Sunday, August 30, 2015

Ups (Most of the Night) and Downs of Being On-Call

I eventually managed about five to six hours of sleep last night--with the last two after the sun came up. Welcome to being on-call for the entire agency. The first couple of times I was on-call, I've gotten calls late in the evening or just after midnight--but they've been calls dealing with a kid already in our care, and thus it was just a matter of following procedure. Last night, though, I got not one, but two calls, at 11 PM and 1 AM, from on-call DSS workers in counties not near here, looking for emergency placements of kids into foster care.
Which means a lot of phone calls, a lot of messages, a lot of explaining of circumstances--and ultimately, a lot of frustration. Between the heavy lifting and the documentation of the calls, it was nearly 2 AM before I could step away from the phone and computer, and of course by then I was wide awake and jacked up a little on adrenaline. And I actually had caught a break; the second call came in while I was writing the summary of the first one, so I didn't have to go through the entire roster of available homes again, and had already left messages with homes that were available to contact me when they got the messages. It would have been a worse experience had I managed to go back to bed and dozed off before the phone rang again.
This is the down side of being on-call. So far, it actually, during the day, it hasn't been bad; only four or five calls, and nothing serious (knock on wood) to this point. But the middle-of-the-night, looking-for-a-home situation is the reason that foster care, and emergency crisis programs like my own program, exist. I was on-call for my own program more often than not for over a decade, and while we didn't get true crisis very often, the once or twice during the year when I did have to deal with finding someone a place to stay in the middle of the night are the experiences that stay with you. Foster care is different than what I do, and I'm not still not totally convinced that I should be part of the on-call rotation, since 99% of the calls we get are foster care calls--but obviously I'm very conversant with what foster care is like and also with crisis response, and I certainly like the larger paycheck that comes the week after being on-call, so I deal with it and do it.
And it could have been worse. Sabrina slept over a friend's house last night; I could have been logging all that time talking on the phone with her in the next room. As much as being on-call for the entire state is nerve-wracking at times, if an actual live-body response is required, I'm not the one that is going to have to do so--which is a (welcome) change from being on-call for my own program, where I had to go to places like Margaretville, Oneonta, Lockwood, and Smithville Flats over the years in the middle of the night (there is nowhere in the world that is more nowhere than Margaretville, New York, in mid-February at 2 AM on an early Saturday morning. I will never forget that night, and that long-ass drive, as long as I live. People who think that Binghamton is nowhere have no idea of what "nowhere" actually is. Margaretville makes someplace like Walton look like New York City. But I digress). And being on-call and dealing with a foster care situation means that at some point, you are usually dealing with some other poor sap working for their county's DSS that is stuck being on-call in the middle of the night as well; you never get a hard time from anyone, even when it turns out, like last night, that you can't help them. Foster parents, too, generally, are not testy or obstreperous, at least on late-night calls. And law enforcement officials are the same no matter what time of day or night you are talking with them.
So I ended up falling back asleep somewhere between 2:30 and 3, woke up at 6:30, woke up for good at 8. Which is actually about how long I normally sleep, hours-wise, during the week. It's the actual time of day that I was sleeping that's off, and this is on top of also having normal sleep patterns disrupted on Friday night, too (an 11 PM call led to me not falling asleep until 1 AM or so). The coffee has done its job, and I am wide awake now, and will probably make it till mid-afternoon before starting to run out of gas. Sabrina works tonight, and I sincerely hope that it all breaks in my favor this evening--get her home by 9, talk to the Queen hopefully while Sabrina is at work, and get myself to bed and sleeping by 10. Monday is the last day of the month, and my supervisor returns from her vacation; I am sure, before the working day is done, that the recent adventures of me and our Finance Department are going to be gone over.
But for the morning, it's time for a little food, a shower, and the morning meeting. Unless the damn phone rings again.

Saturday, August 29, 2015


Last year, I read a great first novel, by an American professor named Bruce Holsinger, called A Burnable Book that was a beautifully constructed mystery set in late fourteenth-century London, featuring historical personages such as Geoffrey Chaucer and John Gower as major characters, and bringing to life the reign of Richard II, years before the events portrayed in the eponymous Shakespeare play. The Invention of Fire picks up where the first book left off, and again, the book is, simply, fantastic. Gower is the main character, and he spends the entire book trying to figure out who killed sixteen people and dumped them in the sewers of London. The investigation is set against a background of intrigue and in-fighting among the nobles of the realm, the king, and an imminent invasion by the French. Historical fiction done well is, in my opinion, the very best kind of fiction, and a feature of it is that the plot line remain plausible and interesting, and this story, although centered on real people and real events, uses its secondary characters to bring to life several subplots--everyday life and justice in the London of the time and place, and a pivotal but relatively unappreciated moment in history--when handguns first were invented and used.
