Tag Archives: transportation

Friday Fiction 2.1 — Greetings with Flowers

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Claire turned down the stereo in her sweet little shiny metallic-green Carman Ghia convertible her grandmother left her in her will. As she pulled into the parking lot, she kept belting out her unsolicited accompaniment to Adam Levine’s blessed falsetto in his song “Just a Feeling.”

You left your flowers in the back seat of my car / The things we said and did have left permanent scars / Obsessed, depressed at the same time / I can’t even walk in a straight line / I’ve been lying in the dark / No sunshine, no sunshine, no sunshine…

She parked the car, rolled up her window, gathered her things, and hummed to herself the rest of the stanza. As she opened her car door, her beautiful and athletic left leg which tapered into a classic bone pump was the first thing to exit the car after her humming. She unfolded from the driver’s seat, reached back in for her things, and as she stood up beneath the cement buttress in the cold and antiseptic parking garage, her hair cascaded over her shoulder. she flipped it back, only to be socked in the hip by the chocolate brown leather messenger bag her mother bought her as a gift for her college graduation. Instead of moaning, she continued her serenade,

You’re not even thereeeeeeee….. Just a feeling … Just a feeling … / No I can’t belieeeeeeve that it’sss ovvvverrrrrr…

[go here for the first part of this story: https://mollyfielddotcom.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/friday-fiction-friends-2-0-familiarity-breeds-fonder-over-greener-ponds/ ]

Her voice echoed through the garage, giving vibrancy and life to an otherwise dank and dreary place. Her voice was powerful and gorgeous. She sang for no one but herself and her shower. Sometimes her neighbors would hear her belt out a tune now and then, she liked to pretend she was Bobby Darren singing “Mack the Knife,” into a feather duster. Sometimes she sang when she vacuumed her apartment and could often be spied upon having spontaneous dance parties by herself in her boxer shorts and JAWS t-shirt as she would muscle through a day of housekeeping and bathroom cleaning, her wavy brown hair in a ponytail or hidden under a bandana scarf.

What she was unaware, as usual, was her effect on people. She thought she was bad inside, she thought people saw through her, she thought people thought she was fake; that it was all a ruse: her cheerfulness and her altruism and team spirit. The truth to her, deep inside her though, was that she sang and danced and played to feel alive inside when most of the time she felt like she was an empty shell.

Luther parked farther back in the garage, as he usually did because he felt it was important to give the female employees (mostly Claire) the spots closer to the lights and the elevator for their personal safety although no one knew it. They just thought he liked to park his shiny Mustang far away because he acted like a snob and a jerk.

When he walked toward the building, he could still hear Claire’s voice bouncing off the pilings and gray walls long after she had stopped singing. He knew the song himself and silently played it in his head, gently swaying his head in time with the melody.

The soles of her pumps shuffled along the gritty substrate and her heels click, click, clicked to the elevator, picking up their pace as she heard the bell ding-ding, going down… hurry!

“Hold the car!” Luther shouted, “Claire! Hold the car, please, my legs are killing me.”

“Ok, only for you Luther, and only because you’re supposedly injured,” she said.

Pressing the doors open button blanched her thumb, it was practically bent into a U from the pressure. As he ambled into the car, he looked at the button and her thumb, and thanked Claire.

“You can let go now, Claire, your thumb is begging for some blood, thanks again,” he said.

“You’re welcome. What’s wrong with your legs? Did you do too many squats, too many thrusters? Did you lift too many gorillas at the gym last night?” she said indicating toward his legs with her free hand, which was not free at all, it was holding her water bottle, a purple rubber-covered glass bottle she bought at her yoga studio a couple months before. The doors closed smoothly and silently and the elevator began its ascent.

>Ding< “First floor,” the elevator announced.

“Uh, no. I … uh, I have a … yeah, you’re right, I lifted too many gorillas at the gym last night. It wasn’t so much them, it was the squat thrusts I had to do at the rail yard against those coal cars,” he said, trying to lighten the mood.

“Well, if you jocks would just admit that the football game ended fifty-thousand years ago, your legs might be nicer to you, if you’re nicer to them,” she said, softening her tone, her eyes glancing at the ceiling in the moment of awkwardness.

