Friday, September 9, 2011

Launched!

New venture: verbalinfusion.com

Goodbye, the Hat. I've loved you, mostly.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Picture Story

The greatest thing a father can do for his children.














Thanks, Pop.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ich Bin Ein Nerd

Nerddom: A Self Study

The way I see it, there are several categories that qualify one for nerddom, and there are several ways of attaining said status. You have your two basic types: the specialist and the bachelor of arts. The specialist excels in one category only, but because he is a colossus in his field, his qualifications for nerdity are unmatched. He is a the Hero of Minutia. Think of Bill Gates whose computer prowess propels him to the top of the nerd pyramid. I fear he has now become more machine than man. On the other hand, the man pursuing his bachelor of nerd arts might dabble in numerous categories, choosing to dip his toes in several pools (upon whose surfaces, we may only assume, lie viscous layers of grease and Cheetos). His involvement in one of the categories could never secure him a seat at the great nerd feast, but he could graze upon the bounty after the principles have had their fill.

After much soul searching, I have come to the conclusion that I hold a bachelor of arts in Nerd, and though I may never reach the great Comic-Con in the sky, I'll be able to tell you the names and handles of attending dignitaries. You might not know it from just looking at me (or maybe you would), but I shall prove it in eight paragraphs or less.

Nerd Category #1: Academics
From the moment I strapped my pink and purple backpack high upon my shoulders, waved to my mom, and marched to the old wing at Rivers Elementary for my first day of afternoon kindergarten, I was an unqualified academic nerd. Scratch that. My fate had been decided the year before when my mom taught me to read and introduced me to the magical land of libraries. Ahh, the scent of new, old books. I cared about grades from the moment I received my first A (in citizenship!), and even when I tried to slack off in high school, I broke out in waves of perspiration if I scored anything lower than a B on even paltry assignments. True, I am adept at perspiring regardless of the conditions, but you understand the sentiment. In third grade, I memorized poems in those old McGuffey Readers (which I owned because Anne of Green Gables owned them - duh), and, staring up at my teacher through prescription Coke bottles, I volunteered to recite the poems in class. My teacher, rather taken aback, responded with something like, "Um...ooook." Additionally, I have won two, count them, two reading contests in my life. I repeat: reading contests. I read more books than anyone else in kindergarten, and I read more hours than anyone in the entire school when I was in the fifth grade. I gave up hanging out with friends so I could win at reading. Furthermore, I create an outline for everything I ever write. I am currently working off an outline to write this blog. Academic nerd: check.

Nerd Category #2: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Let's talk Star Wars for a moment. I LOVE Star Wars. Sometimes I forget how much I love it because my husband loves it so much more (to an uncomfortable level, really), but when I think back and try to separate my feelings from his, I remember watching it again and again as a child. I knew all the lines at an early age, and I can't remember a time when I wasn't familiar with it. I watched the Ewok movies too. Now, loving Star Wars doesn't automatically qualify one as a sci-fi nerd. Lots of people appreciate it; shoot, it nearly won best picture in '77. It is a cinema darling and a blockbuster dream. Nevertheless, I am a Star Wars nerd simply because two months ago, I won a game of Star Wars Trivial Pursuit while playing against an Imperial Command of SW Ph.Ds. These people were naming serial numbers on Wookie freighters, and I somehow came out with the W. You might argue that I was playing on a team and that I contributed only one answer (C-3PO), but let's all admit that I belong in the Star Wars nerd camp simply because I voluntarily played the game.

To add to my sci-fi/fantasy repertoire, I also freely admit my adoration of all things Harry Potter. The books are brilliant, brilliant, my friends, and I read them every two years, assuming I can withstand the impulse to chainread the entire series. I cannot always refrain. Jonny and I were both on a round of Potter when we got married - he on book 4 and I on book 5 - so naturally we took them with us on our honeymoon. On any given day of our honeymoon, you could have found us basking on the rocky, Mediterranean beaches, deeply engrossed in all things Hogwarts. Collectively, we made it through 5 1/2 books that week (see also reading contests above). As an aside, Jonny co-wrote a chapter with his dad for The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosopy: Hogwarts for Muggles, much to his loving wife's great pride. You may purchase it on Amazon here, or you can pick it up at your local bookstore if that kind of thing strikes your fancy. This little post is not about Jonny, so let's get back to what is important: me. Me me me. Me too. See that? See how I just quoted a sci-fi movie in my paragraph about sci-fi?
Sci-Fi/Fantasy nerd: check.

