She Drives Me Crazy

Three Favorite Essays

Celia Rivenbark

St. Martin's Press

SHE DRIVES ME CRAZY (Chapter One)She Drives Me Crazy (Shaving Time Off the Commute)

My friend Randy is ’bout to lose his religion over his new car.

A good Southern boy, Randy was tickled with his car at first because it (a) has plenty of leg room (b) dual sunroofs and (c) isn’t a Toyota.

Randy’s car is awesome in many regards but it was the state-of-the-art navigation system that sold him.

Who that, you ask? Well, it’s a fab little device that lets you keep your eye on the road while you “talk” to your car. Randy likes to use the system to call people, hands free, or, more often, to command it to play music.

Unfortunately, his car can’t understand Randy’s melodious Southern drawl.

“I don’t know what I’m gonna do,” Randy told me. “I tell it, as plain as I know how, to “Play artist Hall and Oates” and it will come back with this hateful Yankee voice that snaps at me, “I didn’t understand you. So then I say, “I said Hall and Oates, por favor because I’m feeling just a little bit hateful and I might as well be speaking in a furrin language.

“So I say again to the machine, “Play Rich Girl. It’s one of my favorites. I remember the first time I heard it I was in high school and it had been out for a long time but I really liked it because I was actually dating a kinda rich girl at the time and what was her name?…She was really cute but a little taller than my usual girlfriends, ’cause you know I’m cursed in the height department. All the Wagram men are. My Uncle Elvin was short, but he never had any trouble with the women. He liked ’em young with old money. I’ll never forget when his mama, who was a real piece of work, got introduced to his newest woman friend and she was way different from his usual teenyboppers. She must’ve been at least forty-five which was perfect because Elvin was close to fifty. Anyway, Aunt Berle had been sipping cocktails for a couple of hours, and when he introduced his new grown up woman friend to Berle and explained how she owned a highly successful chain of lawn furniture stores, Aunt Berle said, “Well how ’bout that! Usually Elvin goes for young poontang and old money, not old poontang and new money. That boy’s just full of surprises, I reckon. Anywho, I loved that song Rich Girl and had just developed a real hankerin’ to hear it and so I was talking about old times and that Yankee bitch just cut me off!”

Well, as a typical Southerner, Randy may go on just a bit. And it’s possible that he even forgot for a second that he was talking to a machine. You know those people that you describe as “he never met a stranger”? That’s Randy. Except sometimes I want to say a stranger what.

Randy says that his car’s navigation system’s inability to understand his Southern accent means that he arrives everywhere just a little pissed off.

“That crazy Yankee bitch inside my car hears Derek and the Dominos as Death Cab for Cutie,” he said morosely. “I haven’t been this upset since they put me on the prayer chain at church for foot fungus. You know, I just hate when everybody has to know my business. That prayer chain is something to be scared of. The Baptists print the reason for the prayers right there in the bulletin, you know, so I was embarrassed to wear sandals for a very long time.”

Oh, yes, well…

Randy says he gets so upset sometimes that he just pulls over to the shoulder of the interstate and takes a few minutes to cuss out his car.

I told Randy that I was completely sympathetic. And as a member of the pseudojournalistic profession, I plan to investigate this thoroughly and get back to him with the results of my in-depth research and extensive interviews.

Kidding! I haven’t got time for that shit. But I do get it. I told Randy that I have the same problem every time I “tawk” to a phone tree.

I don’t think I’ve ever used directory assistance without a real human having to come on the line to figure out what the hell I’m trying to say.

The computer says, “What listing?” in that clipped tone that indicates you better get it right the first time.

So I say something perfectly normal, taking care to enunciate perfectly: “Ah’d lock da numbah for Bream Baituh’s Worms and Cawfee Shop, puleeeeez,” which any moron should be able to understand, but no!

This is followed by that hateful pause and “Please hold for an operator.”

Randy will, I’m afraid, just have to get used to the fact that the rest of the country tawks funny. They can’t hep they-selves.

He shouldn’t oughta be talking on the phone while driving anyway. Even hands-free devices aren’t safe.

You know what’s even less safe than talking on the phone or even texting or reading the newspaper while driving? Shaving your cootch, that’s what.

