Opinion: Pet Peeves



By Mark D. Crantz

By Mark D. Crantz

I envisioned my later years to be one of coasting. Ah, you know, retirement, a period of time when you aren’t on the road chasing down dollars. Well, I had it half right. I’m coasting on Coast Highway. But…

There’s not much coasting going on Coast Highway. Stopping on Coast Highway is what it is. Stopping. And stopping. Some more stopping. And then, let’s see, more stopping. I’ve gotten good at stopping. When I pull out of my driveway, I stop. There isn’t even a stop light or stop sign requiring me to stop. But I do it as practice before I get on Coast Highway, where all you do is stop. It’s a brake pad warm-up. You don’t want to get on Coast Highway with cold brake pads. Warm ‘em up.

If ever a highway needed a new name, it’s Coast Highway. All kinds of other stuff goes on Coast Highway. There’s curbing on Coast Highway. There’s landscaping on Coast Highway. There’s sewage repair on Coast Highway. There’s lane painting on Coast Highway. There are pedestrian crossings on Coast Highway. Everything but coasting on Coast Highway.

I’m probably more sensitive than most other drivers. My car is a manual transmission. Most people drive an automatic transmission. My car requires pushing in the clutch and then manually changing gears. There are six gears, seven if you count reverse, which I’ve used more often in desperate attempts to get off of Coast Highway.

I’ve gotten close to my car. We are both stopped so much that we pass the time talking. I’ve given the car a name, Emanual. The manual part is easy to figure out. The “E” before it is my joke that there is nothing electric about this old Porsche. It’s a gas guzzler. And don’t tell Tom Osborne of the Green Light column. Tom is all about being green and environmentally aware. Only Kermit the Frog is greener than Tom. I just know if Emanual and I could just get going a little bit above stopped, we could leave a much smaller carbon tire print. We’ll do better next time, Tom.

It’s my own fault. I fell for all these TV commercials where you see people speeding down the highway of life with the wind blowing in their hair, joy on their faces, and just having a darn good time going to someplace great. That’s not happening to me. I’m stopped on Coast Highway stuck in first gear, holding in the clutch, trying to not think of my leg cramp, while pulling down my baseball cap, praying I don’t get skin cancer on my way to another grocery store other than Gelson’s where I hope the prices are lower, if I can get there faster than inflation. Not like the commercials, right?

I’m still in first gear. I spot a group of teenage girls on the corner of a crosswalk. The crosswalk sign is flashing. I stop. The teenagers are talking to one another. They’re dressed for the beach. The clutch is in. One girl says something to the others. I can’t make it out. It must be funny. Everybody is laughing, but me. I’m getting a leg cramp from the clutch. The girls aren’t crossing. They’re looking at their phones. I tell Emanual to hold on, the crosswalk lights are still flashing. I ask Emanual what could the girls be looking at on their phones. Emanual doesn’t answer because he’s busy sucking down premium gas. I throw the stick to neutral to give my leg a rest. One girl points to her phone and all the girls scrunch down to look at her screen. I think they may be shopping online and filling up their checkout carts. The driver behind me lays on the horn. I mumble to Emanual of our bad luck to have the only California driver paying attention to the road and not grooming, eating or reading a book.

Finally, after what seems like an eternity, the girls wave at a group of teenage boys on the other side. That does the trick. The girls hurry across. I put in the clutch, shift to first and go. Nowhere. It’s bumper to bumper, leaving me now stuck in the middle of a multiple-way crosswalk. The guy behind me exercises his horn again. The girls come back to the multiple-way crosswalk. The boys must have been yucky and stinky, as boys usually are. Their unhappiness spills over at me for blocking their crosswalk escape back. Coast Highway is fun, right?

Crantz tells the Indy that he wonders what 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th gears feel like.

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