Nerd Category #3: Video Games
My husband holds a terminal degree in video games. He subscribes to a video game magazine, owns nine gaming consoles, knows about CEOs and mergers and trends in the video game community, and is currently editing a book about the Legend of Zelda and theology. The man is a specialist. I do not have Jonny's expertise in video games, but I'm not claiming to be a professional here. I dabble in video games, and I was once more into Counterstrike than I should have been. (Speaking of which, Lyndee, I repeat my offer for a good old fashioned crowbar war whenever you'd like.) Due to my continued interest in video games in this, my twenty-eighth year, and my tolerance of the pedestal upon which Shigeru Miyamoto is placed in my household, I claim a broad video game category for myself. I may never wallow in a cave of empty soda bottles and chip bags after 72 hours of continuous WoW raids, but I can beat Super Mario Bros. start to finish in twenty minutes or less. I can even grab a hundred extra lives along the way.
Video game nerd: check.

Category #4: Limited Social Skills
Oh boy. This one is painful to admit. Socially, I'm...ok. I can engage in conversation with strangers. I can host parties. I can find interest in others' stories. I cannot always do these without effort, sometimes great effort. I am naturally timid, and though you might not believe it from all the "I"s in just this one blog post, I find it awkward to have eyes and focus on me. I can feel my face burn and redden if I am singled out among strangers. I fall into my natural rhythm once I am comfortable with a group of people. Sometimes I can find the cadence right away, but other times it can take a year to happen. In the meantime, I stare across the table and search the distant recesses of my brain - the same brain that seems to be galloping away from my head - in hopes of finding some topic of conversation to introduce. I don't necessarily say to myself, "I am interested in finding out more about this person and should therefore inquire into this part of her life." No, I say to myself, "Ok, what have you heard other people ask when they meet someone new? What do Lori and Angie say?" Seriously, that's what goes on in my head. This part of me, of course, has been there since the early, early days. I remember wanting to play dress-up with the other girls in preschool Sunday school, but I didn't know how to ask them.

This isn't as debilitating as it sounds - it's just a tendency. I have had loads of good friends, adequate popularity, relative comfort on stage, and countless meaningful conversations - sometimes with strangers. It more manifests itself in a proclivity to retreat with a good book during my lunch hour and to hum absentmindedly at work. Also, in fifth grade, I chose to crochet an afghan on the bus to space camp while my classmates, I am sure, challenged each other to daring deeds and misdeeds. I was sitting next to my very first boyfriend at the time, and I think we talked with each other for about four minutes of that six-hour drive. Despite a romantic and symbolic exchange of souvenir dog tags at space camp, the relationship, you'll be saddened to hear, did not last.

Now, it is well known that nerds the world over are never socially-adjusted persons. You show me a charming, devil-may-care nerd, and I shall show you a hipster impostor. Using a certain degree of social awkwardness as a litmus test, I must declare myself fit for service.
Limited social skills nerd: check.

I believe I have now proved through four simple checks that I am indeed a Nerd. You may never find me at Comic-Con dressed as a Twi-lek dancer and quizzing Captain Kirk about particle condensers, but you might very well find me translating passages of Potter into ancient Greek for kicks. By the way, I tried to study ancient Greek awhile ago, and the practice sentences the primer gave me were HI-larious. "The army of warriors plundered the burning village." "The battles were fearful." "We are not destroying the gates." Oh, you crazy, war-torn Greeks.

