Monday, June 13, 2011


Perhaps it is a highly specialized form of road rage. I don’t actually know! All I know is that I am angry at the guy who picked my pocket on the bus in Athens last week! I should be accustomed to it by now, since it has happened to me twice in the six years I have lived in Athens and once in the two years I lived in Tirana, Albania, before that.

I’m classifying it as a type of road rage because that scum stole my driver’s license. The money, you can have, but my driver’s license??? My credit cards and even my bank card can be replaced; I rarely use them over here. But, my driver’s license??? Surely not! Did you know that the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles will allow one to renew a driver’s license online, but will not permit one to replace a lost or stolen license in this most efficient manner? Oh well, I’ll be standing in line, in person, at a DMV office in the Lone Star state in late October!! I’ll bring along my Kindle and a pillow!

Meanwhile (and this is why I am so angry), my driving privileges have effectively been taken away by the low-life who felt that I should subsidize his unsupportable lifestyle. I remember well when Pop, my father, had his eye surgery, years ago. Before the operation, we called a family council and “announced” to him that, due to his deteriorating eyesight, he must turn-in his keys. You don’t understand. My father was raised in an auto enthroning culture. Born in Mississippi in the twenties, while Henry Ford was building Model T’s and Model A’s and was making them readily available for humble, rural folks like my father and his seven brothers, an automobile was always a not-so-subtle sign of manhood for Pop. When Pop opened his service station, it was just one more step in the beatification of the beautiful, bulbous-fendered, running board equipped American automobile.

When, at the tender age of twelve years old, Pop taught me to drive and when he let me take the family car on dates at age 13, he initiated me into the holy-of-holies and I became an acolyte; pretty soon, I was a devout worshipper. Despite my short stature (so short that I had to sit on my clarinet case to see over the dash board of the 1940 Chevy!), my less-than-velvet complexion and the total absence of biceps where biceps were supposed to be, I was transported around automobiles; I was convinced that this little adult, early-achiever had achieved a near God-like, stud status whenever I slid beneath the steering wheel.

I have been behind the wheel of my own personal vehicle since the I was 15. When no one else had wheels, I had wheels! When others were reduced to begging for a lift, I never had to look for my “ride.” I learned to drive a “stick shift,” “3-on-the –tree” and 4-on-the-floor.” Rear speakers were more sacred to me than sneakers!Forever, I have known how to double-clutch or to drive with one arm around my best girl. Most of the time, I can still parallel park and usually I can back-up at speeds equaling the maximum speed limit on most rural highways.

Before Janice and I left the States for this Balkan chapter of our lives, I sold no less than four personal automobiles. Even when we lived in the relatively auto-less land of Albania, I had a Land Rover Discovery at my fingertips. I have driven automobiles on several continents, on both sides of the roadway, up curving, switch-back, mountainous terrain, down rural lanes with vegetation reaching inside the driving compartment, on the German Autobahn, in rain, sleet, snow & gloom of night, in congested, Athenian gridlock, on Westheimer during drive-time in hot & humid Houston, Texas and in places where cars were never actually intended to go!

But now, see howthe mighty have fallen! Now, it has come to this. I must sit in the “shotgun seat” while my lovely wife takes command. It’s not that she is in the least incapable. On the contrary, she is an excellent driver! It’s just that this “Captain Kirk” has been removed from the flight deck of the Starship Enterprise and has been relegated to the lowly status of mere passenger! It’s a Drivin’ Miss Daisy role reversal!

I’m trying to be philosophical and positive about it. It is just another “learning opportunity.” It’s the only wise and smart thing to do. It will provide an entirely new perspective for me; now, I’ll understand better what Janice goes through. It’s an “early warning” signal, prophesying for me that dreaded day in the future when Matt & Doug will come to me in their beneficent maturity, like I came to Pop and take the keys from me. But, oh, it is so hard!