worrying about whether we were "safe."
We're fine, Ma, really; I don't think those people drove out here and got
stuck by a train, just hoping there'd be someone they could mug while they
    I didn't want to backtrack to try to go around the train, because mom
had already asked me several times, "do you know where we're going?",
even though I'd already told her I'd never been there, but had good
directions.  But then, a railroad company van drove up, with the guy inside
telling us we'd better go around, they were conducting some kind of test, the
tracks would be blocked for some time yet.  "Just go up to Lallendorf, then
turn left, yadda yadda yadda..."
    I knew that Otter Creek Road somehow becomes Bayshore Road,
maybe at some shift in direction, so I backtracked to the suggested route and
turned in the direction I thought we should go.  The trouble was, I turned
onto Cedar Point Road, because, like Otter Creek Road, it has three words in
the name, and headed east, expecting it to become Bayshore at some point.
After a couple of miles, I was pretty sure that I was too far east, and it finally
dawned on me that I'd confused CPR with OCR, perhaps during the running
commentary from Mom about how her dad had picked walnuts out here
somewhere, and her mother had lived on a farm on one of these roads, and
her sister had brought her out here for dancing lessons, that might have been
the building, and people rave about that night club but it's always failing the
Restaurant Report Card on the local news, and look at how high the water is
in that ditch, don't get too close!   I backtracked again, while Mom asked,
"how's the gas?" for the third time, even though there was enough in the tank
to take us to Detroit.
    You'd think that someone as worried as my mom is about getting lost
or stranded would have a map in her car, but, nooooooo, nothing that
practical.  I hadn't looked at a map, because, after all, the directions were
clear, even if my brain wasn't.  I wasn't lost; I knew that Toledo was
"thataway," and Lake Erie was "over there."  Short of going up to someone's
house, there was no place to stop and ask for directions in that expanse of
refineries, power plants, and ditches full of pond scum.
Because I was driving my mother's car, with my mother in it, I slowed
down to a crawl at each set of tracks.  Meanwhile, mom made little
comments of distress at each bump in the road, and directed me to beware of
puddles, stones, lumps of dirt, and any other hazards that might dull the
finish or damage the tires.  A few miles, mayflies, and dark Satanic mills
later, we arrived unscathed at my cousin's place. We weren't even late for
    Two hours of food and family visiting later, Mom's oxygen tank was
getting low and the daylight was starting to fade; it was time to take her
home.  "You had beer, are you okay to drive?"  Yes, Ma, maybe you noticed
the two huge plates of food I had, too?  The same set of railroad tracks that
caused the first detour was still, or again, blocked by a train; another detour,
a short lap around Collins Park, backtrack to a through street, "Oh, you're
not going to take the expressway, are you?"  Yes, Ma, that's exactly what I'm
going to do....your car might enjoy going over 40mph for a change.  Safely
home, I pulled her car into her garage, up to the precise spot marked by the
hanging tennis ball.  I left it in neutral, with the parking brake engaged two
clicks only, just as she likes it.
    I've had a driver's license for thirty years or so, a few years longer
than my mom has had hers.  She's getting older, and realises that her reflexes
aren't what they used to be, so she avoids driving on the expressway, and
after dark.  This is probably a good thing, but I wish that, when I'm driving,
she didn't project her concerns for her own driving onto mine.  The chatter,
warnings, worries, directions and directives are very distracting, and do the
exact opposite of helping me to keep my mind on the road.  This isn't so bad
when I'm driving her in my own car, because I don't need to be so vigilant
for puddles, stones, or fresh tar.  There are times, though, when we have to
take her vehicle, and, even though I love her, when I'm driving my mom in
her car, she drives me crazy.

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