And to those of us with a nodding, long-ago acquaintance with the Shakespeare play, the nobles and king featured in these books come to more vivid life. The events that led to Richard's deposition in 1399 had their genesis in his childhood and early reign; like the protagonist of the other series of English history I've been reading recently, Conn Iggulden's Wars of the Roses series, all sorts of power struggles and infighting are born when children inherit the throne, and Richard spent his entire reign trying to work through the labyrinth created when he took the throne at ten, even though his father's four brothers were still alive and wielded extensive power and influence. The lords in opposition to the king in this book were contributing factors to what eventually happened thirteen years later, and their descendants were the actual combatants in the Wars of the Roses. Holsinger's books are a nice complement to Iggulden's, in forming a seamless narrative of the searing crisis that tore England apart for nearly a century.
And the murder mystery that is the thread that holds the book together is first-rate and constructed magnificently. And like any well-done mystery, the reader would do well to look past the blatantly obvious and focus on what is also in plain sight. The eventual resolution was a surprise, but totally logical and broadly hinted at very early in the book; much of the drama here comes from Gower, a very intelligent and somewhat arrogant man, realizing the limits of his own mind and the price that many nearly had to pay because of it. Chaucer, although not a big feature of the narrative, plays an important role, too, and a fascinating subplot of Holsinger's books has been a blow-by-blow accounting of how The Canterbury Tales were written and put together. The book is set many decades before Guttenberg and the invention of the printing press, and obviously writing and publishing was a very different endeavor at the time. Chaucer's classic is extremely long, as anyone who has read it or been exposed to it remembers, and it was of necessity constructed piecemeal, and it is fascinating to read even a fictional account of how the various chapters became known as they were written. Gower, too, was a poet of some renown, and the events that take place in these books were the eventual soil that his own major works took root in.
I have been rather distraught to see the publishing industry move almost entirely to serialization--nearly every successful writer has to feature the same characters in book after book in order to make a living. But this is one series that I am enjoying, and I sincerely hope that Holsinger has more to offer in this saga.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Ten Brief Thoughts

I don't have it in me this morning to write an in-depth post on anything, but I have a few sentences in mind on many things, in the news and otherwise. So here goes nothing:
1) The Ashley Madison hack has made news because it appears that a number of conservative social figures and politicians were hypocrites, publicly posing as upright citizens and moral giants while actively seeking clandestine sexual activity outside their marriages...YAWN. Of course, to the approximately sixty percent of Americans who aren't socially conservative, this is not a surprise. The indignation that you hear is that of another set of cherished illusions cracking and facades coming down. Conservatives are, almost always, gigantic hypocrites. The sooner we all come to realize that, the better off we'll be. And, in a related development, maybe some long-standing social problems will actually have a chance of being solved.
2) Jared Fogle. I guess what kills me about this rather revolting development is that people forget who Jared Fogle was before he became Subway's main public figure--a gigantic, enormous man with few if any chances, or realistic opportunities, for "normal" interactions and relationships in a romantic or sexual way. I'm not about to check, but my guess is going to be that he was very heavy as an adolescent, and this predilection that is coming to light now was likely born then, as most people interested in children in a sexual way are, bottom line, seeking sexual gratification from those that they can imagine having power and control over. The people who are amazed that someone "successful" can have this much of a dark side don't seem to understand that the child is father to the man. Jared Fogle might have changed his outside appearance after adulthood, but the internal Jared was still whoever he was as a child and teen. You can't look at someone and say, "oh, there's a sexual predator"--but there are some cases that are much less surprising, after exposure, than others, and this is frankly one of them.