I have reached the end of my outline, and that, as you must know, means a stirring conclusion. Perhaps I can sum it up by saying that we all dance in the fountain of nerd, but few of us bathe eternally in its waters. Or maybe we all have a story to share; it's just that some of us share it through permanent retainers. I guess what I'm trying to say is: it's 1:00am and I have to get up in six hours. Goodnight.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Dear Oregon: It's not you, it's me

Hey there, Oregon. I've been wanting to talk to you for awhile, but you know how these things go with our crazy schedules and just not getting the time. I've decided to write you a letter, but know that I totally wanted to tell you all this in person. This has to be said, and quickly, and I'm afraid that if I don't write it now then I'll never get the courage to tell you.

I think we should see other people.

Our relationship has had its ups and downs - I don't have to tell you that - but when I look back at all our time together, I just can't help but see lots and lots of downs. And tears. In fact, you cried for 10 1/2 of our 12 months together. I don't think there's anything you can say to convince me that you were happy in all that time. I tried to turn to you to talk, but you gave me the cold shoulder for six solid months. It wasn't until mid-July that you started to warm up to me. Sure, we had a great summer together - all six weeks of it, and we even had a handful of good times in the fall. Remember that day we went apple picking and then hiked on Mt. Hood? You were so full of life and promise then. That's what I'll think of when I look back at our relationship.

Now, I know what you're gonna say - "It was just a bad year, Emily, one of the worst of the century. Just give me another year." I know, and I totally believe you, really I do. But there's something else I haven't told you. One particularly bad month when you were sulking around a lot and I couldn't get a kind word from you, well, I started talking to your neighbor. He's the one in the apartment below you. You know - California? I don't know if you know this, but we used to date back before I met you.

When I was with California before, I thought it was just a fun flirtation and that nothing serious could ever come from it. I couldn't see myself committing to that relationship. But then this year when you were so unhappy, California and I started talking again. It was nothing serious at first, and I never thought it would go this far, I swear. He was just so nice to me. I remembered all the good times we had together spending lazy Sunday afternoons at the beach, seeing our favorite authors at book readings, playing movie pictionary with friends who correctly guessed obscure Italian films from the 1940's, and watching Inglourious Basterds in a completely silent crowd of moviegoers at a theater where the costumes from the actual movie were just hanging out in the lobby.

I have realized that I never really got over California. We had our problems, sure, but I know I can move past the traffic and smog if it means I get to go to a theater screening of Spaceballs where Bill Pullman does a Q and A afterward. (Curses! I just missed this.)

I guess what I'm saying is I can see a future with California where I couldn't really see a future with you. I'm willing to put in the effort to see where this relationship goes. He has a sparkle and flame that, when I'm being honest with myself, I never saw in you. You're a great state, really, and I know you'll make someone else very happy, someone else who - how do I put this? - enjoys being depressed all the time. You're just not my state.

Truly, I wish you all the best in the world. Let's still be friends.

- Emily

p.s. This has to be said: You are just the worst driver.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Top 5 Most Annoying Child Characters Ever

Here is my list of the top 5 most annoying child characters ever. I've restricted my list to movies, human characters only. I dedicate this to Major Upton, and I begin without further introduction.

NUMBER 5: Gloria from Wait Until Dark
I happen to think that Gloria belongs at #2, but I'm keeping her at #5 because I know it's pretty irrational that she's on this list at all. Most people don't find her annoying; some find her sweet. Personally, I cannot stand the girl. She's just so stinkin' obnoxious to me. Don't you see it, people? She's got those stupid horn-rimmed glasses, and she's jealous of a blind lady. Jealous of the blind. Yes, Gloria belongs on this list. I don't have a real argument though, so let's move on to number four.

NUMBER 4: The Problem Child
This character is abhorred universally. I've never even seen the movie, but the child makes the list. The previews tell enough of the story. I think that theoretically the child is supposed to be mischievous but endearing, like a labrador puppy. Unfortunately, he turns out more like a grumpy, yappy, old chihuahua. Did you know they eat dogs in China? Fine country, that.