>Ding ding< “Second floor.”

“That’s quite a water bottle,” Luther said.

>Ding ding ding< “Third floor.”

“Water? This? No. It’s vodka. Shh. Don’t tell anyone. It’s how I get through the day here…”

>Ding ding ding ding< “Fourth floor.”

“This is us,” she said and held the door open for him to leave first.

“After you, really, I’m gonna be a while,” he said.

“Well, it’s ok, I’ve got my water, wink… I will wait for you; look, if you’re sore from working out, I get that, take your time. Yoga was tough the other night, I’m still feeling it in my arms. We’ve still got a couple minutes before the new Greetings with Flowers Just Because meeting kicks off,” she said, her hand covering the door’s bumper to keep it from closing on Luther. “Giddy up, I’ll hold it, really.”

Luther looked at her and smiled a bit, but it was more of a grimace from the effort of moving his body.

Claire, forgetting herself, started singing the song again

I can’t believe that it’s ooooverrrr

And then, terribly self-conscious, she stopped herself almost as soon as she had started.

“Um, sorry,” she said, clearing her throat. “It’s a habit I have, a bad one… I sing when I’m … uh, I don’t know, I just sing.”

Luther looked at her and smiled wide, his teeth showing this time and he nodded, “I know. It’s ok. I have heard … It’s totally ok,” he said as he cleared the threshold of the elevator, the brown carpeting and tan walls, IKEA-inspired artwork and other knick-knacks instantly muted their voices and muffled their sounds and the elevator’s ding! them as they entered the lobby of Hansen’s Greetings, still America’s second-largest greeting card company.

Claire stepped out of the elevator, her heel clicked its last unless she dared leave the office, or used the bathroom or the kitchen during the day.

“See you later, Luther. Five minutes to the meeting,” she said. “G’morning Elise, how are you today?” she said to the receptionist, a new girl they’d hired last week.

“I’m good, thanks!” Elise said in a mousy voice. “You?”

“Me? I’m … I’m good. I’m good so far, thanks,” Claire said, looking after Luther, watching him walk tenderly and slowly. She physically restrained herself from moving to help him with his walk. “Poor jock, some people don’t know when they’ve hit their limit… even Superman has his kryptonite, Luther!” she said to him.

Luther turned back and smiled at her, wincing again, “Yeah, I know. I think I’ll lift only chimps next time… ha…” he said and turned back toward his cube.

It’s the way she seems to stare right through my eyes / And in my darkest day when she refused to run away / From love she tried so hard to save

But it wasn’t Claire singing; it was a beautiful falsetto passing the copier machine just past Elise’s desk.

kelly debie made this. :) www.debiehive.blogspot.com

kelly debie made this. 🙂 http://www.debiehive.blogspot.com

© 2013 Molly Field :: All Rights Reserved.

Ok… here’s the song:

=-=-=

Here is the next installment: https://mollyfielddotcom.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/friday-fiction-2-1-your-mother-will-see-you-now/

This was fun. I am listening to some music at the moment; can you guess which song? I think we’re gonna see some amazing things happen between Claire and Luther… or are we? And if you’re paying attention, yes, Elise is back. I believe I’m attempting the impossible: making sense of the last three entries for this 2.0 round of fiction.

Many thanks to Sandra over at Bulamamani for today’s prompt:

“The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;”

Inspired by this excerpt from Galway Kinnell’s poem “San Francis and the sow”, you will describe a situation where your character is remembered of her/his own beauty/talent/gift. Let your imagination and words flow this is your blossoming time too dear co-writers!

And a belated thanks to Susanne over at Susanne’s World for her prompt last week!

And a very belated thanks to Kristal over at Clearly Kristal (Moments Matter) for her prompt two weeks ago. We are a team!!!

Go check out the great stuff coming from today’s other participants (as soon as I get their URLs I will list them)!

Justice for the Little People

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Justice for the Little People

“I love these little people; and it is not a slight thing when they, who are so fresh from God, love us.”

