Driver’s Ed 101

Now that I’ve been back in the driving world for over a year, I have started to add up some observations on common driving mistakes. I don’t believe that these are inherent to just the drivers in my city but there is one in particular which I’ve noticed that really shouldn’t be a problem if you are an experienced driver.

Let’s talk about backing out of parking spaces, shall we? Take this woman, for instance:


I can’t believe that the person waiting for the woman to figure out how to park waited as long as he did. I do admire him for finally asking if he could park the woman’s car for her. I DON’T believe this woman should be a licensed driver.

What I don’t appreciate is that there seems to be this misapprehension that women are terrible drivers. There are plenty of horrible male drivers in this world, as well. For some people, driving is instinctual – you just GET it. I am one of those people. My best friend has never learned how to drive and isn’t interested at all. She placed herself in a city where she has reliable public transportation. Kudos to her!

I yearned to learn how to drive at a very early age and by the time I turned nine, I started counting the years until I turned sixteen and I would finally get my license. I’m not even kidding. The day I got my driver’s license was one of the happiest in my entire life. I remember it fondly. My mom was nervous about me “tooling around” on my own but quickly realized what a boon it was to have a daughter more than willing to run errands, just so she could drive the car all by herself.

Now that I have been a licensed driver for over half of my existence, I can safely say that it is one of the best gifts a person can have. I thought about how fortunate I am to be able to own and drive my own car the other day as I was on my way to work. I still get a kick out of driving each and every day. And I think road trips are as fun as they are therapeutic.

While there were plenty of times I liked riding the subway when I lived in New York, I have an even fuller appreciation for being able to drive to work now. It doesn’t hurt that my commute isn’t a one-hour, clogged traffic jam everyday, either. Still, until you’ve sacrificed your personal space on a crowded rush-hour train in New York City, you can’t know how freeing it feels to be able to throw your things in the passenger seat, blast heat or air conditioning as you see fit, be able to sit the whole time, and listen to music as loudly as you want (or not). It’s a serious sigh of relief.

However, I do believe that having a license is something that most people take for granted; there might be many fewer accidents otherwise. I still maintain my position on minivans, by the way, as just this morning the light turned green but we all waited for the minivan flying at 50mph to plow through the intersection on a red light. (And it was a man driving.) Driving is as much about courtesy to others as it is a convenience for us to get ourselves around.

Backing into and out of parking spaces is a necessity of a driver’s life and yet, so many people can not seem to figure this out. There is a very simple rule that has served me well since I was 15 years of age and in Driver’s Ed. The coach told us it’s a 75/25 rule: back out straight three-quarters of the way before you begin turning your wheels. You will not scrape the cars on either side of you if you stick to this rule of thumb. And it really works! I frequently see people in my office parking lot turn their wheels the moment they’ve hit reverse and I’m amazed more cars aren’t stripped lengthwise of their paint. I cringe every single time.

I could probably go on for longer than most people would prefer with driving safety tips so I’m going to leave you with the one tip for today and hope it changes your life or someone else’s you may know.

Because if you are anything like this other woman below (who requires the help of yet another woman guiding her), you need to re-evaluate whether you should be driving, stat:

Is email the new telegram?

I love email. Whoever invented it – kudos to you, good sir or good woman. The only downside to email, as I see it, is it takes away some of the charm and personalization from sending letters and cards, which we know I love doing.

Add in the ability to attach any old document, and it finally made faxing obsolete, much to the relief of Administrative Assistants everywhere. (And yet….people still use facsimiles. Can someone explain?)

The speed of owl – pre email.

I have several email accounts programmed on my phone so I can check them immediately. I don’t like having emails sitting in my inbox. I like being up to date on keeping it cleared out and having received whatever news or information someone has passed on to me.

I still find the follow-up question, “Did you get my email?” really funny. Yes, of course I got it, it was sent at the speed of light, practically.

