How I Learned to Drive

Although I had a driver’s license, I didn’t really know how to drive . . . until some Teamsters took pity on me.

Here’s the whole story. I went to driver’s ed like most other high school students, dragging myself to school very early in the morning in order to watch gruesome VHS tapes of “bad things teenagers do in cars that get them killed.” Then, after many weeks of these videos, we were split into groups, put in cars, and forced to run the gauntlet. By which I mean, we tried not to do any of the “bad things teenagers do in cars that get them killed.” Because besides getting us killed, it would get us yelled at by the high school’s Eastern European basketball coach who was doubling as our driving instructor.

After a few weeks of that, and once we’d passed the written exam at the DMV, the Eastern European basketball coach took us out individually for a driving test. I remember him telling me that if he had to use his special emergency break, I would fail. I actually yelled at him at that point. I said something like, “I am FOUR SECONDS BEHIND THAT CAR! I am NOT going to hit anything!” After that, he didn’t talk to me any more. But I passed.

Okay, so if I passed the driving test and had a license, why did the Teamsters need to teach me to drive? Well . . .

I was an adequate driver. Really, I was. But a nervous one as well. I didn’t drive if I could avoid it. In fact, I was relieved in college not to have a car, and therefore not to have to drive. The campus buses were fine for getting around the area. The city buses weren’t terribly reliable, but I made do.

So then I was working on a film set. And I didn’t have a car of my own, but I was also too young and too expensive to insure for a rental, so the production office gave me a driver. Score! His name was Charlie, and he was awesome. He had lots of great stories about famous people he’d driven for, and told me that the set we were on was “one of the worst” he’d ever been on (it was a pretty difficult shoot). He said to me, “If you can get through this, you can do anything.”

And then one day the producer had me drive her Dodge Ram truck, and that made me all nervous. So Charlie and some of the other Teamsters took it upon themselves to buck me up. And they basically re-taught me to drive.

I imagine it was something like a defensive driving course, though I’ve never taken one, so I don’t really know. But I learned to maneuver and such, learned how to watch for other drivers in ways that were effective . . . Not so long ago, my husband said something about how, when I’m driving, I “worry about other people a lot.” But being aware of the other cars is part of driving well–especially since these days a lot of other drivers aren’t watching for you.

What Charlie and his fellow Teamsters really gave me, though, was confidence and a sort of freedom. It was years before I had a car to drive, but when my boss gave me his for a week at one point, I was able to go forth with few reservations. I had survived working on that awful movie set, after all, and as Charlie had said: if I could do that, I could do anything. Even drive.

An Apple a Day . . .

Last night I was looking at Facebook on my iPhone while simultaneously answering Jeopardy! clues from the television, and I saw one of my friends had posted that Steve Jobs had died. When I asked my husband about it, he grabbed his iPad off the side table and checked the online news feeds but didn’t find anything.

Not 10 minutes later, however, Jeopardy! was interrupted by the CBS News Desk in London (why the London desk when we’re in Boston I have no idea–it was, like, 1:00 a.m. over there) telling us that, yes, Steve Jobs had died.

My history with Apple products has been checkered; like many people, I worked with PCs for a long time before switching. In truth, I went back and forth. My home computers were PCs, mostly because they were less expensive. But a lot of places I worked (film production offices, publishing houses) used Macs. At the University of Texas there were computer labs filled with PCs and separate Mac labs used by students who needed that specific software for their studies. I used Macs when learning Quark for book design and production. I certainly prefer Macs for audio and video editing as well.

Only recently did our household switch to Apple. It started with iPhones of course. Gateway drug. Well, no, we’d had iPods for some time before the phones, I suppose. But then we moved on to my getting a MacBook Air for my birthday, to replace my oversized and aging Dell laptop. And a Mac Mini to replace our dying desktop computer. And then I got my husband the iPad for our anniversary. I’ll be getting the updated iPhone 4S soon because I have the original iPhone 3G and am due for an upgrade.

I can’t say I know much about Steve Jobs as a person. I’m just one of many end users of his company’s products. I can say that he and his company created wonderful things, things that have changed the way the world works. That’s an amazing impact to have.

I’ve been enjoying some of the quotes I’ve seen popping up, things Jobs said, like about following your heart and intuition. Right now I’m having some trouble gathering the courage to do some of the things I really want to do–I keep thinking there’s just no way I’ll ever be successful–so these quotes have been a nice bit of inspiration. They give me hope. I’m never going to be a Steve Jobs and change the world, but I can do little things to change MY world and MY life and become the person I want to be. So thanks, Steve, for that.

