Crossing a Line

We’ve crossed a line, many times, I’m certain. I’ve seen it. From both sides of the line.

I was on a lovely run the other day. It was warm, but not as hot as it had been the few days prior. There was a breeze, but not a gusty wind as in the past couple of days. It was just a perfect day for a run. The flower gardens are abloom in vibrant color and sweet fragrance. It was Saturday, late morning, so the smell of bacon and pancakes still wafted from homes along my route. I had bacon and pancakes for breakfast, too, a bit earlier, so I was a happy, happy girl who really needed to go out and run!

I ran my “usual” route, a six-mile rectangle through the northwest end of town, south for a bit, then eastward, north along a frontage road, then west along a rural, vineyard lined road and south, again, back to the park where my car awaits. I deliberately run this route in this particular direction because I save the best, the prettiest pert of the run for last. My reward. Though the prettiest part of the run, it is by far the most treacherous part of the run. There is a narrow shoulder, no sidewalk, and no bike lane marked. Cars travel fast. I use this road, myself, as a bypass for the slow, confused and sometimes intoxicated traffic cluster on the main thoroughfares in Napa. The tourist traffic consists of people looking for the next winery, the restaurant entrance or the hotel driveway, and most certainly not for runners, walkers, or cyclists. Marked bike lane or not.

Dazed, confused, lost, distracted, and preoccupied.

The part of my route that takes me along the frontage road, a road that parallels Highway 29, the main highway into the heart of Napa Valley winedom, is littered with hotels, tourist bus outfits and a few restaurants. There is a bike lane, but I usually break the rules and run on the sidewalk. I cross the line. There are rules for the road, for cars, cyclists, runners and amblers. Cars should stay on the road and not fade into the bike lane to cut corners or to “straighten out” their trajectory so as to not have to decelerate or apply the brakes. Bikes should be on the road, in the bike lane, or shoulder, if no bike lane is afforded, single file, headed in the same direction as the cars. Runners should be on the road, in the bike lane, single file, going the opposite direction of cars and bikes. Walkers should stick to the sidewalk, if there is one, or obey the rules of the runners. If everyone follows the rules of the road and kind of looks out for one another, no one gets hurt! Bueno!

Ah, but mutiny is afoot. The bikers want the whole road, the cars want the whole road, the walkers want the width of the sidewalk and/or bike lane and the runners just want to run, red lights and crosswalks be damned! Don’t make me pause my Garmin! Don’t make me have to explain my lousy mile time on “Map my Run” for mile four because I got caught by the “don’t walk” sign at three consecutive intersections. We are all crossing the line.

I’ll admit, even I cross the line on the frontage road, I run on the sidewalk. But, I exit the sidewalk for any other pedestrian I encounter, happily, for those who belong on the sidewalk, and with a great deal of discontent, eye rolling and huffing, when encountered by a bicycle on the sidewalk. I forgot to mention all the tourists with rental bikes and without a clue. Another wrinkle.

It’s funny how our attitude tends to change when we switch our mode of forward motion.

When I am driving, I am always mindful of those I share the road with, both those encased in a large metal and plastic pod, and those who are not. And I am more than a little irritated when I encounter pedestrians who’ve crossed the line; whether they are traveling two or three abreast or have tribed up and just commanded the entire vehicle lane. I can see their point, but I can’t help but feel a bit annoyed that they’ve crossed the line if there are adequate provisions, such as an ample shoulder or a well-marked bike lane. I’m not picking on cyclists, there are other offenders, but, frankly, not as often.

I was running a week or so ago and I observed a woman inline skating. I used to inline skate. I know where my inline skates are. I want to inline skate again. She breezed past me like I was standing still, gliding smoothly along in long, graceful strides. She was sharing the well-marked bike lane with me and passed very courteously. As we were both opposing oncoming cars, when the vehicle lane was clear, she’d cross the line and skate down the middle of the street, a few mere inches from the double yellow line. I understand her reasoning. If you’ve spent any time at all traveling on the side of the road, you know the roads are quite sloped towards the gutter to allow water to evacuate the road quickly. For runners, and skaters, too, I suppose, there is some uneven wear and tear on ligaments and such from always running on sloped surfaces. Another reason why I prefer sidewalks and the dirt shoulder along the vineyards. We all cross lines.