NUMBER 3: Francis from The Swiss Family Robinson
Oy, what can I say about Francis? If I were marooned on an island with him, I'd resort to cannibalism on the second day. The sniveling snot never listens to his parents, and how could anyone ignore Mother and Father? Father builds an intricate collection of tree rooms--skylights included--and Mother maintains elegance and ingenuity amidst desperate circumstances. Francis doesn't care about them. Francis is more concerned with catching his precious tiger and setting off coconut bombs near his loved ones. Is it too much to ask that the tiger capture Francis in the end? How 'bout it, Disney? The boy obsessed with imprisoning the cat is instead ensnared by the very tiger he hunts. Food for thought (and food for the tiger.)

NUMBER 2: Young Anakin from Star Wars: Episode I
"Folks, we at the Hat are pleased as punch to present to you today an exclusive interview with ten-year-old Anakin Skywalker, future terror of the galaxies and hero of evil. Before we begin, Ani--may I call you Ani?-- let's test that mic of yours. How's it doing?"

"It's working! It's wooooorking!"

"Great! I'm pleased to see the youth of today so enthusiastic about sound design, even if those youth eventually succumb to the seduction of the dark side. Now, let's jump right into it, as I'm sure our listeners are eager to hear the tale of Darth Vader's early days. Anakin, it is said that the Force has always been strong in your family. In fact, a recent test of your midichlorians (Force-wielding potential, in layman's terms) revealed off-the-chart numbers. Do you consider yourself truly gifted in Force-having, or is it possible the testing instrument is off base here?

"It's working! It's wooooorking!"

"Just as I always suspected. Not only do you believe in that "ancient religion," as Admiral Motti future calls it, you also strongly trust in your own talent. But tell me, young Skywalker, do you believe the future of the galaxy should rest in the hands of the Galactic Senate, or is it more appropriate for one man, say an unsightly, grotesquely wrinkled emperor with an electrifying personality [chuckles] to rule all from a swivel chair? In short, do you believe the senate is fine as is?"

"It's working! It's wooooorking!"

"Mmhmm. Well. [shuffles papers] I'll be interested to see how your views on this subject shift in the coming years. Switching gears for the fashion conscious in our audience, would you say that black is the signature color of the dark side, or will you wear it for its slimming effects? Will you ever consider wearing, say, sunshine yellow for comic irony?"

"It's working! It's wooooorking!"

"That doesn't really answer my...but well... [clears throat] Ok, Anakin, what about male pattern baldness? Does it run in your family?"

"It's working! It's wooooorking!"

"What about Jedi mind-tricking officers of the law? Is there an ethical dilemma here or is it a simple matter of survival of the fittest? That's a Darwinian term, by the way. You'll learn it a long time from now in a galaxy far, far away."

"It's working! It's wooooorking!"

[rubs temples] "You are the future lord of the dark side. Do you have anything at all to tell us about your troubled past, about what drives you to evil?

"It's wor..."

"Pack it up, Gary! We're done here."

NUMBER 1: The kid from Shane
I cannot remember the plot from Shane. I only remember the main character's name because it's also the movie title, oh, and because the little boy whineyells "SHAAAAAAAAANE" in a piercing falsetto every thirty seconds. That sound--it is painfully seared on my memory. "Shaaaaaaane! SHAAAAAAANE!" If I remember my facts right (and there's a good chance that I don't), Shane defends the little boy and his mother (and father?) from the bad guys in the end of the movie. Shane wins, but he is mortally wounded. In a final act of bravery (or so we are to believe), Shane puts on a happy face for the family but then rides off into the night to die alone. I theorize that Shane is just faking it to get away from the kid. As he rides away, however, the little boy runs after him calling, "Shaaaaaaane! SHAAAAAAANE!" as though it's not enough that the man has already taken bullets that day. One thing I know for certain: Shane did not go gently into that good night.

So there you have the top 5 most annoying child characters in movies ever. Do you agree? Did I miss any? Do you find these five endearing? If so, do you promise to get a vasectomy/tie your tubes?

