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Weekly Wrap: Creative Writers, Creative Drivers

by Susan Henderson on February 15, 2008

I asked Mr. Henderson how he would characterize my driving, and he said, “Timid… to the point of being unsafe.” My back-seat driving, on the other hand is all confidence!

I was surprised to learn that most of you who answered this week’s driving question characterize yourselves as bad, distracted, or exceptionally cautious drivers. I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t that. I dislike driving for two main reasons: My head likes to wander, so I find the whole experience of remembering where you’re going and reading signs and knowing which lane to be in incompatible with daydreaming. And I find being strapped in and forced to keep my hands on the wheel incompatible with being a restless workaholic.

I’ll tell you a little driving story, but first let me tell you where I’m giving a reading this weekend:

Saturday, Feb 16th, 12-3pm – The Bowery Poetry Club – $10
308 Bowery, New York, NY 10012
212.614.0505

The club is right across from CBGB’s, at the foot of First Street, between Houston & Bleecker. (That’s the F train to Second Ave, or the 6 train to Bleecker.) If it looks long and expensive to you, well, hey, I was thinking the same thing. But I hope some of you come down and keep me company while my hands and voice shake at the microphone.

The reading is called: Paper Dolls: Live Lady Essayists, and I’ll be reading with Kim Brittingham, Heather Maidat, Carol J. Clouse, and Shoaleh Teymour.

*

Okay, here’s a little driving story. I’ll call it, The Fog Storm.

When I was fresh out of graduate school, I answered an ad for a counselor in a group home. I was just right for the job. The trouble was getting there. I’m not good with directions, so Mr. H and I did a practice run and it was pretty far away.

I have some unusual phobias related to driving, but most seem to go away if I just close my eyes. For example, I can navigate a tunnel better with my eyes closed because that keeps me from overcorrecting and hyperventilating about hitting the wall.

I felt confident in my get-the-job outfit. I am a great interviewee and I knew I’d land the job if I could just find the building. I started early, didn’t want to be rushed, didn’t want to get anything wrong. And since it was raining, I wanted extra time to perhaps blow dry my hair in a bathroom before my appointment.

What I was unprepared for was the fog storm. By the time I got on the highway, the fog became so bad it was like driving inside a thick white cloud. I couldn’t see if I was in my lane, much less see exit signs. I slowed to under 20 MPH. The amazing thing, and what made me so angry about the selfishness and impatience of other drivers, was that other cars whizzed by, despite the weather and the danger it could cause.

Somehow, though I have no memory how I did it, I found my way to an exit and pulled into a 7-Eleven parking lot. I was in a terrible mood because I didn’t know how I’d get to the interview on time (and I am never late to anything). I was mad at the weather and mad that I’d pulled off the road and was no longer able to follow the simple directions Mr. Henderson had written down for me.

I called him from a phone booth, described the fog storm, told him there was no way I could go back out there. In fact, I admitted, just before I called him, I’d called the person I planned to interview with and explained that the drive was just too far and I was sorry for any inconvenience I caused. “Are you still there?”

“Mhmm.”

“Good. You weren’t saying anything. I’m so embarrassed about the whole thing. I’d rather have told them after they offered me the job. Now here’s the pesky part,” I said. “Kind of a favor.”

More quiet, so I proceeded.

“I need you to come and get me so I can follow you home.” And before he could fuss, I said, “Please don’t be mad at me. I can’t help the weather.”

Mr. Henderson listened carefully, continued his silence a while longer, then calmly asked, “How is that fog storm now?”

I looked around, and can you believe, it was gone. “It’s gone,” I told him.

“Remind me to show you where the defrost button is,” he said.

I waited in my car until he found me. Mr. Henderson is one of the kindest, least likely to anger people I know, but he suggested that I just follow him home, and when we got there, to leave him alone for a while.

Unfortunately, the very things that make some people angry, I find hysterical. I rolled up my window so he couldn’t hear me laughing. Do people really know the function of every single button in their cars?

*

Quick but cool announcement for those who don’t hang out in the LitPark Comments section…

My girl, Tish Cohen, has not only had her book, TOWN HOUSE, optioned by Fox 2000, with Pulitzer Prize winning screenwriter Doug Wright (Quills, Memoirs of a Geisha) adapting it to screen, but now…

TOWN HOUSE is on the short-list for the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Book in the region of Canada and the Caribbean. How great is that?!

