Forget the old saw: Old People Can’t Get Into Their Food. Now nobody can get into anything. It all started with the Tylenol poisonings back in 1982 and has escalated from there. So crazy people, beware. There is no more ease in ‘tampering’ with stuff. If you want to hide yourself in the corner of a drugstore and do something dastardly to some medicine basking on a nearby shelf, you are going to need a hacksaw and a drill, because nowadays everything is protected, from aspirin to flash drives. I bought some face cream the other day and after ten minutes of struggle even with a pair of scissors, had to ask for brawnier help. It took my husband and me another ten minutes to get into a package of which any instructions were made unreadable by our efforts. We tore, cut, ripped and bit our way to success, but if the manufacturer wanted us to know something in particular about the product, it was lost. Plus all this safety in packaging costs extra $$$. And that extra $$$ is passed along to the consumer. And it gets worse. Long gone are the days when you can take an unopened box or bag of anything with you to the beach, hoping you can just rip it open when needed. You need to make a plan of access. You need tools, brawn, time, and energy. Sure it’s safety. And sure, it resonates of today’s security issues. But boy oh boy, I sure would like to open a bottle of Tylenol without being equipped with tools often used for cracking a safe. Just sayin’.
Recently I paid a visit to my local DMV to renew my license. Back in 1986, when we first arrived in California from New York, I took a written test for the privilege of driving a car in the Golden State. Now I had to do it again. I guess every thirty-two years they want me to check in, so back I went. In 1986 when I was a slip of a thing, I didn’t bat an eyelash about taking a written test. The first time I took the test – and it seemed to have dozens of questions then – I passed without studying. This time I was very nervous. Age will do that to you. I actually read the booklet twice. There were only eighteen questions this time and you’re allowed to miss three. I only missed one. More on that later. As a writer, I tend to observe my fellow-man, woman, and wombat. I’m not sure what a wombat is, but if one was hanging around, I would observe it. All fodder for the writing, doncha know. So that morning, as I hustled through the many plateaus of renewing my license, I observed like the dickens. First off, probably over a thousand people pass through those doors daily. It is unbelievably well-ordered, organized chaos. But it works. Most of the people waiting didn’t have an appointment. Make note of that. If you go, have an appointment. Otherwise, you’re doomed to wait in line for hours. As I had an appointment, I can’t say I breezed through but very nearly. But appointment or not, everyone was treated well. The personnel was kind, patient and caring. Every last one of them. And it surprised me because whether you had an appointment or not, something happens to homo sapiens when crossing that threshold. We…
Folk-Lore is a wonderful thing. I always thought I was half Italian, a quarter Irish, and the rest was a mish-mash of good ol’ American. In my mind, being a quarter Irish answered a lot. After all, didn’t I have a grandmother whose maiden name was Margaret MacLaughlin? Didn’t I look good in Emerald green? Didn’t I believe in the wee people? I don’t think we need mention my fiery temper. Underneath this Claroil blond lives the soul of a redhead. But not much of my preconceived notions were true, and there’s the downside of doing your DNA. Yes, I am half Italian and I still look good in Emerald green. And my grandmother’s name is the same. Only the quarter is Scots, not Irish. Hoot man, I can live with that. Pass the haggis and hand me a kilt. But the truth? I so loved being Irish. The culture appeals to my sense of whimsy. Ireland has a charm all its own. I even hoped one day to go back to the ‘old country’ and find distant relatives. But maybe I’ll paddle my canoe from Africa to Tahiti because Ancestry dot com also said I was 1% Polynesian Princess. Alright, I threw in the princess part, because if I can’t be Irish being a princess makes up for it. But only a little.
And I’m here to tell you it’s a little like a ride at Disneyland, a 45-minute wait, five-minute ride, but not nearly as much fun. At this point, it takes two people to drive a self-driven car, one to sit behind the wheel and the other in the passenger seat, staring at a monitor to key in the route on a keyboard. Driver two has to pay attention to any variable that might get thrown at the little darling. Like a pedestrian or stray dog wandering nearby. As a ‘level-three’ car, it doesn’t do u-turns yet. The person behind the wheel has to do that. However, it does go forward, albeit at 19-miles an hour. I’m not sure if it backs up. We never saw that. But it will stop at stop signs. Where we live there aren’t any stoplights, which is a good thing, because it doesn’t do stop lights, either. But it is very cute, and if you need to feel smug about your own driving ability, this is the car for you to investigate. It seems like all the things a driver automatically does has to be keyed into the computer. Apparently, we are able to do a gazillion things at one time, even the worst driver among us, but it’s all in the future for these little self-driven love bugs. Altho, despair not. If you are under 40, the reliable self-driven car, which is ‘level-four’ and capable of city driving, might just be in your future. As I am somewhat older, it probably isn’t in mine. And it’s just as well. I prefer Disneyland.