Wednesday, February 19, 2014

I Survived Driving Near St. Louis

          I recently read some inspiring articles about writing.  One mentions comedian Jerry Seinfeld and his habit of writing every day, even if it’s just one line.  I like this idea (except I don’t know how to write only one line).  Keep the habit up.  I’m trying to do this.  I’m going to begin blogging some of this random stuff.  
          The other was a superbly enjoyable article by author Patrick Hone.  Be yourself, he says.  Just sit down and write, get yourself out there.  Write not for money but because writing is creative and begin creative every day is important for growth.  It’s part of you.  That sort of thing.  So encouraging!
         Hone suggests writing about every day things, being observant and reflective.  Oh, I usually have plenty to write about!  But often I don’t make writing a priority, so the time gap between something interesting observed and me actually sitting down to write is larger than it should be for maximum freshness.

         I drove on a six-lane highway for the first time today.  I was doing great.  (Unfortunately, this was one of those cases where I couldn't stop to write about it.  Life is against me, I tell you.)  Then another lane snuck in there somehow.  I assume there was a matching lane on the other side of the median, going the opposite direction, making it an 8-lane highway.  (I’ve never been sure if it’s accurate to call it an 8-lane highway—I’m only concerned with one direction at a time, so maybe I should only consider those 4 lanes relevant to me at the moment?  But I think most people count both directions, and it does sound more impressive, so I’m going with that.)  Well, wouldn’t you know it, another lane snuck up on my right.  Ten lanes!  Was I ever nervous!  Without having changed lanes I found myself in the centermost lane, poking along at 58 MPH in our little green Hyundai Accent.  Eek!  So much for my rule—stay in the far right lane and just watch out for merging traffic.   Then again, even in that far right lane I worry that it will turn into an exit without warning and I will end up lost in downtown St. Louis or, worse, Illinois.  I think I managed to look cool and collected, but I could feel the tension in my neck and shoulders.  (I think I deserve a massage after today’s adventures.  Where’d I put that Denny guy?)  
         When I got my drivers license at the age of eighteen I often drove in nearby Springfield, Missouri.  The good shopping (Home Depot and the head shop Cosmic Fish), hangouts (The Juke Joint, Moon City Cafe and Park Central Square), and many of my friends (what was that guy’s name again?) were in Springfield.  I think the population at the time was around 120,000.  Lots of people.  Crazy traffic.  I survived.  I learned the main roads and some of the back ones.
         The last several years I have lived in the Madison County seat, population hovering around 4,000.  I am a homebody.  Most of what I can’t buy in town I order from Amazon.  Sunday after-church traffic in Fredericktown is what you want to avoid around here.  And the school bus traffic around 8am and 3pm.  Occasionally we will make the trip to Farmington (pop. 17,200) to the north of us, or Cape Girardeau (pop. 38,500) to the east, nestled on the Mississippi river an hour away.  Those are big cities, let me tell ya.  Maneuvering my 12-passenger van around those places stresses me out.
        We live two hours south of St. Louis.  I do not drive in St. Louis.  Today I drove near it.  Fenton was close enough.  I survived.  Only because it was around 10am and the traffic was light.  I would rather have my fingernails pulled out than try to drive anywhere near that city during rush hour.  I can’t believe how many people commute from so far outside of the city!  I personally know people who drive from Fredericktown to St. Louis and back every working day of the week.  I can think of only one reason to do this—grade A insanity.
       What, oh what, could persuade me to run such a terrible risk with my life and my cute little green car?  Denny, of course.  Though I suppose he’s more of a who than a what.  Denny can persuade me to do just about anything, I think.  Don’t tell him I said that.  He’s a dangerous man with mad skills.
        Farra is getting braces on her teeth.  We have state health insurance and the only orthodontist in Missouri that takes the insurance is in Fenton.  The only one.  I’m grateful, don’t get me wrong.  I’m thrilled my daughter can have her teeth taken care of this way, ‘cause I’d never be able to afford it otherwise.  But the reality is that we have signed up for weekly trips near St. Louis; just for a few weeks, then every few weeks for adjustments after that for about two years, barring unforeseen complications.  Denny agreed to do the driving, but as the parent I have to be present for appointments.  Last time we went up I realized that the drive really isn’t that bad, so when Denny asked me to drive today so he could work on the laptop, I agreed.  I hope I will become comfortable enough with this drive that Denny won’t always have to come along.  I love his company, but I’m not comfortable leaving Atira (age 12) in charge at home for hours, so before these appointments we have to shuffle the other six children in the van to my parents’ house 30 minutes away, then take the car (which gets 3 times the gas mileage the van gets) to—near St. Louis from there, then pick up the kids and the van afterward.  It makes for a long day!  
         But it is all so worth it.  It feels so good to finally be able to take care of important things like the children’s teeth (and mine—Denny insists I go in soon for the first adult dental care I’ve ever had).   It’s nice to have a steady sort of life with a partner who cares about me and the children and wants to take care of us.  

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