Discuss.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Story of I Love You

I awoke to a sunny Saturday morning (the last 15 minutes of morning) on September 16, 2006, looking forward to the day ahead of me. We were three weeks into football season, and it was the first football season I had spent with Jonny. I confess that I was less than enthusiastic about watching the game that day, but I was excited about spending time with my beau of two months, getting together with friends, drinking tea, listening to Corman and Jonny's rants, maybe ordering pizza for dinner - everything about watching football except for the actual football. Oh, how far I've come since then.

I brushed my teeth, threw my hair into a ponytail, donned the old standby sweats, and headed out the door. Five minutes later I was at Jonny's house drinking tea, listening to rants, and talking about getting pizza for dinner. Hopes were high going into the game. Notre Dame had demolished Penn State the week before, and now the Irish were ranked #2 in the country. Jonny had been talking about the team's prospects for months.

Then the game started, and it all went to pot.

Michigan intercepted on the second play of the game. David Grimes fumbled a kickoff return. Mario Manningham embarrassed the Irish secondary again and again. The score was 34-7 Michigan at the half, dashing my poor boyfriend's high hopes.

Before that day, I didn't really understand Jonny's relationship with Notre Dame. I had heard stories about Jonny's behavior during important games, how he'd stand up and pace and shake his numb hands, unable to sit down or work the remote. I had seen the memorabilia across his walls and the ND dominance in his wardrobe. I've told you before that even in the first month we dated he stopped mid-kiss, mid-kiss, to talk about ND's recruiting.

My basic thesis here is that I knew my boyfriend was a huge fan, but I had no idea what "huge fan" meant. I also had no idea that one loss can ruin a season. I had grown up watching baseball, for heaven's sake.

When the first half of the ND-Michigan game closed, I perceived the shift in the room. The sun no longer shone. The tea had cooled. The church bells all were broken. My boyfriend's heart had burst. The second half started, and Michigan stuck a few lit BlackCats in Jonny's remaining heart shards until the pieces burst into even smaller pieces. Then they put the coronary debris in a meat grinder and turned the crank. Then they added mayonnaise and a pinch of salt, spread it on bread, and ate it.

Mercifully, the game ended, and my poor, downcast, dejected boyfriend headed out the door to go to work. He didn't usually work on Saturdays, so those weekend hours at the pizza place added extra salt to his wound. ("Mmm, this savory heart sandwich is delicious." -Jonny's boss)

In those days, any entrance or exit of the premises, be it just to check the mail or sit on the porch, merited a hearty bit of necking at the threshold. On that day, Jonny barely managed a wave and a "See you later." I watched him shuffle to his Jeep in the driveway. He opened the Wrangler door, stood for a moment, sounded a barbaric yawp, and hot-footed it back to me in the foyer with a CD in his hand. He had just found his Jeff Buckley album, Grace, trampled on the floor. It had slipped out of its case and was scratched beyond repair. Jonny was done.

He entered the house in bridled fury, I'll give him that, but he couldn't suppress his disappointment. There is no need for me to repeat with precision what happened next. Like Mark Twain, I will close the curtain of charity over the details. The pent up rage in Jonny seeped out, and, friends, it was ugly. He didn't direct it at me, don't misunderstand me, but he let it out near me.

I scolded him.

He gave me an icy goodbye and shut the door.

He left the house seething. I have a terrible day and she tears into me! How could she?
I left the house seething. He can't even handle a stupid game! How could he?

I drove back to my house with clenched lips. I was furious with him at first, and as I always do when I'm too angry, I continued to argue with him in my head. I always triumph in head arguments, by the way. My enemies cannot hope to stand against me in my head. Also, comebacks come to me in droves three or four days after a good argument, so watch your back if you happen to be in my mind the week following a spat.

Anyway, I was furious at first, but inexplicably and against my will, my heart softened within a half hour. The anger dissipated, leaving me with an overwhelming desire to soothe. I just wanted to hold the man. Since he was at work and I had the whole day ahead of me, I took the time to make myself pretty. I put on makeup (gasp!) and picked out clothes that matched (gasp!), and my pants weren't sweatpants (triple gasp!). I bombshelled myself and then set out that evening with purpose in my step. I was going to replace that CD, and I was going to stop at the pizza place at closing time to give it to him. I was going to be the best girlfriend ever.

