Monday, January 15, 2007

Accelerate at the Apex of the Turn (and other things my father taught me)

by Brenda Roger

My father is full of pearls of wisdom. He has a knack for creating “rules” for living. Most of the rules were created in reaction to repeated bad experiences. As a kid, I would just roll my eyes when he was imparting his wisdom upon me. Some time during my mid-twenties, he got a whole lot smarter.

I come from a long line of burly Irish-Catholic union men. When you work a job that is both physically grueling and mentally taxing for over forty years, you develop a unique set of ideas and an equally unique way with words. “Direct” is the best way to sum it up. My uncle once told me that when he leaves a room, people rarely wonder what he meant by what he said. As an aspiring writer, I hope that it runs in the family.

Part of being direct is choosing the right word. Some of the “rules” (my favorites, anyway) involve the word shit. Shit runs downhill is a good one. Then who hasn’t been told as a child to wish in one hand, shit in the other and see which fills up faster? You haven’t? Oh.

If you wanna go, you gotta pay. This seems like a pretty elementary concept, but I encounter people all the time who are expecting something for nothing on both a small and grand scale. I’ve been tempted to say this to everyone from gala committees to handbag customers to my superiors at the museum. Sometimes it is just fun to savor this one for myself and speak through my actions.

A number of the rules relate to driving. That is exactly the way that Dad intended them to be used, however, I find that they make good life rules as well.

Never rely on someone else for your transportation is a rule to live by. I learned this the hard way after a trip to Connecticut that I now refer to as “the good, the bad and the ugly” trip to Connecticut. That is a story for another blog. This particular rule creates a problem when my Dad and I go someplace together because we both want to drive. It reminds me, though, to be as independent as possible and to take initiative when necessary.

You either have a full tank of gas or you need gas. I used find this declaration annoying. My Corolla got thirty-nine miles to the gallon, I worked at home and all of the places that I went regularly were within five miles of my house. A tank of gas lasted weeks in those days. At some point, I became a frantic gas tank monitor and I found myself breathing a satisfying sigh of relief only when I had both cars filled to brim. Dad doesn’t know this, so don’t tell him! This rule is about being prepared and having what you need to get things done.

My favorite driving rule is accelerate at the apex of the turn. Dad taught me to ease off of the gas as you go into to a turn and then nail it at the apex. Try it. It’s a fun way to drive, especially if you have a zippy little car like mine. You also have more control of the car in the process of turning. As I travel through life, I am trying to apply this rule to opportunities that come my way. I try to work consistently and be steady, but then pull out all the stops if an opportunity pops up.

Modern life is very challenging. The life that my husband and I have carved out for ourselves is particularly challenging because it puts us into contact with all sorts of people from one extreme to the other. Something about us makes one segment of the population want to tell us all about their top-notch educations. It is funny that in a sea of people tripping over each other to announce that they went to boarding school and an Ivy League University, my Dad is one of the smartest guys I know.


Nancy said...

Excellent wisdom all, Brenda. My father required all automobiles in his presence to be immaculate--inside and out. It's a metaphor, too, I think.

brenda roger said...

Nancy, That must be a Dad thing. I recently ran my car through the car wash on the way to the funeral home because I didn't want to hear "Brenda Colleen, look at that car".

Tory said...

But, how do you know it's the apex? (More for metaphorical useage than when you can actually see the curve ahead.)

brenda roger said...

Good question, Tory. I think it depends on the situation. Maybe looking for the apex is the message. hmm.

Kristine said...

Your dad is indeed a smart man! You shared some great life lessons in this post. My dad is also a stickler for a clean car...and now so is my husband.