Here Lies a Healthy Corpse
By Beth Quinn
I know how I’m going to die. A woman driver on a cell phone is going to kill me.
I feel like a traitor to my own kind for saying that, and I may be asked to turn in my Feminist Union Card, but it is true.
I walk a couple miles every morning, largely on the theory that if I exercise, I will live forever provided no one runs me down. (I also do Zumba twice a week, but that is another story altogether because it seems that I’ve actually joined a cult in my quest for immortality. I am a follower of Damola, the Zumba teacher, and I can’t tell you how willing I am to mindlessly do everything he tells me.)
Anyway, back to my imminent demise at the hands of a woman driver on a cell phone. I can always tell at some distance whether a car coming at me is being driven by a man or a woman. The moment a man sees me, he begins a very ostentatious display of moving toward the center of the road, thereby giving me a wide berth and a clear message that he’s seen the little lady (me!) and I must not worry!
It is almost courtly, the way men elaborately avoid plowing into me.
Beyond that, men are less likely to be talking on a cell phone and distracted by whatever news his caller might be delivering into his ear at 8:30 a.m. By nature, men are more laconic than women, so there seems little reason to talk and drive at the same time.
In fact, most men barely sit in a recliner and talk at the same time. Whenever I call my aunt and uncle in Florida, my uncle often answers the phone because it’s right next to his Barcalounger. Then we have the following conversation:
“Hi, Uncle Charlie, how ya doin’?”
“Oh hi, Beth. Fine. Here, let me put your Aunt Fedela on the line.”
“OK, thanks! Good talking to you!”
But women. The cell phone has given women a whole slew of new places to have a conversation, not the least of which are the bathroom and the car.
When I’m out for a morning walk, women not only don’t give me a wide berth, they don’t appear to notice me at all. So immersed are they in their phone conversation that it is just as likely they will swerve toward me as to keep driving straight. Believe me when I tell you I’ve had to dive into the bushes at the side of the road more than once.
Here’s the thing that keeps me out of the clique of female drivers/talkers. I have no idea who I’d even call at 8:30 in the morning. And what is there to say? Chances are good these women are talking to someone they just saw back at the house – a husband or boyfriend or girlfriend or child or roommate – or someone they’ll soon see at work. What could possibly be new?
As far as I’m concerned, the only worthwhile news they might have to report is that they just ran me over and I’m lying deader than a doornail under their manifold.
This is too bad because, in many ways, women are far better than men at multi-tasking. And a good woman driver is truly a beautiful thing. Remember that woman who got arrested a few months ago for breastfeeding her baby while driving and talking on her cell? I think she probably knew exactly what she was doing, not that I’d like to see her heading my way while I’m out for a walk.
It was the breastfeeding part that put everyone in tsk tsk mode, but I must confess I did the same thing myself back in the ’70s (without the cell phone, of course, which had not yet been invented). I nursed my second baby while driving a pick-up truck across the Rockies, hauling a 35-foot camper behind me. (That is a true fact, and it might suggest that I had an unusual early adulthood, which is also a true fact.)
But good multi-tasking women drivers are the exception, I’m sorry to say. And a good woman parker is even more of a rarity. I live on a narrow residential street, and I watched a woman (on a cell phone) “park” in front of my neighbor’s house last week.
I was thoroughly mesmerized. I’ve rarely seen anyone make so many bad decisions in such a short space of time.
First, she parked heading in the wrong direction. Parking is generally done in the same direction as driving. Not in her case. She swerved across the street to park toward oncoming traffic, which was a strange decision because it meant going out of her way to park in front of a fire hydrant.
She also chose to park (And I am using the word so very loosely here) pretty close to the center of the road – maybe just a couple feet left of center. Basically, she just stopped driving mid-stream, turned off her car and got out, almost as though she were abandoning it.
And apparently she failed to see the enormous flat-bed trailer parked opposite her chosen spot. The trailer had hauled some heavy equipment into our neighborhood for a blacktopping job earlier that morning. It was so wide and stuck so far into the street that the driver (a man, I am certain) had surrounded it with orange traffic cones to improve the chances that it would be noticed.
Not our gal. This entertaining woman had parked in the wrong direction, in front of a fire hydrant, in the middle of the street, only a few feet from an enormous construction vehicle. And then she wandered off, still talking on her cell phone, oblivious to the fact that she’d left the entire street blocked off.
I went for my morning walk, grateful that she wouldn’t be driving my way. At least not that day, anyway.
Beth can be reached at beth@ZestofOrange.com.
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