But here is where I’m getting hung up with email. Unless a person is anal retentive like myself, there is no guarantee that sending an urgent email message – especially a personal one – will reach the intended recipient in a timely manner. There is no controlling when someone is going to actually open, read, and process your message.

For that reason, I find Read Receipts to be useless, not to mention annoying. Just putting that out there for any Read Receipt freaks. I have a habit of declining to send one when prompted unless I feel it’s absolutely necessary. I’ll read the email and respond because I’m a responsible person – it’s none of your business when I open the email.

I know this seems counterintuitive but getting an email back saying, “John has read your email” doesn’t let me know that he’s available to talk about it, so if anything, it just adds to my anxiety.

So what tops the angry red flagged email? (Or if you’re Microsoft Outlook, you place a bar at the top that says, “This message was sent with High Importance.”)

Because urgent emails don’t always reach a person immediately, this is why the telephone remains in the top spot for efficiency. I was always in awe when, in old movies, a person would have a telephone call from someone in the middle of dinner at a restaurant. That’s some good communication right there, if someone knows to reach you mid-meal. In my pre cell phone years, I didn’t tell any one person where I was going to be at all times. I even liked being unreachable sometimes.

But with cell phones came……text messages!

Tada!

When texting first came out, I thought, “How is this going to revolutionize a thing?” This was back when IMing was still kinda neat, so IMing by phone seemed weird. I’m glad I came around. Text messaging is your friend. I know I’m BFF with it.

If you are a normal person who carries your phone everywhere with you and receives (if not sends) text messages, then this, to me, is the best way to reach someone if s/he can’t pick up the phone.

However. It’s all contingent on actually remembering to bring your phone with you. I have forgotten my cell phone once or twice in my life. I felt naked and ill at ease the entire day. But someone like my boyfriend, whose cell phone is an afterthought, forgets his with ease. This wouldn’t bother me so much except that as is the case with Murphy’s Law, it will be the same day that I need to reach him post haste. It never fails.

When that happens, I’m forced to resort to the angry, all caps subject line and send him an email with something like: PLEASE OPEN AND READ IMMEDIATELY!!!!

And then I have to sit and pray – pray that the email servers don’t delay, pray that his email box is open, pray that he SEES it, assesses that it’s an actual emergency, and then responds. There’s just entirely too much praying going on. You have to sit – or pace – and with bated breath, hope that you can rely on this other person to take your electronic note seriously enough to respond quickly. Otherwise, you’re stuck, and then it’s Plan B time.

I’m not a fan of Plan B.

Whether we like it or not, email is slowly becoming the equivalent of what used to be the telegram. It still has its place and is chock full of merit but I think with our reduced attention spans and desire to be freed from the inbox, it is still a silent scream amongst the other avenues we have available to us to get someone’s attention.

All this having been said, perhaps what we really need is to get this whole WUPHF thing going. If I got a text message, fax, phone call, IM, email, Facebook notification and tweet all at the same time? I’d definitely be annoyed enough to respond.

Macabre Meets Practicality

I have a morbid fear that if something bad were to happen to me, no one in my circle of friends and family would find out for days – or weeks – at a time. Mind you, this is all under the presumption that my cell phone would still be on my person or found in my home. I have my doubts that my phone would be accessible but since this is my macabre fantasy, let’s just go with the idea that something has happened to me and the police or a hospital worker has to look through my cell.

If all of the names in my phone are nicknames or signifiers which only mean something to me and me only, it’s not exactly going to help narrow down who to call. (And it’s not Ghostbusters.)

For example, I don’t assign names to people in the following manner:

  • Dirty Money
  • Drunkface
  • Jerkwad
  • Silly Rabbit Trix Are For Kids
  • Homeboy 1
  • Homegirl 4
  • Slick
  • Lovebunny
  • Dude Whose Name I Never Remember
  • Psycho

I am a strict First Name, Last Name sensible inputter of Contacts. The following in my phone are exceptions, which is why someone with common sense would know to call any one of these people in an emergency:

Simple, right? They’re not only my favorite people but they are related to me in some way, shape or form, and the simple lack of last names lets us know they must be Very Important Peeps in my life.