3) Donald Trump and the Clown Car Posse. Mainstream media and the political "establishment" are just having it dawn on them just how far out of touch that they are with the reality of both American voter psychology and the havoc that the changes in this country over the last 30 years have wrought. I do think that most of the traditional power brokers are horrified at the thought of a President Trump, much more than they are horrified at the thought of a President Clinton  or even a President Sanders. I have thought for many years that there are limits to the patience that the oligarchic kleptocracy will exhibit with the rather cumbersome and expensive political system, and that if there continue to be electoral results that they are not down with, the formalities of American "democracy" will be dispensed with. It will be the supreme irony if this happens as a result of a Republican somehow getting his hands on the Presidency, but it is looking at least possible now.
4) Bernie. I have few illusions left at this point in my life. Bernie Sanders is the first person running for President that I have substantially agreed with on virtually every issue important to me. Ever. And judging from the way his candidacy has taken off, the experience is novel for a whole bunch more of us, too. I still do not think Sanders will be President (and the cynical side of me thinks that even if a miracle does occur, he won't be able to do anything he wants to because Congress and the Supreme Court are still dominated by the rich and unresponsive). But, continuing the thought listed above, if we somehow end up with a Trump vs. Sanders contest, it will be the ultimate kick in the balls to the moneyed interests that have hijacked American politics so nakedly in recent decades. And it will increase the likelihood that the machinery of democracy will be dispensed with.
5) Just a few years ago, I had an abiding, almost unhealthy interest in the sports world, as virtually every team and individual I have any rooting interest in was pretty good and a contender. Now? Sadly shaking my head. This has been a very long summer, in that the Red Sox are firmly rooted in last place, and the other major summer sporting interest, NASCAR, has all but disappeared from my radar as Jeff Gordon is having a stuck-in-neutral farewell season, and I am finding I really don't care all that much for any other driver. I barely look at the sports sites anymore, and when I do I find myself looking at hockey items. The Bills are the Bills; I don't think Rex Ryan is going to materially improve a 9-7 team, and the team as currently constructed has a ceiling of 9-7 and could regress significantly. My Premier League soccer interest, Everton, has gone in two years from solid contender to slightly-below average. I don't really have an NBA team that I care about; I suppose if I had one, it would be the Nets, but they're not good and are going to get worse. Syracuse basketball barely interests me anymore; the move to the ACC sits within me like food laced with botulism, and the troubles with the NCAA ensure that good seasons are not in the offing for a few years. That basically leaves the Rangers--and while they should still be good, the window of opportunity has closed, and the key guys are that much older. It only goes downhill from here. Ouch.
6) We tend to be concerned about the effects of climate change here in our part of the world. But the rest of the world is having their problems, too. I read this morning that the Middle East, which saw temperatures over 100 degrees regularly when the climate was "normal", now routinely has days when the heat index is hotter than 150 degrees. An Iraqi government just fell because it could not provide a steady electricity flow to power air-conditioning in a country where the nighttime temperatures are in the 90's. Lakes are drying up around the world, and drought is affecting many more millions than terrorists, floods, or political upheaval. I've said it before and I'm saying it now; there is no way that our children will live as long as our own parents did. And there is going to unimaginable chaos as parts of the already-overcrowded planet become uninhabitable for human beings.
7) The stock market has been very volatile in the last couple of weeks. Effect on most of us? Zero. Next news item, please.
8) As bad as the current heroin epidemic is, it is having one positive effect: it is drawing the idea that the "War on Drugs" is the way to combat addiction more and more into serious question. It is an indication of how deeply flawed and divided American society is that what should have been obvious many years ago is only now being taken seriously because young white people are being affected in large numbers; jail for drug users apparently is a palatable option only if the druggies are "those people." But at least the evolution of attitudes is starting to occur, and maybe, just maybe, the huge damage that the "War" has done can start to be alleviated.
9) I was talking with my intern yesterday about the above item. He is in his mid-30's, and he had no real idea of when and how the War on Drugs started. He absolutely refused to believe that George Bush I had given a nationally televised address and showed the nation a bag of crack as a sign of imminent apocalypse. I had to show him the video on You Tube before he would believe me. This is a common reaction among many of the 35 and under set; they have been so brainwashed by the mainstream media of their lifetimes that they really have no idea of their own history. My daughter's generation is much more informed and open-minded than the generation immediately preceding theirs. The children of the time from about 1985 to 9/11 are, to my admittedly prejudiced mind, almost addled as adults; they bought into the bullshit they were spoon-fed en masse and are only now discovering, in some dim way, that they do indeed need to take into account the man behind the curtain. And true to human nature, most of them are doubling down on their ignorance. I don't get into Generation naming, but whatever this bunch is called, it truly is the Lost Generation. Thank God for the Internet; it has its flaws, but at least the youth of today have sources of information that are not total bullshit, and a good many of them are developing the ability to think for themselves.