I stopped at one store; they didn't have it. I asked them to call their other store; they didn't have it either. Fine. I'll go somewhere else.

I left the store knowing that the nearest place that might have it would be closing in twenty minutes, and it would take me fifteen minutes to get there. As I sped down Nicholasville Rd. praying that I would make the lights, I held yet another head conversation, this time me vs. myself.

"Emily, why are you so giddy?"
"I don't know."
"Really? You don't know?"
"Well, I suppose...no it's stupid. It's just that he was being so unreasonable today that now I find it a delight to lift his spirits."
"Yeah, but why are you smiling from ear to ear in this car by yourself?"
"Because I love him."
"Holy crap, did you just say that?"
"Not really, no, this is all in your head."

While waiting for the light to change at the intersection of Nicholasville Rd. and N. Main St., I realized with clarity and finality that I loved the man. It was a lightning bolt decision, and I don't make lightning bolt decisions. I make rub-a-few-sticks-together-and-gather-small-bits-of-tinder-till-you-see-a-little-smoke-then-add-more-tinder decisions. Also, I call love a decision because it is one, even though there's a great bit of revelation in there with it. I loved Jonny, and I knew it was true because I loved him in an ugly moment. I loved him in his petulance. I found that my strongest desire was to show him grace; what little there was to forgive I longed to reconcile and forget.

I made it to the store in time to hear "Goodnight, Sweetheart" on the loud speakers, and I snatched up that CD. It was a race again on Nicholasville Rd., this time to get to the pizza place before Jonny left it. I caught him just in time, and the first thing he said was, "I'm sorry." We hugged a sweet, tight, all-is-well hug.

I gave Jonny the CD with glee.

"I can't believe it," he said. "Why did you do this?"

I knew exactly why I did it, and he had miraculously lobbed me an easy question with a now easy answer.

"Because...because..." I shrugged my shoulders.

I have never been more ashamed of my cowardice. He had given me the perfect moment to tell him that I loved him, but I lost my nerve. I cursed my yeller innards.

He closed the place up, and we drove our separate cars back to his house. We took our usual places on the couch, and we embraced and talked. How was the rest of your day? What should we do tomorrow? Aren't we fun? We talked for awhile, and then the conversation grew thin. We looked at each other; we kissed occasionally. The lightning bolt that had struck me a few hours before seemed to have left a charge in the air, and we both knew that our conversation had now become about what we weren't saying. Then the silence hit. We lay on that couch and stared at each other for minutes on end. Minutes of silent staring, I say. People, that gets intense. I knew instinctively that he was thinking about saying it, so I tried to pysche myself into saying it first, thereby winning. Except I was a fraidy-cat. Then he started to shake, and I knew it was imminent. Jonny cannot keep himself from trembling during important moments. I have told you before that his hands shook so much during our wedding that he had trouble putting the ring on my finger. I love this about him. It's as though he feels too much to contain his emotion; hiding it is impossible.

On September 16, 2006, he shook for one solid minute, took a sharp, quick breath, held it for a second, and exhaled, "I love you."

"I love you too."

It was my turn that day to give Jonny grace, and he has given it to me thousands of times both before and since then. I have been selfish, childish, rude, and lazy, yet he has forgiven me again and again and again and again. He is sweet and gentle, kind and honest. When he has something to say, he sits me down and says it quickly. Then it's done, and it's done forever. Grace has defined our love, so it's only natural that our love began with grace, even Jeff Buckley's Grace.

We've said I love you thousands of times since then, but we've also said a few I like yous, some I was wrongs, a couple of you're driving me crazies, hundreds of I'm sorrys, and an every other day I think you're hot. Most of all, we've said Lord help us. Help us treat each other with respect, dignity, kindness, and gentleness. Help us stay faithful to one another. Help us love each other as you love us.