*

Thanks for those of you who left comments and stories this week. And thank you to this week’s guest: author and director, Bridgett Davis. Those who rock because they linked to LitPark this week: A Mesa de Luz, She Shoots to Conquer, the Cape Cod Times, Holly’s Fight for Justice, and The Inside Cover!

See you Monday with a new question of the week.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Doreen Orion February 14, 2008 at 11:30 pm

Even if I wanted to know the function of all the knobs in my car, I find the little symbol things very confusing. To whit, the little snowflake. I found out recently it’s the a/c button, ie if you’re hot, push it. But, to me, it always seemed to be proclaiming, “Push me when it’s snowing out,” ie, it’s cold, here’s how to get warmer. (Really, what else could a snowflake possibly mean?) Recently, I was driving a friend in my car. It was really cold out, so I pushed the button. We got colder. I kept upping the numbers on the snowflake. We got colder and colder. Finally, she saw what I was doing and explained it to me. She was rather astonished at my ignorance, as I do have an advanced degree and all…

Who knew?

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cungena54 February 15, 2008 at 8:33 am

Hi Susan, your story is hilarious! .I can just imagine you sitting i n that car and laughing like hell.I think those situations even if not funny at the time make life so interesting..
I have copied the venue for your reading on Sat . and will send it to one of my friends in NYC.
Also you mention Doug Wright, is it the same person who adapted “I am My own Wife” from the story of a German Transvestite Charlotte von Mahlsdorf”? I saw the play in 2003 with Jefferson Mays playing the role of Charlotte and also I met the “lady ” herself back in the 90´´s when I visited her Museum.

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Tish Cohen February 15, 2008 at 9:01 am

Your story is too funny. Fog storm indeed.

Thanks, Sue. I actually did a reading last night with one of the finalists in the “Best Book” category (and past Commonwealth Prize Winner), Frances Itani, who read from Remembering the Bones–a seriously good read about a woman who shares the same birthday as the Queen and sets off for Buckingham Palace as one of 99 invited to share in the b-day party. She says her goodbyes to friends and family and sets off for the airport, but accidentally drives off the road before leaving her own remote cul-de-sac. The entire book takes place with Georgie lying at the bottom of a ravine staring up at the sky and trying to keep her mind and memories going so she knows she’s alive. It’s brilliant.

And Cungena54, yes, Doug Wright wrote “I am My Own Wife” and won the Pulitzer Prize and a Tony award for it. Was it fabulous? I’d love to see it.

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Kimberly February 15, 2008 at 9:08 am

Yep. Same guy. How lucky can Tish get??? Hooray end of strike! HOORAY!

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Kimberly February 15, 2008 at 9:10 am

Can’t… stop… laughing…

Will try to be there tomorrow to share a beer and a giggle! Where are you on the program? I have to be in Brooklyn at 1:00pm, but will try very hard to make it to BPC afterward.

p.s. CBGB is gone now. Sigh.

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Carolyn_Burns_Bass February 15, 2008 at 9:37 am

Oh, Sue, that’s so rare. We all have those moments–even the most confident of drivers. It was just over a year ago when I did this.

Another shout out to Tish from the land of a thousand freeways.

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Betsy February 15, 2008 at 10:08 am

Oh my god, this reminds me of a story years ago – a friend’s mother had a panic attack in the shower, screaming “I’m blind! I’m blind!” Turned out she’d forgotten her glasses were on and they were fogged up.

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Tish Cohen February 15, 2008 at 10:55 am

Carolyn, that’s hilarious. Though I blame the anti-theft device – how were you to know? And I blame the anti-foggin up button in Susan’s case.

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Carolyn_Burns_Bass February 15, 2008 at 11:01 am

I can’t make the post go away, but the stupid auto-reply message is gone.

Sorry…

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lance_reynald February 15, 2008 at 11:48 am

(wondertwins, again!)

add “nightblind” to the mix and you have exactly why I’m better off on the trains.

xo.

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jessicaK February 15, 2008 at 1:04 pm

Congratulations, Tish! and to you, Susan, for landing the right husband. What a gem. Let us know how the reading went.

Meanwhile, these driving/sudden blindness stories remind me of Chicken Little’s falling sky.