― Charles Dickens

So I’m a mom. I’ve lived in the same house in my neighborhood for 12 years. The school my kids go to is within walking distance. I’ve been a PTA officer, communications chair, president and school volunteer. I consider myself a child advocate and an active citizen. Just a head’s up: I am not a PTA psycho. Promise.

For the past seven years, at least, I have been highly interested in getting our neighborhood’s school zone reduced speed lights reinstalled.

They were taken away in 1990 or thereabouts. When we had them, the main road was a typical 2-lane, 2-way, 35mph suburban street. We had the school on one side and a shopping center on the other. We had neighborhoods on one side and neighborhoods on the other side. Crossing the street was no big deal.

In 1990 or thereabouts, Virginia Department of Transportation widened the road to what it is now: a 3.2 mile long, 6-8 lane median-stripped 40mph (60mph at times) suburban secondary artery. It has flouted our neighborhood’s initial design: a walking community. Our neighborhood was established about 11 years before this roadway was irretrievably altered. All in the interest of the Chamber of Commerce and traffic gods.

Since the changes: About 32,000 cars traverse our street daily. During a 6-month period 408 speeding tickets were written averaging 57.9 mph. The majority of offenders: soccer moms, local people, not commuters. I can’t explain why this is, but all I know is that my kids’ school lost their speed zone. Drivers regularly careen past this school and shopping center without a care in the world.

My fight to reinstate this speed system officially began on paper and in practice when I was PTA president in 2009. I was not alone; I joined a community group to bring awareness to the speeders on our street. I was appointed to a task force to research, understand and recommend changes to bring safety to pedestrians and motorists on this speedway. Many other members of my community raised their voices in great concern for this situation.

Who were the people who took away the signs? VDOT.

Who where the people who didn’t put back the signs? Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) and its Office of Safety and Security (OSS).

As PTA officers, we tried to bridge with this group, work toward a common goal, bang a louder drum. They shut us down and all but publicly mocked us when we appealed to them for stronger speed enforcement.

What did FCPS OSS say?: Don’t cross the street.

Tell me how this makes sense: you increase the speed, the danger, the curve and the reduce the line of sight of a massive road in front of a school with a shopping center on the opposite side, and you ARGUE that it’s safer. In fact it’s SO safe, you don’t see a need to reinstate the signs because now, as FCPS OSS, you’ve created a better and SMARTER way to transport the children to the school that used to be within a safe walking distance: YOU BUS THEM. These kids live literally… 3/10 of a mile and YOU BUS THEM. You shut down my neighborhood, you restrict my foot traffic and mobility, you decrease my personal safety and you BUS our kids to school and  THEN… THEN you bitchandmoan when we try to stand up for ourselves.

“Parental prerogative,” Mr. OSS said, about a hundred times. “I’m not ever going to advocate for your parents to cross that road… it’s not safe… It’s their parental prerogative…” he would say, sort of singing it… “pah-ren-tallll pre-rog-ah-tivvve…” with everything but the Jazz Hands to flourish the ditty.

So, YES: by all means DON’T do anything about the speeding when you KNOW parents are going to take their own lives and the lives of their toddler, stroller’d, baby bjorned children into their own “prerogative” hands and cross that street during the very times of day when a proven, familiar, and cheap speed-reducing intervention would be MOST effective. Dicks.

You stupid, idiotic, moronic dicks. Blame it on the parents. NnnnNNnnNnNnnnn.

The useless fight continued; FCPS held all the cards. They really did. And our school board rep at the time? Useless. “Regulations stipulate…” We asked, “what about a review on a case-by-case basis…?” DENIED.

But What Ho… What Madness is This?

Progress? 

Finally in January 2010, the task force was created and our then-current school board rep was a lame duck, and thus entirely uninterested in helping us. What can I say? Some people love their red tape. In November 2011, we voted in a new school board member. She was younger, she had kids in the school system and she cared. After more than a few conference calls with her I got advice, an ear and an advocate. After a few more task force meetings, we got some traction with the County supervisors. “It’s a budget concern… we want to do this, we just don’t have the money…” Uhhh… we’re like the 4th? richest county in the nation… I think we can find $65,000 to cover the lights. 