By grace and grace alone, we'll repeat "I love you" for the rest of our lives.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Lay of the Land

I learned to drive in Kentucky, you know, on those winding roads about as wide as your average egg noodle, where the denizens of the Bluegrass kindly nudged me along from about an inch behind my bumper. A mile or two later, when the road curved sharply left at the top of a hill, they'd blitzkrieg by me in a blaze of glory, a trail of empty Coors Light cans in their wake. I miss home.

College in Indiana afforded me a new view of the driving world. Somewhere between Indiana-26 and Indiana-18 lay the only three hills in the state. There, college students occasionally took breaks from their cloves and Moldy Peaches to ride crazy on Devil's Backbone, the lone lane stretching over the Hoosiers' three hills. I can only assume that those daring captains of adventure who christened Devil's Backbone envisioned Beelzebub as some kind of overgrown nightcrawler, fearsome as a baby meerkat and tougher than a rabbit's resolve.

Devil's Backbone is a straight, two-lane road with some gently sloping hills. That's it. Amazingly, that didn't stop my hallmates running into my room with eyes popped and breath fast.

"So-and-so-has-a-minivan-so-like-twelve-of-us-are-going-on-a-backbone-run-do-you-wanna-come?!" they'd say.

"Uh, not today, thanks. I got all my thrillsies on those deathtrap teacups at Disney back in '87."

Then the road opened unto me in California, and lo, there was much to fear. I can sum it up with this: at least once a week I'd merge onto the 101 from Hollywood Blvd, slamming the accelerator to reach traffic speed. From there, I'd have 3/4 of a mile to cross five lanes of traffic, which miraculously was both bumper-to-bumper and 70 mph. A few heart attacks later, I'd finally exit to Barham Blvd, and from there it was a straight shot to church. In L.A., no one lets you in, by the way. You're not getting a wave and a smile just because you turn on your blinker. Oh no. You have to grit your teeth, swerve in front, cut off, and butt in if you expect to get anywhere and/or survive.

Now Oregon. Oh Oregon.

A little over a month ago I finally got my Oregon driver's license, and never have I been more ashamed to have my name associated with a group of people. (And this is coming from someone who once captained an academic team.) I learned a few new driving rules during my test, though, and I'd like to share them with you now.

Oregon Driving Rules
  1. The speed limit is a suggested speed only. Should you think 50 mph a bit reckless for a six lane highway, please slow down and move into the left lane. There, you will be in the company of many friends.
  2. Stop signs have eight sides to remind you to wait at least eight seconds at every stop.
  3. When turning onto a road, check to see that the coast is clear before making your turn. If it appears clear, check again. Continue checking until you're absolutely sure. By this time, a line of traffic might be making its way toward you. Wait to make sure that the driver in the first car can see the whites of your eyes. Congratulations! Now you may pull out.
  4. When approaching a Right Green Arrow, stop, look both ways, and turn right.
  5. Car accidents don't happen on your commute every day, so be sure to slow down and enjoy the view when you see two drivers exchanging insurance information in the opposite lane.
  6. You know what, Oreganos? You're so used to precipitation that you don't need to turn your lights on if it's raining. Don't even bother.
  7. The Left Arrow. Of all the rules, this rule you must obey without fail, without pause, without exception, without turning to the right or the...uh...follow the rule. If you are waiting in a left turn lane at an intersection and the left arrow turns from red to green, WAIT. Don't go rushing into things here. We at the DMV know you've got conversations to finish, veggie burgers to eat, and staring off into the distance to do before you make that turn. After the arrow switches to green, count to five and then mosey on into the intersection.
Rule #7 baffles me more than anything else about driving in this speed-forsaken land. It's not enough that everyone consistently goes 10 mph below the speed limit (no exaggeration, by the way). No, no, they must also make you wait two rounds at intersections while they stare at the pretty traffic lights. I have a theory that the Green Movement has so deeply overtaken the subconscious of Northwesterners that when the lights turn green the drivers automatically look around their cars for cans to recycle and organic gardens to plant.

My daily commute is teaching me patience; I won't deny that. And it's reminding that if slow drivers comprise my greatest problem, then really, I'm not in too bad a state.