No YOU Shut Up And Drive
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Drive-By Landmarks

No matter where you live, you have familiar landmarks that make your commute, well, familiar. I like to jazz mine up with fantastical stories and characters. Meet the “FBI Guy.”

By Janis Hirsch

I Married A Tundra

I was stuck in hideous traffic Wednesday, the kind local television stations call “Carmeggdon,” “Car-pocalypse”or the one I keep hoping will catch on — “Really Bad Traffic.” My husband called asking where I was. I said “In front of Still In Her Bathrobe In the Middle of the Afternoon’s house.”

Twenty minutes later, I called him back and said: “I’ll be home in five — I’m just passing FBI Guy’s house.”

Both times, he knew exactly where I was. This is not because we are one of those couples who are so in tune that we know what the other one is thinking. To the contrary, he rarely knows what I’m thinking even after I tell him, and I always know what he’s thinking: “I wonder if ‘Hunt for Red October’ is on?”

Personal Landmarks are things families share, like Thanksgiving dinner and head colds. They’re codes that evolve from the stories you invent about the places you regularly drive past. Is the guy at the end of our street really in the FBI? Probably not. But he drives a brown Ford and wears a white shirt and tie which is all the info we need to crown him ‘FBI Guy.’

I’ve found that my drive-by stories have become increasingly elaborate. Part of it is because I – we all – spend so much time in our cars and there are only so many purses Ryan Seacrest can give away and part of it is because when you’re behind the wheel, it’s like having a Cloak of Invisibility. You can stare at people to your heart’s content. If it gets hinky? Floor it quicker than they can say: “Officer, that woman is a menace to society?”

There was a guy my son and I passed on our way to elementary school. Every morning, he got out of truck and just sort of looked at it. Sometimes, he touched it. Sometimes he walked around it. But every time, he stared at it intently. He was probably just checking for bird poo before he walked to his office but to us, he had married his Toyota Tundra in an elaborate outdoor ceremony by the beach and parting with it was such sweet sorrow. I’m telling you, not even on my wedding day did my husband give me a look like that guy gave his truck every morning. And thus was born ‘Goodbye Truck Guy.’ Btw, I still see him and he’s still in love.

Where’s The Charm In A McMansion?

Then there was “Edna’s.” That’s all I had to say: “About to turn left at Edna’s” and anyone on my speed dial knew right where I was. Edna’s house was vintage 1950s as was her wardrobe and the game but decrepit poodle she pulled around. A cigarette dangling from her lipstick – I don’t think she had any actual lips left – she’d occasionally stop to cough up a lung or yank-up what used be her sportiest Capri pants.

Then one day there was a moving van; I suspected they were going to strap Edna on the roof in a rocking chair like Granny Clampett. The day after that, there was the wrecking ball. Directly after that was “The Day The Architects Went Blind.” I know, I know, it’s easy to poke fun at McMansions but you’ve got to believe me, this one is a beaut. One marble staircase goes from the front door to a planter the size of a Smart Car. On the other side, there’s another marble staircase that I assume you ascend, then crawl into the living room window. There is no door at its top. Yes, I know the new owner poured a boatload of money into this particular palace but to me, it’s still Edna’s house.

BMW = Bald Men Walking

Every Saturday morning on my way to Whale Watcher’s, I’m tense until I pass a group of 30 or so men power-walking in track suits that look suspiciously like onesies out on their weekly weekend constitutional. And every Saturday morning I have to come to a complete stop because they’ve taken over the entire street. (Yes, there ARE sidewalks.) I feel like a tourist driving through the Scottish Highlands as a flock of sheep surrounds me in search of greener pastures.

I check to see if Gold Jewelry Guy is in the lead; this takes a second as most of the men are sporting gold but the leader always wears a medallion the size of a dessert plate and yes! He’s in front. The guy bringing up the rear is always the same guy and I feel so bad for him that I want to give him a ride. He invariably sees me looking at him with pity so he takes out his phone and pretends the reason he’s in last is that he’s on a Very Important Phone Call that no one must overhear.

While we’re on the subject, what do you call a pack of out-of-shape men walking down the middle of the street? “Gaggle” sounds noisy and believe me the only noise these dudes are making is gasping for breath. Are they a swarm? A bevy? Or maybe we should just call them BMW’s for Bald Men Walking.

Be Kind If You Pass By My House, Please

I don’t remember why we call Snobby Girls’ House Snobby Girls’ House although the House With No Privacy could really use a hedge or two. The residents of Inflatable House are an incredibly creative lot; it began with the giant blow up Jack O’Lantern which was perfect for Halloween but they’ve found inflatables to commemorate Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Groundhog’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and one that’s either for Grandparents Day or it’s a George Washington’s Birthday tribute that’s deflated a little.

I can’t be the only driver who entertains herself with cockamamie stories about the people and places she passes. Be a pal and tell me the names of your Personal Landmarks.

Oh God, something just occurred to me. My son’s 1964 VW Rat Rod is parked in front of our house. And by ‘parked,’ I mean the only thing that keeps it from rolling down the street are two wooden blocks jammed against the wheels. What if we’re ‘White Trash House’? Oh well, if we are, I can finally shave the back of husband’s neck in the driveway instead of over our bathroom floor.

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2 Responses to “Drive-By Landmarks”

  1. D.G. Fulford says:

    I am very proud to tell people that I live two blocks down from the car warsh .

  2. Aaron Gold says:

    Growing up, we had The Screamers in apartment 1A. Funnily enough, I never heard Mr. Screamer say a single word outside of his apartment. When I waved and said hello, he’d just nod and smile. Maybe he was saving his voice.

    And directions to our house were always “At the bottom of North Avenue, turn right at the pink restaurant,” forgetting that it had been painted three different colors in the last ten years. I believe it’s now yellow, but it’s still the pink restaurant.

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