10) To those that are loudly decrying the lack of "outrage" over a black man killing two white TV personalities, I will summon up the last reserves of patience I have and explain it to you briefly. The reasons that the outrage is not on the same level are thus: 1) the murderer was clearly unhinged, and was caught before he killed himself. Karmic justice was served, and if it was not going to be, legal justice would have been, and 2) there is a world of difference between a malefactor committing a crime and those that are supposed to be the upholders of law and order committing one. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that what the shooter the other day did was wrong and constituted murder. There is no army of nitwits, in other words, claiming that race, police misconduct, official lying, and subversion of the legal process that regularly takes place when police and authority kill our people for no reason are somehow justified, denying that the crimes that they were and are take place. That's the difference. Sorry this had to be spelled out for you so vividly. Now let's put our crayons away and move on to the first grade, shall we? Sheesh.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Yesterday's Executions

The world, or at least this portion of it, was shook up yesterday by the murder of a TV journalist and her cameraman while doing a live interview in Virginia. The shooter, it turned out, was a former reporter for the same station that harbored grudges and resentments against that reporter, but also against the station in general. The shooter is also dead, after fleeing the scene and driving a couple of hours away before getting caught by cops and then turning his gun on himself.
And the bodies were still warm when the event became fodder for political viewpoints. There were the renewed calls for gun control, equally fervent responses by the gun (enthusiasts, lobby, nuts--pick your term), and in general a lot of people were free with many opinions before any of them really knew a whole lot. Which is not unusual in general, and in particular is becoming less unusual after "news" events. I suppose people always have done this--it used to be a source of wonder how quickly word of mouth spread outward. Now it is even more so, because of the prevalence of communication devices and forums that enable people to instantly give their input to literally thousands of people at a time.
After 24 hours, it seems that this is not quite the seminal, unique event it seemed possible it could have been in the minutes after the shooting. It appears to be a fairly standard, if one can legitimately use that term, murder-suicide. The shooter sent a 23-page message to ABC News the night before that shows that this was not random, and there is a lot of evidence that the shooter had been nursing grievances against at least the woman reporter, and the station that fired him in general, for a long time. Which moves the crime from the "senseless massacre by any nutjob that can get a gun" to the "unfortunately all too common in this country" category. The only real line that was crossed was that the shooter chose to do his work on live television and posted videos of the killings on his own social media pages immediately afterwards. Anyone that carries any murder has serious power and control issues, but psychopaths take this to another level, adding intense narcissism and attention-seeking behavior to the mix, and I'm not sure I've ever seen this before. The guy, whatever his problems were, was a media professional by trade, and certainly had a better understanding than the "crazed loner" stereotype did of what would cause a sensation and draw attention to his deed.
And for what it's worth, I think we as a nation should be paying more attention to that aspect of these killings than the fact that it was another instance of gun violence. The need for attention, the craving to let everyone in the world know what we are doing at any given moment, is something that may have always been present in human beings, but has literally exploded in the era of Facebook, Twitter, smart phones, and selfies. And the problem has reached critical mass. There was something I saw yesterday that I ended up sharing on my own Facebook page--something that said that one reason Donald Trump is enjoying the run that he is on is because he is a troll section come to life. And yesterday's killer is another mutation of the same phenomenon--the intemperate, self-absorbed, immature overgrown adolescent that needed to set up a target rather than face his own shortcomings. The only difference between yesterday's killer and the average troll that we all read every day is that the killer's sand wall between rhetoric and reality broke down.