Another time, I was just approaching the park where I leave my car. I am a bit of an opportunist, and when the traffic permits, if I’m within a quarter mile of the park, which is on the opposite side of the street, I’ll cross early and walk “with” traffic. The shoulder is wide and I am certainly visible. On this particular day, as I walked towards the park, I could hear a car approaching from behind. Imagine my surprise when the car passed, well over the line and within a fraction of an inch of me. He crossed the line, but, so, too, had I. I was on the wrong side of the road. Sure, if he’d have slaughtered me, which at the rate of speed he was propelling down the road, I’d have been pulp, the law would’ve been on my side. A great deal of good that’d do me dead. Had I been on the correct side of the road, I would’ve seen him coming and would have stood a better chance of getting myself out of harm’s way. I no longer cross early, I stick to my side of the road and wait for traffic to clear before I cross. I won’t cross that line, again.

What’s necessary here, is to look out for oneself. Just because there are traffic laws to protect you, and general rules of the road, and common courtesies, does not guarantee your safety. Ultimately, it’s up to you to keep yourself safe and to decide if you are in danger and then react appropriately.

This goes beyond running, cycling, walking or even driving. This, I believe, applies to the world in general. Laws are passed by the hundreds, if not thousands, each and every day. Many are drafted and passed to “protect” us, from ourselves, from others. Supposedly. I’m not so sure. I have my theories on this, but that’s a topic for another day. My point is, unless the laws are 100% enforced, which, of course, is impossible, no matter how genius the law is, it amounts to words on a page and has no real ability to protect you. It is up to you, first and foremost.

This can be translated in any way you choose. If you think owning and knowing how to use a gun to protect yourself is a good idea, then do. If you think studying MMA is a good idea to protect yourself, then do. If you think hiding in your family room, cringing in your recliner, clutching your TV remote will keep you safe, that is your choice, I’ll disagree, with that one, however.

This can also be applied to general rules, laws, if you will, of humanity. People should treat people in a certain manner; with respect, without endangering others, without harming others, physically or emotionally. There is a certain “code of conduct” that elevates us to a higher life form, and much of that has to do with how we treat one another. Sadly, I think we all fail, from time to time, in one area or another. How often do we yell at our kids out of frustration, ridicule our mates for something they say or do, or don’t say or do? How often do we criticize people close to us for their behavior, their beliefs? How often do we label people in our lives, creating and affirming false limits? How frequently do we dislike or distrust people out of fear, or prejudice? How often do we not return a kindly smile or a well-meaning “hello”? How often do we go about our day, ignorant of the people we pass on the street, the people we ignore in our families, the friends we don’t make time to visit with? We are crossing a line. A line of civility, decency, respect, friendship, and love. This line is far more important than any line of reflective white paint on the roadway.

And what about the line we cross when we are unkind to ourselves? When we think or speak negatively about ourselves, create limits for ourselves, denigrate ourselves, underestimate ourselves, neglect ourselves, mistreat ourselves, physically or emotionally? This line is, I think, the most important of all. Having self-respect, self-love, a good self-image, to care for oneself, emotionally and physically is crucial, not just for our happiness, our ability to contribute to society in a meaningful way, but also for those around us who love us, care for us, and perhaps even depend on us. The lines we cross.

Start being mindful of all the lines we cross, on the road, and off, with others, with ourselves. We’ve crossed a line, but there may still be time to swerve back into our lane.

 

Scarlett’s Letter December 16, 2013

For the record, today got off to a much better start than yesterday, by design.

Off to a better start, by design. Did "my things" before going downstairs for breakfast.
Off to a better start, by design. Did “my things” before going downstairs for breakfast.

Today I did something terrifying. Something absolutely terrifying, something I’ve contemplated doing many times in the past three years, and I’ve always chickened out. Always. No matter how many Eleanor Roosevelt quotes I read, I chickened out. No, not skydiving. That was a pip. No, not running on a treadmill, I’ve nearly mastered that.  Today. Today, yes, today, I actually did it. I went to a spin class.