In February 2012, there was a public >wink-wink< land use meeting that I was >wink-wink< encouraged to attend and present content in a very >wink-wink< specific way because our school was suddenly moved up the list on the renovations schedule. I let the money thing go, other than reminding everyone that $65,000 was about .03% of the County’s $16.6 million renovation budget for our school. That meeting led to a hearing a few months later that I was also >wink-wink< encouraged to attend.

I made a power point presentation, had index cards, put on regular clothes and even brushed my hair and in April 2012, I testified at a public hearing before the Fairfax County Planning Commission, citing all my facts, as I had in meetings before, in conference calls before, with the school board, the task force, the board of supervisor member, the PTA, the cats and my dog. I did this a lot. I could recite this stuff in my sleep and I probably did.

The night of that hearing, I was a nervous wreck but totally confident too because I knew what I was doing was right and good and just and smart and SAFE.

All 14 of the commissioners were familiar with the road and many of them asked, “What? There isn’t a light there now??” Sheepishly I said, “No.” And not sheepishly I said, “And we want it back. VDOT took it away and FCPS didn’t reinstate it. Someone, maybe some of you back in the 80s voted to change our road, made it more dangerous and took away a safety precaution.” I think I even lightly pounded a fist for emphasis.

Here I am… making our case. This hearing lasted until 12am.

Thus at that hearing my opportunities to fight the good fight had ended. It was in the hands of the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. They had a few more meetings and as I understand it, FCPS OSS was quite stubborn. Some time between April and October, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, at the recommendation of our guy Braddock Supervisor John Cook (who will always have a vote from me, unless he pulls a Patreaus or something), approved the provision: Condition 11, which stated that for our school’s renovation to go forward the new speed reduction light system HAD to be installed. If FCPS wanted its renovation, they had to give us our light.

A few weeks ago, I saw signs of life: drilling and street slicing on the day I went on a field trip, the one with the zip line, with my son. Then today, I saw this:

This. This is what took so long to get. This is the west-bound pair of school zone speed reduction lights known in the industry as “Wink-o-Matics” – they save lives. On a day like today, rainy, overcast and bleak the cars would go by at 50mph easy. Those buses in front of the school are waiting to transport special needs students.

I didn’t fight this fight for me. I didn’t go after the system for some crazy notion of glory and honor. I did this because it made sense. Because little kids should see that their government cares about them and that their school will receive the SAME treatment other schools receive. I did it because we live in freakin’ Fairfax County – 12 miles from the Pentagon; 22 miles from the WHITE HOUSE and 26 miles from the US Capitol… This?? This is democracy?!

In the end, I did it also to become a giant craw in the OSS. There is a list of other local people whose names I don’t have permission to divulge so I won’t, but they were instrumental as well in this fight. The thing is, I’ll go ahead and say this because it’s true: I was in the fight until the end. After the hearing in April, I took more pictures, presented on more conference calls and exchanged at least another 30 emails about this issue until my involvement was moot. I didn’t give up. Even if we’d lost this time, I wouldn’t have given up.

The installation of these lights are more than a good idea. They say to the 32,000 commuters: we live here. They say ‘community’ and ‘families’ and ‘safety’ and ‘pay attention’ and ‘school’ and ‘kids’ and ‘slow down.’

To the FCPS OSS team, they say, “UP YOURS.”

Thank you.

PS: UPDATE 12/4/12:

The Wink-O-Matic lights outside my children’s school went fully operational today for the first time in probably 20 years. This is something I thought I’d never see happen because OSS fought this campaign so fiercely, as though it were some personal persecution waged against them. This morning: the yellow beacons of justice alternated causing ephemeral driver mindfulness, brake lights to illuminate and traffic to slow to a reasonable pace, 25 mph for just about 100 yards, making me feel as though change is possible and that years of hard work, respectful, focused, patient persistence and good old-fashioned drum-banging can beat the system. I learned that when you show up, you show you care. Thank you Office of Braddock Supervisor John C. Cook for all your support. You done good, sir. I’ll never forget it.