And I suspect, as time passes, that we are headed for more, not less, of this sort of thing. The fact that much of America is armed to the teeth is almost irrelevant to the real issue. The true problem is that we have become, even more than we have been historically, a narcissistic, self-centered, self-absorbed society. We have put a shiny gloss on this tendency for centuries, calling it "rugged individualism" and other benign-sounding terms, but the reality is that this has always been a culture of sociopaths. Most of the Europeans that came here arrived because they were either unable to get along in their home countries or had made themselves unwelcome there. We conquered the country from its native inhabitants; the main difference between the written history of the United States and that of other places in the world is that we don't usually acknowledge the obvious, and when it is acknowledged it is justified, to an extent that one does not encounter when reading accounts, say, of how Hungary came to be populated with Magyars or how Turkey came to be Turkish. We bullshit ourselves that we have been a largely pacific nation, when in fact we have been engaged in some sort of conflict or another for all but a few years of our history. We have a long, long history of oppressing certain groups of our own population, and the levels of intra-societal violence here have always been sky-high compared to other cultures. And the current technological revolution underway has been driven by Americans, popularized by Americans, and indulged in by Americans. Other cultures are not immune, to be sure, but only we take it to the extent that we do.
And only here is violence considered an acceptable option to dispute resolution, literally from cradle to grave. And those that do not engage in actual violence feel free to engage in rhetorical violence openly. The result is that there isn't really much of a barrier between action and rhetoric any longer, and the levels of violence that we see around us are growing. I know that the "official" crime statistics have gone down in the last 30 years, and I am beginning to suspect that this is the result of some sort of denial. After all, our jails are full (and there are a lot more of them than there once were), there seem to be incidents of this sort almost every week anymore, and we've gotten neatly around the fact that law enforcement routinely practices extreme violence by not terming it "crime." And with narcissism now more or less socially acceptable, even necessary--well, the problem is going to get worse, not better.
Yesterday is not going to be the only instance of live executions on television. It was a pioneer, not an outlier.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Hump Day

I get the origin of the phrase; most of us work a five-day work week, and Wednesday is still the midpoint of the time we work for us. I've never really liked using it, but this week it seems quite a bit more apt, because I'm not sure I've struggled with returning from a vacation like this ever before. The last two days have been the equivalent of struggling through a deep depression, and today isn't starting off a whole lot better.
There are few reasons that fueling this funkiness. One is that there is the shadow of the grant award hanging over me; I simply do not know whether I am going to have a job in October, and while this is the fourth time I've gone through this particular waiting game in my career, it's much more foreboding to contemplate the ending of something when it has taken up a quarter of your life and when you're 52 years old. The grant was turned in months ago, and there isn't anything to do now but wait, but waiting has never been something that comes easily to me. And a related factor is the hassle I've been going through at work regarding the music snafu at the recent Beat The Heat. I've done what I was supposed to do from the time it happened, but there is always a residual nervousness when one deals with the top of the corporate food chain when you have to explain and take remedial action for something that has gone wrong. So far, there is nothing to indicate that there is going to be anything for me to be concerned about professionally--but when you're already on edge, you would like to remain as invisible and anonymous as possible within a large organization. And yet another related factor is that my life goes on hold again for a week in a couple of days; my turn in the on-call rotation is coming up again starting Friday afternoon. I will certainly like and appreciate it after it is over and the much-larger paycheck gets deposited in mid-September, but first I have to actually do it for seven days. There always seems to be one day of pure hell during the week, and even when there isn't much going on, you still have to be aware that the phone can ring at any time.
And I have discovered this summer that the day after visiting the Queen is always a bad day. It's a sign, ultimately, of the strength of the relationship, and it bodes well for the future--but it's very deflating and depressing in the present to come home without her, and it was made doubly worse this week by the knowledge that, due to on-call, I'm not going to see her again until the day before Labor Day. Yes, I talk to her all the time, but it's not the same as actually being with her. There is light at the end of the tunnel--but again, the ground has to be covered; there is no magic, blink-and-you're-through-it way to cover it. There's a part of me that simply does not want to admit, or feels foolish and juvenile for doing so, that I can be emotionally affected by something as simple and raw as missing someone.
But one reason this is turning out to be a different sort of relationship than any of the others that came before it is that I am not putting up any masks or fronts in it. I tried to be too cool for school, too diffident, too concerned with appearances, for my entire life--and it didn't get me anything but eventual pain and misery. I'm done pretending to be feeling--or not feeling--emotions that I am not. I don't have to let those feelings paralyze me, and I don't have to let my feelings become an excuse and justification to engage in manipulative or injurious behaviors--but I can acknowledge them and feel them, not stuff them and/or pretend that they are not there.