I’d no sooner run with the bulls or miss a BOGO sale at DSW than humiliate myself in a spin class. The people, the equipment, the stories, I’ve had friends say they fell off the bike, how do you fall off a stationary bike? Worst of all, the terrifying instructors, have you seen them? All super fit and up on that bike, on a pedestal, at the front of the class, able to shout loud enough to be heard over the music despite, their impressive level of exertion; demanding you stand up to pedal, turn up the resistance, pedal faster! My God! It is all just an episode of “Jackass” as far as I’m concerned, death defying and stupid, and lots of people are going to laugh really, really hard. At me. They might laugh so hard that Gatorade shoots out their nostrils, or they may laugh so hard they wet their little Lycra bike shorts! Or both!

It wasn’t so bad. Like marathon runners, spinners actually seem quite mortal, human, even. Of course, like everything I do, I had a very logical and strategic approach. I decided to go to the mid-day class. I figured the really rabid spin class folks I’ve seen waiting, frothing at the mouth, outside the classroom, at peak morning and evening hours, would likely be at work. I figured the mid-day class would be housewives and retirees. I was pretty much right. There were six of us. One lady just sat and pedaled at 45 rpm the entire time, with the exception of the water breaks, where she took it easier. No disrespect, she was there and it wasn’t her first time. Where have I been? Cowering over by the cardio equipment, watching the spin class in wide-eyed fear through the five inch wide glass in the door.

I got to the spin room early enough, I was the first, actually, fifteen minutes before the instructor arrived, in fact, in order to chat with the instructor to learn how to fit the bike and what the “commands” were. And it wasn’t so bad. Kind of like having a pit bull come racing towards you only to wag its tail and lick your hand, roll over on its back and wet itself. With this first class under my belt, or Lycra waistband, I now have the confidence to increase the resistance a little more, next time, and, even, maybe, attend a peak-hour class.

The next more fearsome thing I did today; I got on the scale. Oops. Time for atonement, and for toning a bit. It has been a long six-week jaunt from city to city, restaurant to restaurant and that sneaky ten snuck back on. Not that weight matters, but, I have been favoring my more forgiving Aeropostale “boyfriend” jeans to my sizable wardrobe of “Miss Me’s”. Gaining ten during busy travel season is typical, for me. Most of it will be gone by Christmas. Mom doesn’t understand why I won’t share her Panattone bread with her every morning for breakfast, “it’s Christmas”, she says. Um, no, it’s December 16th. On December 25th, Christmas, I might have a piece of Panattone bread. With butter. She warned, “what if it’s all gone by then?” Then I guess I won’t have any. There is a big difference between “it’s Christmas” and “it’s Christmas”. A month of indulgence is much worse than a day, or even two or three.

Ah, but I am not totally fearless. I was headed to Roseville, east of Sacramento, for happy hour with a ladies “Meet-Up” group I’ve been active with for a couple of years. They are a super nice group of women and so worth the hour and a half drive to socialize with for an event now and again. I knew the drive might take a little longer, with happy hour being, also, commute time, and I planned accordingly. I did not, however, anticipate the road construction ensnarled traffic I encountered on Highway 12 which links Napa’s Highway 29 to the rest of the country via Interstate 80. It took me nearly an hour just to get to Highway 12, which usually takes me about eleven minutes. This drive at 3:00 PM is far different than at my usual 3:00 AM. Afraid I’d arrive just in time to leave, again, I aborted and returned home. It is not often you will hear me say “afraid”, but there it is, at the beginning of a sentence. Figures, too, my hair was perfect, for the first time in a month, my outfit was smashing, new top from Victoria’s Secret, and rockin’ new black boots. Drat.

Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter.
Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter.

Guess I’ll take a “selfie”. Then put my baggy ol’ sweats and slippers on. And have a beer. Then go fix dinner. And do laundry, my gym clothes stink.

Perfect hair.
Perfect hair.
New blouse
New blouse
New boots (which you can't see).
New boots (which you can’t see).
Guess I'll fix dinner and do laundry.
Guess I’ll fix dinner and do laundry.
Jammies and beer.
Jammies and beer.

Scarlett’s Letter August 18, 2013

You guessed it. Another trip to Sacramento.

Not quite as early, but still requiring copious amounts of coffee. Mom went with me, again.

 

Third trip to Sacramento in as many days means coffee. Lots of coffee.
Third trip to Sacramento in as many days means coffee. Lots of coffee.