Driving Habits

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I just returned yesterday from a wonderful week in Connecticut with family. We all had a great time: tons to do and the kids all got along. It was a mystical marvel.

When we left Connecticut at 12:30pm, the anticipated arrival time to my home via 95-south was 9:16pm.

That drive of 390 miles was almost entirely nonstop, save for two bathroom breaks and a fill-up at the Thomas Edison rest stop on the NJ Turnpike.

Here’s something from the Thomas Edison rest stop that I can’t believe still exists:

take 51 cents and get back something completely worthless. why didn’t i think of this machine?

I’ve done this before, driven eight hours alone but not with the specter of hideous, desperation traffic born of the summer’s last two weeks  and never on a Saturday. I took this challenge quite seriously and neurotically. I drove as if tailgating Captain Ahab; fixated on the threat of a six-day-long traffic jam looming just five minutes ahead. In fact, I think I left Ahab in the dust somewhere near Milford, Connecticut. With its phantom accidents and construction work zones, Connecticut was the one state that wouldn’t let me leave despite the fact that it was the one I wanted to get away from the most.

I had all three boys with me. Thing 1 who is 14 was riding shotgun and has proven himself to be an admirable navigator, GPS commander and DJ. Things 2 and 3 showed themselves to be excellent movie viewers, sandwich snackers, yoo-hoo drinkers and bathroom requestors.

Here are some things I learned about myself and my a*hem, driving habits yesterday:

1) I love the O/D button on my car. I drive a big Toyota SUV which seats 8. It has an “overdrive” button on the gear shift. That O/D setting is normally on, allowing for better “gas mileage” (please). The “overdrive off” setting allows for more responsiveness from the engine, which likely accounts for my 20.9mpg overall. The way up, last Sunday, we averaged 22.8mpg, as I wasn’t in a hurry to get anywhere. Yesterday, I just wanted to get the hell off the road and onto my couch. I am probably right when I guess that the drivers around me wanted me to do the same too…

2) Sometimes “south” on 95 isn’t actually “south” especially at 7:16pm when it’s clearly “west.” Just ask my retinas.

3) You know Bono (of the band U2)? His wife, Alison (high school sweetheart I believe) is rumored to require him to stay in an apartment in Dublin or wherever is nearest his family’s home for at least a few days after a world tour because he’s INSANE when he is finished. He’s overextended, exhausted and seeking attention and likely grunting, groaning, doing jack-knife jumps and wailing constantly. I think there needs to be a place like that for regular people who aren’t long-haul truckers: a room where we can retire our paranoid and furtive glances between the windshield, side and rear-view mirrors, speedometers and fuel gauges. Somewhere we can allay our spastic over-the-shoulder scans. Perhaps a studio with soft lights, zen fountains and quiet music where we can stretch our blanched knuckles, restore blood flow to our feet, release our talons from their “10 & 2” or “4 & 8” positions and simply learn to breathe again… wouldn’t that be nice? It could be some form of way station or detox program for drivers who’ve been cruising for eight hours averaging 73mph. There simply is no way to get off an interstate highway at 76mph and then be expected to drive 40mph for more than 100 feet (other than to get you beyond 65mph). When 55mph feels like you’re walking, as if you’ll never get home, clearly there’s a transitional problem. No one was safe from my “iForce V8” engine’s wrath.

4) Cruise control is my friend. I barely used the pedals to speed up or cruise yesterday. Bad idea? I mean, I did have to use the brakes every once in a while, but c’mon… My kids know from experience that driving with me means no stops for anything short of an organ explosion. I don’t do stretch breaks or “get a snack” breaks like their dad does; I’m all about forming a blood clot if it gets me where I want to be faster. Although, nothing’s faster than an ambulance, I suppose…

5) I flash my hazards when I’m approaching a high density area to alert other drivers behind me. It usually works. But it doesn’t stop me from wincing and saying, “pleasedon’thitme…pleasedon’thitme…”

6) Projectile vomiting from a rear passenger window in an SUV traveling at 78mph does not land on other cars. It lands all over the side of the SUV to the point where my vision was obfuscated by God knows what. I would have certainly pulled over had my son alerted me to his feeling nauseated before he booted. He did not provide me that luxury. “I just threw up out the window!!” is how I found out. He did however provide us the other luxury of using the power-washer in the dark when we got home. And just in case you’re wondering, no, it didn’t get it all off. The heat, 88Ëš and 78mph must’ve had a geothermal nuclear effect on the vomit. The paint is still on the car, however, so we’re OK there. My apologies to Baltimore, Maryland, for my son’s atomized deposit.