Teaser Tuesday: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

I’m finally getting around to reading this; I wanted to try it in advance of the film’s US release in December. I’ve never read any John Le Carre (though his name makes me think of being home in New Orleans). I don’t do a lot of spy/thriller reading, though I do tend to go in cycles in which I’ll devour several in a matter of a few months before moving on to some other genre.

Today’s excerpt is from page 212 of a very old library hardback:

He had a penknife ready but he wasn’t using it. Jim would never have cut string if he could avoid it.

I have no idea what’s going on in this scene because I haven’t got very far in the book yet. I’m on, like, page 5?

Score Card

So at last count I had submissions out to a lucky 13 places. One short story and the rest are play submissions. Now it’s the waiting game, which I’ve never been very good at. In the meantime, I will continue writing. Although I must admit it’s tempting to check my e-mail every five minutes or so. And then depressing to find it empty. I should stop checking. It’s only bringing my morale down.

Sneak Peek

As a tease, here’s the first part of my new story “The K-Pro.” I thought it was going to be a short story, but it’s already pushing 10k words and I’ve barely scratched the surface, so it’s starting to look more like a novella . . . Not sure it’ll get big enough to be a full on novel.

Forgive the formatting; I write for submission, meaning I use Courier and underline where a publisher would use italic.

Just as I used Ewan McGregor as my internal picture for the lead in 20 August, I’ve mentally cast Benedict Cumberbatch as David in “The K-Pro.” (Probably the reason I’ve had a couple nightmares about him; I’ve been thinking about this story for too long and need to finish it.)

I have trouble sometimes with description; I tend to slack off on that side of things because I’m a screenwriter, and we’re taught to only include details that are important to the plot–things the director and art department need to know about. Dialogue is what I’m good at, even if it’s interior dialogue. BUT . . . In “The K-Pro” I’m making a concerted effort to do better with my descriptions (without bogging things down, that is; there’s nothing I dislike more than a book that has pages of description when a paragraph would have done). It’s one of the reasons this is taking me so much longer than my usual projects do.

Deep breath, then, and onward. Hope you enjoy the tidbit!

In Which I Answer Some Random Questions

1. Why did you stop liking the last person you liked?:
I’m going to assume this means romantically? I still like him as a friend, but he confessed two years in that he’s gay. Sort of put a break on things in that direction.

2. If you were dating someone seriously for a long time and were considering marriage, would them not wanting kids (or wanting kids; if you don’t want them) be a deal-breaker?:
Well, I think it’s important to have similar goals. You want to be moving in the same direction, so . . . Unless one of us could imagine a compromise, then yes, that could be a deal breaker.

3. If someone cheated on you, would you give them a second chance?:
As a rule, I’m not a forgiving person in this area. BUT–considering I’d want a second chance if it were me on the other side of it, I’d have to learn the circumstances and decide based on those.

4. Could you date someone who was a different religion than you? What about be just friends with someone of a different religion?:
Well, I *married* someone who is a different religion, so . . . Guess so.

5. Do you enjoy sexist and racist jokes?:
No. I generally find them in poor taste.

6. What about dirty jokes?:
Clever entendres. Nothing gross.

7. Do you respond to texts that just say “lol” or “haha” or just a smiley? Why or why not?:
Not usually. There’s not a rejoinder for that sort of thing.

8. Do you think you’re easy to talk to? Are you a better talker or listener?:
I’m easy to talk to, but don’t come across as very approachable, I don’t think. That’s usually the sticking point. I’m shy, but it apparently reads as “aloof” or even “snobbish” from across a room. I’ve been trying to work on that.

9. Do you think a relationship with a 16-year-old girl and a 35-year-old man would work out? Do you think age differences like that (when they’re under 18) should be legal?:
I don’t have a problem with significant age difference, but in this case I’d be concerned that the 16-year-old is still learning about herself, life, and such. Maybe there are 16-year-olds in the world mature enough for that kind of thing, but I’d guess they’d be few and far between. I really do believe a person needs to know themselves thoroughly–needs time on their own–before making a commitment.

10. What’s one job you would HATE to have?:
Any kind of food service.

11. Be honest. When you hear someone wants to be an artist or musician, do you automatically think “Oh gawd, they’re going to fail and be a loser forever…”?:
No. But I do think, “Don’t say you WANT to be, say you ARE and make it real.” I don’t tell people I “want” to be a writer; I tell them I am one. Because I write. And I would guess someone saying they want to be a musician or artist does, in fact, actually make music or paint or what-have-you, so . . .

