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MARTHA SEZ: No breakdown for this American girl

February 2, 2018
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

Nothing is as annoying as the way other people drive.

I often wonder why some people feel compelled to suddenly pull out from a side road in front of traffic in a no-passing zone, causing other motorists to stomp on their brakes, and then dawdle along for miles, as if that one panicky act of darting out has sapped their gumption.

The next time an automobile careens out in front of you at top speed, the way a white-tailed deer will dash heedlessly into the roadway, oncoming traffic be damned, and then slows to a crawl, you can safely assume its driver is elderly, especially if the automobile has a tendency to drift randomly off toward the shoulder. If you can barely see the top of the driver's head above the steering wheel, that will be another indication.

Once years ago I was giving my friend Peg a ride somewhere when she noticed-she would-that I had turned on my turn indicator a little sooner than I needed to. A mile or so, maybe.

"Martha, you don't have to drive like a retiree!" Peg said.

This reminded me of one of my favorite Tom Petty songs, "Refugee."

"You don't have to live like a refugee. You DON'T-HAVE-to-LIVE like a refugee "

Usually Peg is right, but on this particular occasion she was mistaken. I DO have to drive like a retiree. That is my way. Now whenever I become aware that I am misusing my turn indicator or veering off onto the shoulder of the road or driving 35 mph in a 55 mph speed zone, Tom Petty singing "Refugee" comes to mind and cheers me up.

Somewhere, somehow, somebody must have kicked you around some

Who knows, maybe you were kidnapped, tied up

Taken away and held for ransom

The only thing that could possibly be more annoying than the way other people drive is the way your mother drives. My mother's cars, as far back as I remember, all had automatic transmissions. Nevertheless, she preferred to drive with both feet on the pedals, alternately pumping the accelerator and the brake like a church organist. This driving method required deep concentration.

In the case of some untoward event that required even more braking than usual, she would throw her arm out in front of whatever child was sitting in the front passenger seat (children used to be allowed to sit in the front passenger seat if there were no grown-up passengers) in order to keep the child from hurtling into the dashboard or windshield.

I suffered from motion sickness when I was little. Looking back, I think that, under the circumstances, motion sickness was normal, appropriate and unavoidable.

Because I had amblyopia, my mother used to drive me to visit an eye doctor in Detroit, a distance of about 30 miles from our home. This was very good of my mother, especially as she hated to drive in city traffic. Of course at the time I took her selfless maternal act for granted.

I must say it would have been difficult, even had I been a grateful child, to feel much on these trips except for nausea. Stop, go, stop. Go, stop. Go, go, go! Stop.

Jerk start, lurch stop-I am making myself sick. How are you feeling?

When I was in my teens, my mother ran out of gas in her Pontiac LeMans and coasted into a self-serve gas station. This was in the early days of self-serve, back when a gallon of gasoline and a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes both cost around 30 cents, and she was used to full service. Our gas station at home was called Petrol by Murphy because there was a store called Furs by Antoine right across Woodward Avenue.

"Fill it up, please," she told the attendant, as she would have told Murphy, but this fellow-I think the name Glen was embroidered across his shirt pocket-refused, stating churlishly that this establishment was self-serve, and clearly marked as such.

Looking straight at him, my mother lifted the nozzle, threw the lever and held the hose high with two hands as if it were a giant venomous serpent. As gasoline spewed, Glen rushed up, grabbed the hose and filled the tank.

"We won't tell anyone about this at home," my mother said to me as we drove away.

Now, any time I drive with my daughter, I know that another story could be in the making.

Have a good week.



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