So it's been kind of a perfect storm this week, made a little bit worse by not being at a meeting or talking with others in the program for a few days. But my home group is tonight, and I'm going to try to meet with a sponsee, too. And I realize how fortunate I am to have this fellowship in my life: it has not only served as a source of support and fraternity, but it's where I learned that it's all right to feel what you feel without having those feelings take over the direction of life. I've been in a funk for a couple of days--but I've gone to work, done what I had to do, been a responsible parent and son, kept up around the house, and have a to-do list for the day.
I'm not laying in bed with the covers over my head. I'm not mooning for lost love all over Facebook, and I'm not looking or seeking a substitution to kill the feeling (well, all right, I could lay off the potato chips, but as substitutions go, that's a relatively harmless one, and I've only put back on about three pounds of the thirty I've lost). And I feel like by discussing this stuff openly and honestly, in a more or less public forum, I might help others that are feeling similarly but, out of embarrassment or shyness or fear, are afraid to say so. It's all right. There's no reason I shouldn't be feeling the way I do--professional viability is serious stuff, and enforced absence from a loved one is something that ought to cause feelings.
And it is Hump Day. This week will pass, as all of them eventually do.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Book Review: GLACIERS

Subtitled "The Politics of Ice," Jorge Daniel Taillant's Glaciers is actually two books in one. The odd-numbered chapters detailed the efforts in Taillant's native Argentina to write and pass legislation to protect glaciers from intentional destruction by business interests (yes, a gold-mining company based in Argentina and Chile was intentionally destroying and melting glaciers in the Andes in order to get at veins). The even-numbered chapters were about the characteristics of glaciers, how they form and where and such. The problem is that neither book is particularly interesting. The chapters about the byzantine workings of Argentine politics were simply unreadable, and the other chapters were all right, but somehow disappointing. I think there might be an interesting book about glaciers out there to be written--but this isn't it.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Life In The Fast Lane

I've spent a lot of time on the road in recent months. I've probably driven five thousand miles in the last two months, and will likely drive close to five thousand more before November, and much of this mileage has been and is going to be on the expressways and highways of the state of New York. And, me being me, I've noticed a few things:
1) I have no idea of why gas prices vary by as much as thirty cents a gallon within a thirty mile radius. More to the particular point, I have no idea of why gas prices are lower in the middle of the large circle than they are in either one direction of the other. Generally, the closer you get to a large city, the higher the gas prices are--except gas in the middle of nowhere is usually very high-priced, and the lowest prices in the state currently are actually right here in Binghamton. I paid $2.47 a gallon the other day to fill up. It was $2.59 in Corning yesterday, when I needed a few dollars in order to make sure I got home. It was $2.79 in Roscoe, $2.75 in Westchester County, $2.69 in Windsor, $2.65 up by Rochester... you get the idea. Why the variations? I really don't know. If pressed, I would say that prices are relatively lower here because Pennsylvania, with its lower gas taxes, is merely ten miles away--but that doesn't necessarily hold true, because there are some chains around here that are routinely five to ten cents higher per gallon than places like Kwik Fill and Hess (excuse me, Speedway; can't wait to see what havoc that corporate takeover is going to wreak).
2) I am going to assume that the New York State Police is going to get their Broome County barracks' new vehicles soon. Broome has the only blue-colored cars and SUVs left in the entire state; every other place has moved on to black. And I am sure that the move to black is not a coincidence. This is not the time or place to address the current controversies surrounding law enforcement, but the state police in this state were a lot closer to the storm trooper model long ago, before the rest of the state, and America for that matter, became much more of a paramilitary force. And the black cars and SUVs definitely look more intimidating than the blue vehicles do.
3) I hadn't been out past Corning in a while, until yesterday. When did US Route 15 become Interstate 99? The conversion of New York Route 17 to Interstate 86 has been going on for years and has years left to go, but the job is pretty much complete west of here, to the point where Route 17 signs are off the green overhead highway signs and have been pushed off to the side along the road itself. And the next major highway overhaul in the state really needs to be Interstate 390--unless it is Interstate 84. Both roads are in really bad shape, capable of shaking you out of the seat. It's more jarring for me because I remember when 390 was brand-new, when I was attending Geneseo, and it was as smooth as the proverbial baby's bottom. No longer.