12. When you write, what do you usually write about?:
Depends on what I’m working on.

13. Were you ever “the other man/woman”? How did it turn out? How do you feel about it today?:
No.

14. Have you ever cheated? What have you learned from it?:
No.

15. What do you think of open relationships? If your partner suggested it, what would you say?:
Hmm. I think I have a jealous streak that wouldn’t allow for it. But I’d hear my partner out if he wanted to make a case for it.

16. Are you a party animal? Why or why not?:
No. Not my idea of fun. Much prefer something cozy and quiet, good food and conversation.

17. Do opposites truly attract, or would you rather date someone more similar to you than different?:
I think for staying power, you need to have more in common than not. It’s fun to be with someone different for a while, but I don’t think those things last; the novelty wears off, and then you just get irritated with one another.

18. Would you ever date out of your race?:
Why is that even a question? I’d date anyone I liked, regardless of race.

19. When you have old clothes/whatever that you don’t want anymore, what do you do with it?:
Donate them if they’re still useable. Turn them into dust rags if not.

20. Do you still have a landline, or does everyone in your family just use cellphones?:
We have a landline. For one thing, it’s the number to give people you don’t want to be able to reach you just anywhere, and for another, it’s good for my kids to have a phone they can call emergency on if they ever needed to (since my cell has a passcode).

21. Do you like the “guys/girls you can’t have” or would you rather have someone up front, honest, and good for you?:
I might be intrigued by what I can’t have, but I value honesty more.

22. Are any of your clocks set in the 24-hour (sometimes called “army time”) format? Do you know what 18:08 would be in “regular” time?:
My parents were in the Navy and we had a couple 24-hour (“military”) clocks in the house when I was growing up. So yes, I know 6:08 PM.

23. What are five personality traits that would make you instantly not want to be with someone romantically?:
Arrogance, self-absorption (no, those aren’t the same things), self-pity (morose), narrow-mindedness, aggression.

24. What about five traits that would immediately catch your attention?:
Intelligence, wit, curiosity, tolerance (shown as kindness perhaps), confidence (without arrogance).

25. Ever had a relationship last under a week? Do you even count those as relationships?:
Yes. And no. So I guess that technically is a “no” for the first question, since I don’t count it?

26. Do you celebrate “month-a-versaries” or do you just do it yearly?:
Yearly, but we have two: wedding anniversary and the anniversary of our first date.

27. What does your work uniform look like?:
Jeans and a sweater? (I don’t have a uniform.)

28. What’s the oldest age someone should be living at home at (if they’re NOT going to school or because they moved back in due to a divorce/lost their house/or another tragedy)?:
Depends on the situation, but as a parent I think it’s important your child(ren) know(s) they always have someplace safe to go where they’ll be welcome.

29. Is there anyone you know who hasn’t changed much (personality-wise; not maturity-wise) since middle school?:
Yes.

30. What curse words do you find to be the most offensive?:
Swearing doesn’t bother me unless it’s excessive to the situation.

31. What kinds of books do you normally like to read?:
I go in cycles: fantasy, mystery, non-fiction . . .

32. What do you put in your coffee?:
I don’t drink coffee.

33. Do needles make you pass out?:
Syringes? No. But I can’t look when I get a shot or have blood drawn.

34. Do you have any friends who spend all their time with their partner, but when something goes wrong, they come back to you? Even though they ditched you for their partner a bunch of times?:
No.

35. Do you think being gay is a choice?:
I don’t understand how anyone thinks being gay is a choice.

36. Do you think you’re good-looking? Why or why not?:
I’m average. I have nice eyes and skin but that’s balanced against terrible hair and big ears.

37. Would you have sex before dating someone?:
Uh . . . I’d like to get at least one date in first, preferably a few. But I wouldn’t rule out a surge of passion, I suppose. So long as I at least caught his name?

Tweet Dream

You know you’ve been on Twitter too much when you dream in Twitter stream fashion. The first part of my dream last night had something to do with a Twitter conversation going on amongst me, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. I’m sure it was all very interesting, but I can’t remember any of it.

The dream went on to being about a garden in late afternoon sunlight, me trying to find a very specific kind of flower (none were the right color, and I recall the soil being dry; the flowers looked unhealthy). And then Steven Moffat turned out to be a member of some council, and the queen or one of her chancellors was chasing people through the gardens. I don’t quite recall how this was resolved; it may have ended in us jumping into a cab.

Meanwhile, I have an idea for a new play. So now the question is whether to plow on with my current story (novella? novel?) or switch gears.