First and last names make it easier in an emergency but I also have the added benefit of always knowing how to spell my friends’ names. (You’d be surprised how many people don’t know how to spell a friend’s name…..or know their birthday, which baffles me. I think that’s more of a guy thing, though.) I hate not knowing how to spell someone’s name or worse yet, forgetting what someone’s last name actually is.

In essence, this is another way I celebrate practicality but also help the imaginary people who would be assisting my family in some kind of Zoe-related emergency. Aren’t I ever so helpful?

Now that you’re getting a better sense of how deep this rabbit hole is, tell me: how do you label people in your phone? Do you get really wacky or are you no-nonsense like me?

H 2 the O

In case you’re wondering, this post isn’t about ‘hos. I can’t actually imagine what would propel me to write a post like that, humorous as it sounds.

In fact, dear readers, today’s post is about water. More specifically, the arduous task of drinking the stuff. People are very divided on whether they LOVE water or HATE water.

I have several friends who have zero problem drinking water throughout the day. They have a water bottle on their person at all times or will happily go fill up a large cup at the water cooler. I’ve also known people who can’t go an hour without a sip before they say, “Oh my GOD I’m so thirsty,” as if they’ve been wandering the desert for a few hours. (Does drinking water beget drinking water?)

I am one of those people who can go hours without consuming a drop and I feel fine. It’s not the healthiest for my body and I do know that I feel more awake and alert when I’m properly hydrated, but it is actual work for me to remember to have fluids between my morning cup of joe and whatever I decide to consume with lunch and dinner. I have to put up a sticky note or set a timer to jolt me out of the lull I get myself into when sitting at my desk working.

One issue I have is that I am what I call a “compulsive drinker.” If I have a beverage in front of me at my desk, I will continually sip on it until it is gone, especially if there’s a straw, and then I’m aggravated when there’s nothing left. I am not an ice chewer by nature but if I’ve gotten in the habit of sipping on whatever is in front of me, I’ll chew the ice, too. But when my sad glass or cup sits empty, I find myself annoyed that I have to interrupt whatever it is I’m doing to get up and refill it. So I suppose my solution, whether subconsciously or not, has been to avoid making it a habit to keep myself hydrated at all, because I can’t be “bothered” with it.

Am I alone in this?

Anyway, after a recent incident of becoming insanely dehydrated and feeling like crap, I decided to make it a priority to drink more water throughout the day. I brought a CamelBak to work in the hopes that it would remind me to drink up.

If you don’t own a CamelBak, run not walk to your local sports store and grab one up. Or order one online, if that suits your fancy. They are seriously beverage holders of awesome proportion. Plus, because of the straw thing going on, it makes it a lot easier to suck down what you need and be about your business. (That’s what she said.)

The downsides to drinking water. Yes, there are a couple.

  1. The whole bathroom thing. Being hydrated generally means feeling pretty good, except for needing to pee every fifteen minutes. An aching bladder really disrupts productivity in the workplace, though constantly getting up to use the restroom provides a quick reprieve from the office. Still, do you know what washing your hands with antibacterial soap at least twice an hour does to them? I’m going through hand lotion like a person with OCD.
  2. Secondly, and it needs to be said: water is boring. Yes, it can be incredibly refreshing but most of the time when I’m just trying to get in my quota, I’m chugging it so I don’t have to think about it. Lately, I have been adding a little sugar free cranberry cocktail to my Camelbak, then filling the rest with water and ice. It definitely helps the medicine go down. Other alternatives are adding lemon, lime, or even cucumber, as a friend of mine suggested. (Don’t knock ice cucumber water ’til you’ve tried it. It’s delicious.)

Quite frankly, I think the soda business does so well for itself because they’ve made water somewhat exciting, if not completely bad for you. I don’t drink sugar soda and I try to keep a lid on diet soda, because it’s a matter of choosing your poison. Forty grams of sugar and citric acid vs. a nasty chemical called aspartame plus citric acid. There is a reason that Coke can be used as a cleaning solvent, just saying. But I’m not immune to the deliciousness of Coke Zero, Fresca, or Diet Dr. Pepper, three of my faves. Still, I try to indulge sparingly.

