Column: Maybe I should just hire a chauffeur

by |
01/12/2011 4:11 PM |

So there I was in my car in front of a local restaurant, having just picked up a to-go order for the Mrs. She works late on Fridays and you think I’m cooking on a Friday? For-get-it.

With my little sedan pulled in tight behind a huge pickup, had to back up a mite. Was just beginning to move when something suddenly flashed across the rearview mirror. ’Twas a young woman, now standing on the sidewalk, bent toward my back window with her arms up in the universal “What the heck?” gesture. OK, it’s not really “heck,” but you get the point.

For a split second, I felt apologetic, but then realized I’m in the car, I can’t see her but she can see me. Why should I apologize when someone steps behind a moving vehicle without looking?

Which is my point entirely. I must have missed the e-mail or Facebook posting or Tweet or whatever delivering the news that the old standard “look both ways” warning has been superseded by, “Oh, hell, walk wherever you damn well feel like and pay absolutely no attention to moving vehicles.”

The prospect of a wind-driven empty shopping cart slamming into my car at ramming speed is no longer the main cause of supermarket parking lot angst. I white-knuckle it down the row, fearing a close encounter of the first kind with another shopper. It’s like driving past the woods at night when the deer are in rut.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people cross at an angle right in front of me, their backs to me, seemingly oblivious to the prospect of my running them down. Can’t repeat here what I say then.

I’m not crazy, right? I mean, it’s not just me, is it?

It’s not like I race through town, tires squealing with squirrels and rabbits running for their furry little lives. Quite the opposite, if there’s anything to my reputation. When my son needs a ride to the train in Ronkonkoma, the pre-departure conversation goes like this:

Me: Ready to go?
He: Sure. Gimme the keys.
Me: What? Why?
He: Because if you drive, we won’t get there ’til spring.
Me: Son, safe driving is no accident.
He: Just gimme the keys, will ya?
Me: Fine, but I’m in charge of the radio.
He: No, you’re not.

Maybe it’s an American thing. When coming to a yellow light while driving through Frankfurt some years back, I reacted as would any red-blooded American — gunned it to get through. Funny people, those Germans, they actually expect you to slow down. That’s the message I took from an older gent walking by who pointed to the light and shook his head in an unspoken rebuke. I stewed over that later on the Autobahn as huge Beemers in a line passed me like a Japanese bullet train.

During a later trip to Ireland, me and Mrs. stopped in Waterford, and after touring the crystal factory took a walking tour of the city. Standing outside a ruined church, our guide warned, “Get up on the sidewalk unless you want an ass full of radiator.”
Ah, they don’t call it the land of saints and poets for nothing.

An indelicate admonishment, to be sure, and yet there’s wisdom in it. At any moment a car’s likely to come careening around the corner of what appears to a quiet little lane, and on the lefthand side to boot. Later in the trip, as we walked up to a busy intersection in Dublin, we noticed curious writing on the sidewalk. Not “Seamus loves Siobhán.” In rather tall white letters was

the simple message “Look right.”

And then when I was in Paris … OK, I’ve got no anecdote here. Just like the sound of “when I was in Paris.”

OK, back to the reality of the snow-covered North Fork, where I’m the bad guy because a lady walked behind my car just as I was backing up an inch or two.

Now if I was late with food gone cold because I had to explain to a hungry Mrs. how I had to explain to a patrolman how I tapped someone with my bumper, THAT would be bad.

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Comments

comments

67 Comment

  • Just what did the Mrs. order this time?

  • Very funny and very true….Happens all the time, try backing up at Tanger!

  • “We moved here to get away from that type of sprawl.” Well, let me say this. If you and the rest of the people who “moved here to get away from that type of sprawl” stayed where you came from, the area that you moved to wouldn’t be as crowded because all of you who “moved here to get away from that type of sprawl” wouldn’t be here to aggravate those who need the services that the developers bring to our community. So please do us locals a favor and move back because the sprawl is beginning to sprout.

  • “We moved here to get away from that type of sprawl.” Well, let me say this. If you and the rest of the people who “moved here to get away from that type of sprawl” stayed where you came from, the area that you moved to wouldn’t be as crowded because all of you who “moved here to get away from that type of sprawl” wouldn’t be here to aggravate those who need the services that the developers bring to our community. So please do us locals a favor and move back because the sprawl is beginning to sprout.

  • Thanks for your comments.I am a Southold native that lived in the city because my parents decided to live there. I have never forgotten my roots, my family and friends here so I moved to Riverhead town and reunited with loved ones 12 years ago.I am deeply committed to saving what’s left. If any of these developers projects would provide decent paying jobs for our residents they would not meet the opposition of local community groups. Do you think you could make it on the wages paid by a catering hall, another CVS store or whatever else “services” that developers bring to our community. The only entities that profit from these “services” are the developers,their attorneys and the elected officials who agree to zoning changes to accommodate the aforementioned and insure their contributions to keep them in office. Please do us a favor and wake up, before the beauty of our native area is no more.

    i have never forgotten my roo

  • )) Mr. Walter said his fear about calling for a moratorium is that it could end up in court, where approvals could be granted by a judge with no town input.

    My fear is Riverhead will fail to act because it is afraid.