7) Motorcyclists on 95 in the state of Maryland are: a) insane, b) dangerous as hell, c) known to travel in swarms. If you see one, there are at least two more coming, at 100mph (easily) all around you. I wince when I see them too. I was switching lanes to the right from the left lane after passing a car at 75mph and one came upon me at 110ish and we were separated by maybe six feet. It woulda been like a bug on my windshield. Later, I saw a group of them on the side of the road applying a combination teflon / kevlar glaze to their athletic bodies and I wanted to scream at them, “DO YOUR MOTHERS KNOW YOU DRIVE LIKE THAT?!” I immediately warned my sons that if they ever rode bikes like that they are out of the will.

8) My husband has a car that the boys and I call the “Old Man Car” because most of the people we see driving them are old men. Last night, on the stretch of highway alongside The Mitt Romney’s church, I was trapped behind a Small Woman driving an Old Man Car. She wove and slowed and careened all over the lane. I don’t think she could see over the steering wheel. I wanted to mow her down.

9) I’m a big believer in using the left lane properly: no loitering. You use it to pass and then you get over. If you happen to be how I was yesterday, on a mission, then you end up staying in the left lane to continually pass. That said, there are five stages to the left lane: 1) passing only; if you get behind someone who chooses to not pass, 2) you tailgate; if that doesn’t work 3) you back off and flash your high beams; if that doesn’t work, 4) you tap / stand on the horn and if that doesn’t work; you 5) ram them off the road. Thing 1 was waiting for me to initiate stage 5 on the Small Woman driving the Old Man Car near The Mitt Romney’s church. I didn’t. I waited for her to careen into the right lane because the road curved to the left as she was driving south (west) at 7:16pm. It worked.

10) I have friends who hate the bigger bridges near the D.C. metro area. I don’t mind them; I actually think bridges are beautiful and amazing engineering marvels. Maybe I’m naĂŻve, but I have a ton of faith in their design and purpose. Wanna know what I hate? Tunnels. I’ll take a back-up on the Delaware Memorial or Chesapeake Bay bridge any day of the week instead of a back-up in the Lincoln, Holland, Bay Bridge or Baltimore Harbor tunnels. I have a theory, the “Pancake Theory,” about one bridge in particular, the George Washington Bridge in NY, however: When given the opportunity to choose an upper or a lower level of a bridge I will invariably choose the upper level. The reason being (even though I completely trust the bridge’s constructional integrity) that if the bridge collapses, I will not be “pancaked” like the cars on the lower level would be. I would be on the upper level, the upper pancake. The smasher not the smasheĂ©.

11) There are five bridges between my house and my brother’s. Once we escaped left Connecticut and then passed his town, we started our traditional “five bridges to home” count. The first one was the GW Bridge. The last one the Woodrow Wilson bridge. When we crossed the Wilson, we LITERALLY howled like wolves when we saw our “Welcome to Virginia!” sign. We were so excited. At that point, it was another 25 minutes (according to the GPS) until we got home. I was going to make it in 20. When we were within five miles from my home, I had made back 58 minutes. As if the traffic gods were mocking me, we hit two red lights less than 2 miles from our house which supposedly cost me 2 minutes. When we pulled up to our house, it was 8:14. I shaved 1 hour and 2 minutes off the drive home. Our playlist for those last 18 minutes? The B-52’s “Planet Claire,” Led Zepplin’s “The Immigrant Song” and “Next to You” by The Police.

Oh… my apologies if you were in front of me yesterday. No hard feelings, huh? And if you were on one of those motorcycles, shame on you…

Thank you.