The benefits of drinking H2O are you feel more alert, your body temperature and metabolism are regulated much more efficiently, and it keeps false hunger away. And somehow it prevents you from being bloated and retaining water, though you’d think it was the opposite.

Being dehydrated is the exact 180 to all of the pros, not to mention there is reason to believe women can suffer from a UTI when they get really dehydrated. Gross and ouch! If you don’t know what a UTI is, consider yourself touched by Jesus. I would only wish chronic UTIs on my worst enemy, male or female.

I probably won’t ever stop grumbling about getting in my eight glasses a day, or however much I’m supposed to be drinking. But I can’t deny I’ve felt a lot better, bathroom trips notwithstanding, since I began being more mindful of my water consumption. I guess all the experts were right.

Damn it.

Cómo se dice “nylons?”

Today’s post is a two-parter! Ooooh, aaaahhhh.

The first thing I’m going to do is put up a photo of Lady Gaga. I still love this girl, what she stands for, her music, all of it. Such an inspiration for just being who you want to be and not giving a damn what people think about it.

Courtesy of Lady Gaga Daily

My thoughts on this photo are: if I could get away with wearing something like this, even for just an hour, I would totally try it. That would mean a LOT of things would have to be different in my life, including having a body like Lady Gaga’s. So no worries to anyone reading this who knows me personally – it’s not happening, now or ever.

Wearing anything resembling what Lady Gaga is in New York will get you attention but not as much attention if you live in a much smaller city or town, especially in the Middle States. But I dig the boots and the fact that she’s made an “outfit” out of a bra and pantyhose. Oh and presumably a thong. You go, girl. Can we all take note, though, that no matter how tiny you are (and she is tiny), pantyhose still comes up over your belly button? This photo just proves to me that they are meant for people with incredibly flat stomachs and no one else.

The second thing I’m going to do is ask about the word pantyhose. Is that a dated term? I really like the word stockings but I’ve heard that’s antiquated. I know many women prefer to say “tights,” though for me, that seems incredibly outdated and those are what I wore when I was eight. They were usually white or pink and were thicker than ‘hose.

In order of which terms I prefer to say, it goes stockings, pantyhose, nylons, tights.

So instead of debating it with me, myself and I, I’m putting up a poll. I’m fascinated that there are so many different words for stretchy nylon material in the shape of legs. Which term do you prefer? A secondary question for those who care to comment would be, do you wear these things? I think it’s quite clear I do not.

The Netflix “Crisis”

Until I saw this video from Funny or Die this morning, I hadn’t really put into perspective just how tragic people find the recent Netflix price hike to be, nor how shallow it is in comparison to actual problems. And it’s not like I haven’t been dealing with my own share of issues. The Netflix price increase was, for me at least, kind of the icing on the cake to what I have dubbed the “Summer Blues.”

In any case, to paraphrase, the video makes a great point about an issue that is affecting millions of white people across America, deadpanned by the great Jason Alexander.

What’s interesting, however, is that my boyfriend and I have discussed this issue at length, with the most recent stint occurring last night before dinner; in this way, we definitely lived up to the stereotype that it’s all “anybody” can talk about – for days at a time. I sat at my computer, reading Netflix’s Facebook Page Wall (that’s a mouthful) and combing through the thousands of messages people have been leaving for them, while Kevin looked through various news articles on his laptop. We sat there comparing notes and tsking and figuratively shaking our fists in the air at this nonsense.