Since we missed out on chicken and waffles at our “farewell” lunch with my son at Cafeteria 15L, we decided we needed to try again. Sunday brunch. Is it bad that our waiter from Friday recognized us and laughed at us for returning? I know, deep down, he understood. This was all about chicken and waffles. Oh, and the bottomless mimosas.

Cafeteria 15L The Chicken and Waffle Capitol of the Capitol City.
Cafeteria 15L The Chicken and Waffle Capitol of the Capitol City.

I think Mom was awake for the whole trip to Sacramento. Bless her heart, so it was pretty much one inquiry after another, questions I couldn’t possibly answer, then long, disjointed stories that probably had a point at inception but didn’t when all was said and done, followed by random, pointed, statements that provoke me into fury. Bridled fury, but fury, nonetheless. I’m not so sure this is done unwittingly. It may be fun to see me turn red, bite my tongue and smile anyway. I introduced Mom to Pandora. I put the “Big Band” station on, which I like a lot, and I knew she’d appreciate. I even successfully taught her how to pick up the phone, without touching the thumbs down button, to view who was playing. And I still don’t think she totally understood. She still calls my phone “the Facebook” and emails, text messages, chats, and Facebook messages are often “faxes”. The bottomless mimosa made everything all right, again. For both of us, I’m sure. We do really love each other. I know she talks smack about me. I’ve caught her in the act.

Yes, the chicken and waffles were Uh-mazing! And if there were a gun to my head and I had to choose the best chicken and waffles I’ve ever had, just shoot me. They’re all different, and I’ve tried many. I still love “the original” at Roscoe’s in Long Beach (and other locales). Fremont Diner in Sonoma is hard to beat, but Cafeteria 15L adds a peppery gravy and a maple pecan butter that just puts it over the top. And I do love over the top.

CHICKEN AND WAFFLES and BOTTOMLESS MIMOSAS!
CHICKEN AND WAFFLES and BOTTOMLESS MIMOSAS!
Four orders of chicken and waffles and bottomless mimosas. The food coma set in before the first bite.
Four orders of chicken and waffles and bottomless mimosas. The food coma set in before the first bite.
A picture of my son taking a picture of me taking a picture of bottomless mimosas. The food picture thing; is it hereditary or socialization? We may never know.
A picture of my son taking a picture of me taking a picture of bottomless mimosas. The food picture thing; is it hereditary or socialization? We may never know.

After our fab brunch, we headed back to my son’s house to collect things that won’t fit in his luggage for his upcoming move to Hawaii, pretty much his library. The plan; I will package the books up in U.S. Postal Service Flat Rate boxes and send him one every couple of weeks. You’ve got to love flat rate! The last little package of love I sent to my sweetie in Alaska cost me $15. If I had sent it regular USPS, by weight, it would’ve cost $65. If you haven’t discovered flat rate, do. And, the boxes are free, in the lobby of the post office, 24/7, and are perfect for birthday gifts and Christmas gifts of many sizes, in case you kind of forgot to buy boxes and you only have three hours to wrap everything before Christmas happens. Or, if, perhaps, you spent your entire Christmas budget on gifts, and shoes, and forgot to buy boxes. Free is good.

We headed home. Maybe it was the mimosas, maybe I’m just exhausting to be around. Perhaps both. But Mom slept the whole way home. There was a wreck in Vacaville that had traffic backed up for miles. We were down to a crawl for, well, most of the drive. It took absolutely forever. I was getting sick of the Big Band station, but didn’t dare change it. Mom would occasionally wake up, utter a provocatively ignorant statement and then go back to sleep before I could rebut. Example; “Is that a TAPE we’re listening to?” Snore. “No! It’s not a tape! They don’t even make tape players anymore! Do you see a tape player in the dash of my car? Why would we listen to Internet radio on the way to Sacramento and a TAPE on the way home?”  I deserve sainthood. Perhaps Mom does, too. We do love each other.

When we got home, Mom went up and took a nap. I seized the opportunity to finish a creative venture I’ve been wanting to work on, uninterrupted, for a couple of weeks. Then I wrote. And it was good.

I had eggs for dinner.

I HAD to have eggs for dinner.
I HAD to have eggs for dinner.