4) And now comes the Grumpy Cat portion of the blog this morning...other drivers. I'm aware that I drive faster than most other drivers. I am prepared to take the chance of getting a speeding ticket in exchange for spending less time actually driving, and the highways that we drive on are more than capable of allowing drivers to operate their vehicles at speeds well over the speed limit--after all, our law enforcement and emergency vehicles drive much faster than any regular driver regularly in the course of their duties without incident. The speed limit is 65 most places, 55 around urban areas and on portions of four-lane roads that are winding and/or tend to be slippery or prone to major fog issues. Police generally do not issue--generally, I emphasize; I do not want you blaming me should you get a ticket--tickets unless they catch you going at least fifteen miles an hour over the limit, which is one reason I normally drive 80 MPH on the highway. But the major reason I drive that fast is that I want to get where I'm going faster. And with that in mind...
Other drivers out there, you do not have a divine right to set your cruise control on 68 or 72 miles per hour and never take it off. I am beyond tired of seeing some pompous-looking jerk nosing his Altima or Forester out in front of me in the passing lane when I am moving at 80 MPH and then taking their sweet time getting around the granny or the kid going 65. I am even more tired of the same type of people moving into the left lane three quarters of a mile before a lane actually closes, slowing down fifteen miles per hour in the process, and then getting upset when people go around them with the lane closure looming. It was a pleasure driving yesterday morning before the sun came up, with hardly anyone else on the road. It was most decidedly not a pleasure coming back, and the biggest reason was these morons that will not take the cruise control off for any reason short of a nuclear detonation ahead of them. And there was one particular beauty that pulled her little shitbox Aveo out to pass two tractor-trailers 3/4 of a mile before a bridge with a lane closed, right in front of me so that I had to hit the brakes hard--and then didn't move it off 68 as she passed the trucks. It was a good thing the truck drivers were paying attention and slowed down enough to let us both in, because the nitwit in the Aveo belatedly discovered that there wasn't the usual two miles to get the car safely in front of the big bad trucks before getting over. And yes, that driver got the one-finger salute and the Egyptian horn serenade when the bridge was past and I could get by. It's not the fast drivers that are the problem on the highways; it's the drivers that are oblivious to changing conditions and the vehicles they are sharing the road with.
4a) One of these days, I am going to take the time out to perform a public service and follow one of these bozos that is operating a car or, more likely, an SUV with ear buds in their ears until they get where they're going--and slap the stupid right out of them. You are not driving your vehicle at 75 MPH in a vacuum, and sight is not the only sense that you need to safely operate a motor vehicle, you self-indulgent little f***.
5) I understand that tractor trailers are a fact of American life, and it has been a long time since I saw a truck driver operate a truck unsafely or recklessly. What I didn't get at the time, and what I really don't get now. is the SUV fetish. Most of the people driving these monstrosities will never ever drive off the road unless they miss their own driveway while pulling in, shit-faced, at 3:30 AM. They are impossible to see around, they take up far too much room in their lane, and they are about as stable as a flag in windy conditions, which makes them very dangerous to drive behind. And it's really, really frustrating to get behind one of these things that is going at least ten miles an hour slower than the prevailing rate of traffic; SUV drivers tend to act like they are the only ones on the road. And they are the overwhelming main offenders of the cardinal sin of highway driving--those drivers that never move out of the left lane. I guess sitting nine feet high isn't enough to ease whatever nervousness you feel about putting your two-ton monster into actual traffic; you have to keep an eye on the rest of us by disrupting traffic patterns by driving slow in the fast lane, too? If you're that nervous behind the wheel. perhaps you really ought to reconsider the whole idea of driving anywhere. You have no right to expect the rest of us to act like a timid teenager just learning to drive. Get...the...f***, unless you are actually passing someone.
And 6) I understand that there are a lot of geriatrics out there that still have their licenses. And most of the time, they are more annoying than dangerous, in most cases. But on expressways--I am willing to bet that the root cause of at least 80% of all accidents is some old guy or old lady that simply will not maintain either actual highway speed or a distinct driving lane. And these guys are never driving a Focus or a Prius; it's either some big-ass relic of the 90's or what passes for full-size these days. And they get themselves in the way, and are totally oblivious to their effect on traffic. I have never been terribly patient with older drivers, but I really and truly believe that after the age of 65, people should have to retake their drivers' tests every three years. And think of the revenue that would raise, since old people, at least around here, seem to have more money than most of us. It's a win-win--more money for the state, safer driving for the rest of us.