Hang On a Sec, I Have to Crash

Today, hundreds of pages of research on the dangers of cell phone use by drivers will be released. It seems that the studies, conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an agency of the Department of Transportation, were completed in 2002-2003 but never made public.

Reports say the information, which shows enormous spikes in fatalities and accidents caused by people who talk on the phone when they drive, would have “angered Congress,” according to a piece in today’s New York Times. Not to mention the cell phone industry people. Chatting drivers are four times as likely to crash as responsible ones, whether they have two hands on the wheel or not, according to the study. They react as if they had a blood alcohol content of .08. In 2002, 955 people died and 240,000 accidents occurred because someone couldn’t wait until they got home, or pull over to the side of the road, to make a very important phone call.

Seven years ago, it was estimated that six percent of all drivers are occupied on the phone at a given time. I bet that figure is much higher today.

Where we live, you will be ticketed by a police officer if you use your phone in a designated area surrounding a school. That is something, but not nearly enough. When the law was first enacted, a car was stopped on every block.


That is all I have to say.

Big Day

My daughters have been volunteering at a retirement home for about six months. They go on weekends, holidays and now, with free summer days, on afternoons when it is too hot to be outside. In Texas, you stay indoors between noon and four, if you can.

They love old people. They think they are cute. Charming, and funny. They point them out when they see them, particularly the couples. I’m not sure when the fascination began, but as soon as they were old enough, I called around to various homes and found one near our house. The girls have helped with manicures and parties. They have delivered mail, wheeled wheelchairs. They have hung calendars up in rooms…too high, too low, perfect. Served juice. Handed out menus… a highlight.

Yesterday, they got the July calendar, listing all of the events planned for the month. There were word games and wine and cheese, memory exercises, outings to the movie theatre. Today, there is a birthday. Fern Ives is turning 100. They will not miss today. How often do you get to attend such a celebration.

“She doesn’t look 100,” they said.  “There are younger people there who look much older.” We figured out that if you are still around at 100, you are probably doing pretty well. Hence, the youthful glow.

The other night, my younger daughter strung a bracelet for Fern. She used beads with letters printed on them and spelled out her name. Put it in a box and wrapped it, with green paper and a pink bow. My other child has chosen to make a card. I am curious to see what she writes. Later, they will arrive early. Big day.

Here Comes The Bride

In West Palm Beach the other day, a 93 year old man married an 89 year old woman. Ebenezer and Monica. They have known each other for 20 years. She was widowed twice; he, once. They were each lonely, living alone, according to the article in the local paper. So, they got married. 

How nice to have the ceremony, invite the guests, celebrate. Many older people might not go to the trouble. I like the festivity of a wedding. 

Congratulations, Ebenezer and Monica, and all best for many happy years ahead.

Boys and Girls…update

My daughter took the indirect route. She told other kids about the incident, who confronted the culprit. 

“Did you throw a ball through her window?” one said, loudly.


But no mention of confessing.

Then, the “girlfriend” of the culprit was approached. “He is such an idiot,” one child said to her.

I am not sure what it means to have a girlfriend in 6th grade, but I’m told that in this case, the kids talk on the phone at night. We are hoping the issue came up in  last night’s call, prompting some sort of epiphany about moral character and thus, a break up, leading to sad faces and inquiries from said mother and, ultimate disclosure. Of course, I could just put the note in her mailbox. Am I avoiding this? I think so. I will give it until 5 pm.

Boys and Girls

On Saturday, my daughter and her friend filled up water balloons and threw them over the fence into our neighbors’ yard, where a boy in their grade lives. Before they moved into the house about a year ago, another boy in the same grade lived there. We used to see him all the time, especially when he and the boy from two doors down climbed the tree in front of our house. Or rang the doorbell and ran away. Or tackled each other like puppies. When they get to be eleven, they do less tackling, so we don’t see the newer boy much.

The balloons were an invitation, though, and for about an hour, he and his friend ran around outside with my daughter and her friend. Then, the girls came inside. The boys, though, weren’t done. Our neighbor decided to throw a ball at our house. He was aiming for a foot of brick in between two windows, he told us after the ball came crashing through the window. No one was hurt. Our newish neighbor was paralyzed on our front step, practically in tears. It was an idiotic thing to do, but he was a boy with an invitation. He was feeling cocky. Showing off is never a good thing.

I wanted to yell at him, but I didn’t. If someone were hurt, I would have. So I hugged him instead. His friend smiled behind him, thinking, probably, “She’s not going to tell his mother. How sweet is that.” They left and sat on his porch. His head was in his lap.

I figured that he would say something. At least by the time the emergency glass people came to fix the window, on a Saturday at 6pm, for a lot of extra money. It is now Monday, and clearly, the mother has not been told. She would kill him if she knew. I can’t tell her; she has three other kids and the husband hasn’t lived there since October and I think the boy should fess up and tell her himself.

My daughter will probably interrogate him in gym class today. Meanwhile, we’ve seen him go in and out of his house a few times since the incident, and his head twists away from our direction in ways that are not physically possible. I think it is a matter of time.

I Am Woman, Hear Me Sizzle

I have a grill, purchased when we moved into our house five years ago. Every house should have one, I thought. I have put food on the grates and cooked, myself, without assistance, about three times. Grilling, still, in these modern times, is male domain. About sixty percent of all outdoor cooking is done by men. A casual sampling of males I know turns up a higher percentage, even on gas or electric contraptions, on which women tend to participate more.

We have a charcoal grill, which requires some knowledge of science and engineering, I am learning. On Saturday, I thought we should use it. The weather was just right. At 5:15, I lit the fire. We ate at 8. This is a long time to the plate for a process that is supposed to be convenient. About three coals turned gray. The other 900 didn’t. I tried to cook four hamburgers and four chicken breasts over the three coals. After a half hour, the meat was raw. I could put my hand on the grill without incident.

“Girls,” I said to my daughters and their friend, “I don’t think it’s getting hot.”

Laughter all around. I threw an entire box of matches on the mound.

“Should I call my dad?” the friend asked. 

Horrified I was at the suggestion, four-foot long tongs clenched in my fist. “Absolutely not. I can do this.”

“Maybe, start over,” she said. 

I took the meat off of the grill and put it on a plate. Then, I sprayed the coals with the lighter fluid that I am afraid of, and tossed a match on the pile. I stood across the street to do it. Thinking the coals were lit, I put the meat back on the grill. I was getting really hungry. My entire being smelled like a smokehouse. I was a smokehouse. It took an hour to cook the burgers and the chicken, and that is without the finale in the microwave. And, we needed new buns because all the pink juice drenched the original ones. 

When we were done eating, the fire was perfect. I filled up the teapot with water and poured it on the grill. Sizzle sizzle.