Shifting Gears


I’ve read a few blog and Facebook posts recently about the discernible shift in life’s patterns and nature’s patterns that come with the end of summer and the beginning of fall. Kids and teachers go back to school, it’s dark earlier in the evening and later in the morning, the days and nights get cooler, all that stuff. From what I’ve seen it seems to infect people with a sense of melancholy about the passage of time that spring and summer don’t.

In our own lives we’ve seen this same kind of seasonal shift, though it seemed to happen in some form of slow motion, a kind of gradual partial re-emptying of the nest, if you will. Our eldest flew back to Washington and her senior year on the 24th of August and our middle daughter left for a fall semester at the University of Glasgow on the 31st. Our youngest daughter and my wife, a teacher, both returned to school at about the same time. All of this combined to radically change the structure, pace, and feel of home life, though my work schedule really doesn’t change that much from one season to the next (except for budget season).

Getting back to the shift metaphor, it seems like we’ve come to the end of an extended leisurely cruise in sixth gear with the top down. Now it’s time to put the hard top on, put it in four-wheel drive, downshift, and power through until next spring. It’s not like there can’t be things to look forward to and enjoy, but it seems the coming seasons are much more of a long, hard slog than the rest of the year.



Fender benders are a pain. In this case it’s someone else’s fault, though I can say it’s just as much of a pain the other way around. Insurance companies, adjusters, body shops, and time out of your day. All having to deal with the aftermath of someone else’s momentary inattention. As if that inconvenience and aggravation isn’t enough, there’s dealing with the emotional trauma inflicted on a young driver who was just going about her business. A life lesson at relatively little cost, I suppose, but still. Grrr.

On the up side, no one was hurt and the damage is minor, even inconsequential (but for the fact that it’s our car, we’re still paying for it, and we don’t want to drive around like we’re looking for a demolition derby). So we deal with it and move on.

(Really doesn’t look like much, does it? It’s more impressive in person. :-/)

Scent of a Man

I’m not one of those, you know those perfumed men? I’m not passing judgment – if you’re one of those, that’s fine – but you have to be careful not to cross the fine line into cologne-dipped jackass-dom.¬†Anyway, though I’m not a regular cologne wearer I do like a nice aftershave lotion and I get tired of the same old thing all the time.

Before I go too far let me just say I am also not the kind of guy to spend a lot of money on things like aftershave. This, I realize, may be part of the problem, but it’s also not likely to change. Perfume for my wife as a special gift, fine, but not for me. If I splurge on me it’ll more likely be motorcycle tires, or a new saut√© pan, or something else manly like that.

When I first started shaving I was all about Old Spice or something similar, sometimes from Avon when my mom was into that. I’ve gone through my Skin Bracer phase, my Aqua Velva phase, and a Brut phase. I found something at Bath & Body Works a couple of years ago – Woodland – which, of course, has since been discontinued.

Doing some last minute HBA shopping with our eldest before she returned to school, I came across Pinaud Lilac Vegetal. Cool bottle, not expensive, something different. Yes, different indeed. Too bad they didn’t have a sampler, or that I didn’t read the online reviews on first. Of course I could have listened to my daughter, too, who was skeptical about the whole lilac thing.

Not wanting to be put off I tried it after a nice shave one morning recently. It was like putting lilac-scented eau de first-thing-in-the-morning on my face. Plecch. The rest of it went down the drain in the bathroom sink where I trust it will feel right at home in its final resting place.

But just what is it men want to smell like? I’ve been looking around, and still haven’t come up with an answer, at least not one I’m willing to spend money on. I’ve given Pinaud another chance, this time with its Clubman aftershave. If that doesn’t work out I guess I’ll have to stick with the old faithfuls in the grocery store shaving aisle.

Get Off the $*#@! Phone!

Before the age of cell phones (remember?), people did other things while driving that distracted their attention. Drinking their morning coffee, eating, doing their hair, doing their makeup, even – I swear – reading from a file folder open across the steering wheel. On my daily commute, when I had one (I don’t count six miles to work as a commute), I saw all of these things. And yes, I was having my morning coffee and eating my coffee roll (okay, okay, two coffee rolls) on the way to work, too. I’ve seen accidents resulting from other distractions, too, like kids in the back seat, tuning the radio, trying to find a particular tape or CD, fishing for change or a cigarette. Now we’ve added cell phones with email, text, and Internet, GPSes, and iPods to the list of distractions vying for drivers’ attention.

Since I started riding motorcycles a few years ago I have become even more observant, even more wary of people not paying attention behind the wheel. I find it amazing, and frightening, to see how many people are talking on the phone, texting, and doing other things (like watching out for me!) when they should be paying attention to their driving.

More and more states, including Maine, have enacted partial or total bans on the use of handheld cell phones. Much like drunk driving laws, at least so far they don’t seem to have had much effect, though I will admit not having hard data to back that up.

Alcohol + texting + speed + youth = tragedy

That this incident was aggravated by alcohol and the invulnerability of youth doesn’t change the tragic outcome. Two teens dead, two seriously or critically injured, and many, many more lives affected by an unfortunate string of bad choices all around.

Will banning the use of cell phones prevent this kind of tragedy in the future? No, and banning other distracting behaviors won’t, either, but drivers should be held responsible for their actions whether drunk, distracted, or just plain dangerous.

I don’t use my phone much while I’m driving. If I have a passenger and my phone rings, I’ll often ask them to answer it, or I let it go to voice mail. I don’t text, though I have snuck peeks at my email and messages, usually at stop lights. And I do still have a cup of coffee from time to time, though driving only six miles to work doesn’t leave me much time to drink it.