The bottom line is, people are outraged that Netflix is jacking up the price by 60% without discussing it with their millions of loyal customers first. I’m a little torn because I can see both the company’s perspective and the one of being the huffy consumer. (Aside: one woman wrote a scathing comment on the Netflix FB Page and several people proceeded to jump on her, making her out to be a screeching, mindless woman who had no right to be upset. It was pretty brutal.) Quite frankly, I just don’t want to have to choose between the discs or streaming. I want to have both! But I am unwilling to pay $15.99 a month for the privilege. It used to be that that price would get you three movies at a time, something which I never had the luxury of affording. I’m a one-at-a-time gal.

I do think it would have been nice to have some kind of survey or something sent out, or even a price hike in the range of say, $3.00, to continue enjoying new movies on DVD and streaming older (sometimes crappy) movies and lots of television shows. We don’t stream on more than one device at a time but many have left since Netflix has begun enforcing its streaming policy. Apparently Netflix only wants to allow you to stream on the same basis of how many discs you take out at a time, which really negates “Unlimited” streaming but also, what happens when you go to the all streaming plan?

I was thinking about how electronic subscriptions differ from say, magazine subscriptions. Netflix caught on to the fact that people were sharing their log-on information with family/friends and so to keep people from “stealing,” they are cracking down on multiple device streaming. Granted, I don’t own or run a billion dollar company, but if I have a subscription to Vogue and I give all my copies to a friend to read when I’m done, how is this different? Is that person “stealing,” too? Is this really a problem for Netflix when they have ousted a lot of its competition (namely, physical DVD rental places) and they are highly profitable?

The only other troublesome thing is that I think many people would have stayed on if Netflix had newer releases available to stream, at least, instead of the B movies of yesteryear. Granted, I have loved catching up on some older television shows, but when I want to watch something new that came out that I was unable to see in the movie theater, I believe I should be able to do that if I am paying a monthly subscription fee.

RedBox has gone through the roof with new customers. Blockbuster immediately set up a plan to soothe the wounded from Netflix. They offer hard disc rentals, streaming, games, and even Blu-Ray discs at no extra charge and are offering a 30-day free trial to the scorned. Check out all the details here. I don’t want to like Blockbuster. They used to charge $4.99 to rent a DVD for two nights. I can’t even say how much money my parents and myself spent in the 90s and early 2000s renting movies and games from them. Netflix was the solution! But this latest blow does give me cause to reconsider my options. While I believe I will probably try out the streaming-only plan come September, I can’t guarantee I won’t jump ship.

It’s hard not to think that Netflix only cares about the bottom dollar and now that they have eleven years in to this business, no longer care about Joe American Movie Watcher.

I’m on the fence. What will you do?

The obligatory courtesy smile

Humans are such funny creatures. We have all these social niceties and some of the “rules” in place are rather odd.

Something I wish didn’t need to exist is that weird smile – sometimes an accompanying nod – that you give to people (namely, acquaintances or office mates) where you flatten your lips and smile tightly as you pass each other by. It looks like this:

Thanks to Kevin for his gracious demonstration.

Humorous to look at it, especially out of context, but also awkward and kind of annoying. It’s like the only way you can acknowledge someone’s presence and also let that person know, “I don’t want to stop and chat so I’ll make this weird face.” It doesn’t matter how well you know someone, if you are passing by that person and you don’t want or have time to talk, you will make one of these grimaces. I suppose it’s better than in olden times when ladies and gents would bow, curtsy or tip hats to each other, no matter the time, no matter how hurried they were. Kind of quaint, if you think about it.

Some anti-socials are really adept at avoiding eye contact and stampeding right by you, social niceties and familiarity be damned. I have worked with several of these types and it’s always kind of fun to take the initiative to chirp out, “Good morning!” or some other common greeting, forcing that person to either be a dick and not reply, or gruffly respond. It’s the little things. I feel like if I have to participate in this ritual, everyone else should, too.

There really isn’t much more to this fluff piece than that. Just an observation, something I thought I could share with you fine readers. If you can think of other social rituals we participate in, by all means, please share! Enjoy your day/evening – hopefully socially awkward free.

Literally, the most misused word

Literally, the most misused word – The Boston Globe.

I literally want to hug this author for writing this piece.

This.

This.

This.