Archive for the ‘driving’ Category

A friend’s twee the other day reminded me of this story which has appeared here before, but due to my having lost everything on my blog last year, I had to reconstruct it.  Enjoy!


I had no idea on that early Monday morning, so many years ago, that I was listening to a story that would stay with me for many, many years – a story that I would tell over and over again – a story that I would use to teach others, as it had taught me.

The bell rang for first period and we all headed for class.  Mr. Kennealy usually arrived early to let us in as we waited outside the door but this morning was different.  He had left the door open but he wasn’t in the classroom.  We all went in and took our seats and waited.  The tardy bell rang and he wasn’t there.  A minute later he walked into the classroom.

Mr. Kennealy arrived without his usual smile.  He had a somber look on his face, too somber even for a Monday morning at 8 AM.  Instead of his usual social studies lesson and a test we were supposed to take, he started talking about a motorcycle ride he had taken the day before.  Mr. Kennealy explained that a few years previously, he had bought a motorcycle that he rode on weekends.  He talked about how he needed to get out in the open air and feel the wind in his face and all that horsepower under his control.  He explained that after a long week of teaching and coaching and parenting, he needed an outlet.  His motorcycle was this outlet.  On his motorcycle, he felt free and unrestrained.  He felt that he could forget all responsibility and think only about being alone.  His motorcycle rides had become a cherished and anticipated activity that he couldn’t do without.

While riding along in the mountains on that  quiet Sunday morning, with no traffic in either direction, he came upon a sign that warned of a “STOP 150 Feet Ahead.”  He thought about it.  Clearly there was no traffic so why should he stop?  He repeated for us the internal dialog he had:  “Why should I stop just because the sign says that I have to?  I know it’s the law but laws are made to protect us from others and from ourselves.  I know that the stop sign is to protect me and others from colliding into each other.  I know this road and I have been on it a million times and there has never been anyone else on it, especially on that part of the road, so there isn’t anything to protect me or others from.  The law should be null and void.”

As he spoke to us, he paced back and forth across the front of the room, looking either down at the floor or up at the ceiling, as if in a trance.  He spoke in a quiet voice and we all sat as still as possible so we wouldn’t miss a word.  We sensed that Mr. Kennealy had something important to tell us.  He gave us examples of what would happen if everyone took it upon themselves to ignore laws and of how laws were the cornerstone of living in a civilized society.  He also gave us examples of times when laws were abusive and too restrictive; of times when those in power took this power and used it for their own good and not the good of the community.  He spoke of free will and our right to exercise that free will.  He spoke of our duty to speak out against abuse by the government.

Mr. Kennealy went on: “I should not feel restricted by the stop sign just because I am supposed to stop.  I debated about whether to stop or not, taking both the pro and con sides.  After much deliberation, I decided that when I got to that stop sign I was not going to stop.  I was going to exercise my free will and indulge my need for total freedom and lack of restriction on this wonderfully liberating motorcycle ride I was on.”

By now the entire period was just about over.  We had seconds before the bell rang and we still didn’t known what he had done.  The bell rang and he was still talking but hadn’t come to any end or resolution.  He dismissed us but not one of us moved.  We asked him what he had done when he got to the stop sign.  He looked at the floor and in almost a whisper he said, “I stopped.”

We loved the story, but I think most of us were rather surprised that this very rebellious philosopher had gone against what he really wanted to do.  I have thought about it and told the story many times.  I have also used it, with some of my own editorial comments, to show how people have the free will to do the right thing or not.

Over the years I have run in to people that were in that class on that day and they all remember it. That says a lot.

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I grew up without exposure to a lot of things: books, music (other than the mariachi music my parents listened to), art, theater, etc.    Until college, I had never been to the symphony, other than a field trip to the Young People’s Symphony when I was in sixth grade.  I had never been to any plays other than school plays.  I had never been to a concert of any kind.  I had never been to the ballet.

When I had my own kids, I wanted to expose them to as much culture as I could.  However, this proved to be difficult with three kids spread eight years apart.  I didn’t have a babysitter for them and their dad worked late almost every night.  He wasn’t one to go to plays or the theater so we couldn’t do it as a family.  I actually took the kids to a lot more cultural activities  after my divorce than I did before.

When my oldest daughter was about twelve, she wanted to go to see The Nutcracker.  I thought it was a good idea and so I got tickets for the three kids and myself to go.  Once I had the tickets, the other two kids didn’t want to go and Tina wanted to take a friend.  She picked one of my friends, Lori, to go with us.

After weeks of excitement, the night arrived and off we went to the Pasadena Civic Auditorium to see the Bolshoi  Ballet perform The Nutcracker.  It was cold and wet and dark as we headed south on the Glendale Freeway and merged onto the 134 East.  That’s when it happened.  My tire blew.  I managed to keep control of the car while on the bridge connected the two freeways but I had to bring the car to a stop and the only place to do so safely, because of my reduced speed, was  ON and island between lanes of traffic merging from the north bound Glendale Freeway to the East bound 134 and the lanes of the 134.  I couldn’t stop any place else.  I had to cross two lanes of traffic to get to the call box as those were the days before most of us regular people had cell phones.  Once the CHP dispatched AAA to the scene, I had to go back across those lanes of traffic to get to the rest of us.  Remember, it was raining so I couldn’t stand out in the rain.  Twenty minutes later, the tow arrived, changed my tire, and we were on our way.

Of course, we were late so we had to sit in the back row until the intermission when we were seated in out third row seats!  I’m not sure how much of the performance I was even aware of as I was still in a bit of shock from our little emergency but I do know that the girls had a great time.  After the ballet, we went to dinner then we were finally able to head home where I could wind down.  It was all worth it though.  I had succeeded in taking the girls out to a cultural event that they really enjoyed.

The things we go through for our kids!

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California Freeways

Freeways are a way of life in a lot of places.  I lived in southern California from 1978 until 2004.  In southern California, we were used to driving everywhere by freeway.  The tangle of freeways can take you north or south; east or west; and in a lot of cases diagonally.  As an example, when I used to go to Target, I would leave my house and get on the 2 Freeway and take it to the  134 and that to the 210 and then reverse it on the way home.  To go to Los Angeles International Airport to pick someone up, I would get on the 2 and take it to the 134 and the 134 to the 5 and then the 5 to the11 and the 11 to the 105 and the 105 to the 405.

Up here in northern California I find it interesting that people think it is too far to drive from Santa Rosa to Sebastopol, a distance of  less than ten miles.  In Los Angeles the closest it was not unusual to drive 20 miles to Target or 30 miles to meet a friend for lunch or coffee.  A lot of families had their kids enrolled in music or dance lessons that required them to drive 40 miles from home several times a week.  It was no big deal.  That is just the way of life there.    Here, if it isn’t next door or down the street, people don’t go or they think more than twice before they do it.

One thing I have noticed between northern and southern California is the “respect” given to the freeway system.  In the northern California area, people refer to the freeway by number or name with nothing before it.  In southern California people refer to freeways by the number or name, but they also include “the” before it.   A drive to Orange County would take you on THE 5.  In northern California a drive to Sacramento would take on you on 5 (no “the” in front of it).  Same freeway.  Same state.  Just a different attitude.  To me, it seems that in southern California  freeways take on the aspect of a person, a character, an entity.  In northern California, it’s just a freeway.

What a difference!

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