Jessica

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Gail Siegel February 15, 2008 at 1:52 pm

Yikes! I needed a laugh today. Thank you, Susan. Also Betsy — that shower story is great.

And Tish, wow!

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cungena54 February 15, 2008 at 3:50 pm

Yes “I Am myOwn Wife was fabulous.I saw it on Broadway in 2003.I knew Jefferson Mays received aTony but not Doug Wright.

It has also been performed here in Berlin in a slight different way as apparently there were story and copyright issues with Doug Wright and the German production. This play can only be performed by supurb actors and the German guy was good also.
Hope you can see it some time in the future.

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SusanHenderson February 15, 2008 at 4:39 pm

Interesting, all this talk about Doug Wright. The big play everyone’s seeing around here lately is MacBeth with Patrick Stewart in it.

Tish, is the movie in process at all? Any casting gossip?

Doreen, hi, and welcome. (Doreen has a great site worth checking out, if you have the time.) Wondertwin, high fives for night blindness! Kimberly, I’m so glad you’re coming to the reading! When have you ever seen me drink a beer?! Is noon too early for scotch? Liane, if your friend goes to the reading, make sure she introduces herself! Carolyn, did you mean to post your cell on my blog? It’s just ’cause I know Tish has a real history of making prank calls. Betsy, Jess and Gail: smooch! (Betsy – did you see James Spring’s blog today? He says you’re such a great writer it makes him angry.)

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JamesRSpring February 15, 2008 at 6:12 pm

Congrats, Tish. That is swell. Sorry I’m tardy to The Park. As Susan alluded, that lousy Betsy Crane has kept me up late reading.

Susan, your story illustrates why Mr. H is right for you. And why I am not. I’m the opposite of patient. You watch, when my wife finally succeeds in murdering me, the jury will call it a justifiable homicide.

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Betsy February 15, 2008 at 7:06 pm

I did. I love James Spring. He already sold me a bunch of books.
Smooch to you.

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Kimberly February 15, 2008 at 10:04 pm

I’m dying to see that new MacBeth!!!

I don’t think noon is too early for scotch – after all, it will already be 6:00pm in London by that time… 🙂 I’ll rush over from my appt. I hope they save you for last so I can hear you read! You’re not going to have to wax anyone’s legs again, are you? Or more appropriately, I’m not going to have to wax YOURS, am I???

Maybe I’ll pack my camera and muslin strips, just in case…

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patry February 16, 2008 at 12:56 am

Yay, Tish! (LOVE that photo!)

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Carolyn_Burns_Bass February 16, 2008 at 11:49 am

I am going to see if I can delete that stupid away message above. For some reason, it auto generated through Disqus. If that annoying post below doesn’t disappear from my attempt, Terry, can you make it go away? (I really wasn’t trying to post my mobile number to the world.) Sorry.

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Aurelio February 16, 2008 at 6:54 pm

“I have some unusual phobias related to driving, but most seem to go away if I just close my eyes.”

OMG…

“Remind me to show you where the defrost button is,” he said.

LMAO

“Do people really know the function of every single button in their cars?”

Holy cow, Susan. Your tale was scary and hilarious, and I’ve written myself a note to NEVER ride with you.
___________

And Tish, hey, spectacular news! Big congratulations!

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Ted February 17, 2008 at 9:51 am

Hilarious story. I read with trepidation because I experienced just this episode on I 80- when I was in college. I didn’t know whether to stop( afraid I would be rammed from behind) or keep going to find cars at a standstill in front. Very scary feeling. Patry has had similar car experiences in the past. Guess who she called?
Congrads Tish!

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Sbain February 17, 2008 at 4:03 pm

I love, Susan, that you are willing to share that story. Thank you for making me laugh so hard today.

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SusanHenderson February 17, 2008 at 5:35 pm

You all are making Mr. H feel much too smug about his role in this story!

So glad for your notes, Sarah, Ted, Aurelio, Patry, and even James.

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K. Cutter February 17, 2008 at 8:36 pm

Great story, Susan. I used to make my husband take me on practice drives too. My latest car fear is reverse angle parking, which I have to do at my son’s school. I can reverse park, but there’s something about that angle that trips me up, not to mention I’ve never even seen this kind of parking before. I park miles away (and make everyone run to class) just to avoid it.

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