Well. You asked.

Florida driver Megan Barnes wins the Lifetime Redneck Achievement Award for her behavior while driving along the Keys on a balmy March day.

Megan decided to multitask, as we all have at one time or another, while she was enroute to a date. But while we’ve all done dumb things like applying eye shadow or mascara at the stop light when we’re running short of time, Megan took the whole grooming-while-driving to new heights. That’s right: She decided that she’d use the drive time to spruce up her love rug.

Unfortunately for Megan, this required more attention than she could safely give such an intimate project so, mid-shave, she slammed into the back of a pickup truck at forty-five miles per hour.

That kinda makes the time you drove with your elbows while eating a Whopper seem downright virtuous, doesn’t it?

I’m trying to remember back to my driver’s education classes, and I swear I don’t remember Mr. Kilpatrick ever coming right out and saying’ “What ever you do, young ladies, do not ever be tempted to trim your hoohah while you’re behind the wheel.” No, I would’ve definitely remembered that, and I’m certain there was no grisly video to watch that showed such behavior.

Ms. Barnes told the investigating officer that she was “on her way to a date and wanted to be ready for the visit.”

Yes, she wanted to look her best. All over. Except, well, I’ve seen Ms. Barnes’ mug shot and she has a face that would stop a clock and raise hell with small watches. I don’t want to sound cruel, but you’d have to be pretty walleyed to even make it as far as her hoohah, bless her heart.

I guess the only thing to be grateful for in this sorry scenario is that Ms. Barnes didn’t try to wax her bidness while driving. Imagine the horror if she’d tossed the used wax strips into the waterway as she cruised toward Key West. Talk about saving the manatees. They might’ve thought those were the pelts of long-lost cousins.

I’ve driven this particular stretch of highway a few times in my life and it’s one of the prettiest drives imaginable: crystal waters, cloudless skies, gorgeous mangroves. Call me crazy but I’ve never been so bored that I decided to drag a sharp blade over my naughties just to have something to do.

In all fairness, Ms. Barnes was smart enough to realize that she couldn’t shave and steer simultaneously so she asked the passenger in the front seat, who happened to be her ex husband, to take the wheel while she got busy. What a guy! How many men do you know who would help their ex get ready for a big date in quite this manner?

And how did that conversation go, you reckon?

“Here, hon, hold the wheel for a few minutes. I’m gonna hook up with Ray-Ray when we hit Long Key and I wanna try to make it look like a lightning bolt!”

Precious Lord.

Not only did Ms. Barnes’ ex agree to take the wheel, but after the wreck, he switched places and tried to take the blame, too.

Unfortunately, his bare chest sold him out. The airbag only deployed on the passenger side and our white knight (OK, actually more of a pawn) had the bruises to prove it.

To nobody’s real surprise, the Florida Highway Patrol quickly discovered that Ms. Barnes didn’t have a valid driver’s license. Oh, and the day before, she’d been convicted of DUI. (Everybody say, “Noooooooo!!!!!”) Oh, and her car had been seized and had no insurance or registration. (It was a Thunderbird, if you were wondering. Yes, she was having fun, fun, fun til the police took her T-bird awaaaaayyy.) Oh, and she was a probationer. Albeit an impeccably groomed one.

I imagine that Megan Barnes’ tale will be legendary in the Keys and beyond for many years to come. And, thanks to her foolishness, there will doubtless be a new warning label on your razors and shaving products. Because every time a dumb ass does something like this, the companies involved feel the need to explain the dangers to prevent possible lawsuits.

Something along the lines of “Warning! Do not attempt to use this razor in the vicinity of your cooter while driving. Failure to use this product in the safety and sanctity of your bathroom will result in unremitting grossness and possible harm to yourself and others.”

Because these warnings must be accompanied by simple drawings that transcend language barriers, it should be one hell of a picture, am I right?

I told this story to Randy to get his mind off his own language problems, but it didn’t help all that much. He’s decided to accept his Aunt Berle’s wisdom on such matters.

“She always says that which does not kill us makes us meaner.”

She’s a feisty one, that Berle.

SHE DRIVES ME CRAZY Copyright © 2011 by Celia Rivenbark.