The Foul Sex (part one)
I felt a strange, unbidden pressure well up inside me. Somewhere, deep down in some dark nook of my brain, under the dusty, crusty layers of civilization, an ancient chord began to resonate... and I had the very real urge to let loose with one of those long, high, haunted howls of a coyote with a migraine. I fought down the urge, but it took a conscious exercise of will.
Funny... it never occurred to me to simply turn off the radio.
I have discussed this matter with a number of people (two) and we're all pretty much in agreement: The time is long past for Tribune Ink and their money laundering operation, the Chicago Underachievers and Bud-lighters Society, to discontinue that vile tradition of the guest conductor for the seventh inning stretch. The novelty is gone, gone, gone, tired and tiresome: An endless and recurring parade of two-bit hams and trumped-up celebrities transforming (in just 45 seconds or less!) one of the grand old cathedrals of the Grande Olde Game into the world's worst karaoke bar.
Besides, those half-inning interviews are insipid.
And they detract from the game.
But then, so do the Cubs.
Aside: Those of you who are not Cubs fans or sports fans, take heart... I'm going somewhere with all of this. Also, I realize that I've used the line "...transforming one of the grand blah, blah, blah, into the world's worst karaoke bar" before, but One F really liked it, so blame him.
Woe be to you, tortured soul, if you actually heard with your own ears the Travesty of Timing, Pitch, Key and Melody that I heard just over a week ago-- the latest in the long line of tilty, tipsy media pigs, snorting and swaying in the Wrigley Field press box while some dumb lackey in the background, whose job title includes the word "coordinator," snaps their fingers and slaps their own forehead and mumbles, "Damn. I forgot to tell them that Harry used to just stick the microphone out the window for most of the song, again."
Of course, if you're still watching and/or listening to Cubs games at this point, you're something of a masochist, anyway. As of this writing, the Certified Union for Baker's Sayonara's winning percentage (so-called) is .407... and dropping like a fly ball.
Oh, but there I was, churning across some nameless stretch of desert with twenty-odd tons of tin-plated steel cargo in the trailer and nine hundred eighty-two channels (or whatever) on the satellite radio and not a gee-dee thing that I cared to listen to on any of 'em. So, girding my loins, I subjected myself to yet another super-syrupy overdose of Pat Hughes under-handing one lazy, high-arcing, big-as-the-moon verbal softball after another to Ron Santo for no good [double expletive] reason except that he just loves watching Santo tie himself in knots trying to swing at them.
This was, as I said, over a week ago. Maybe you remember the game. It was the last game of a home-stand against Pittsburgh, when Chris Duffy and the Pirates finally put the Cubs in their place: Last. It was the day Carlos Marmol and Scott Moore both hit their first big-league home runs. In fact, Moore hit his in the bottom of the sixth...
As you may or may not know, the guest conductor of the day does two (count 'em, two!) insipid interviews (hey, if they can be redundant, so can I) during the game: One on radio and one on television; one before the ritual butchering of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and one after; pre-hack and post-hack. The radio interview is done during the bottom of the sixth. On this particular day, the guest conductor was that black-Irish colleen in the fire-resistant jumpsuit, that queen of the demolition derby, Danica "If I Actually Did Drive My [Chassis] Off, I Wouldn't Be Nearly As Popular" Patrick.
Listening to Danica Patrick on the radio is the worst of both worlds. First of all, you have to listen to Danica Patrick. Secondly, you are not rewarded for doing so by the remote-but-tantalizing possibility of either (a) a little T-'n-A or (b) a ten-car, 175-mph pile-up. Or (in a perfect world) both.
Once Miss Chassis I'd Most Like To Grease (voted on by Gearhead magazine) had wriggled her, uh, chassis into her seat and wrinkled her oh-too-cute little nose and started the gentlemen's engines for them, Hughes posed his first question: "So, Danica, (*pant-pant-pant*) are you a Cubs fan?"
She, of course, said that she is.
She, of course, is full of [feces]. She's no more a fan of baseball than you are of the Iditarod. Miss Patrick has a charming (to some) tendency to tell people what they want to hear... unconvincingly. If you've ever seen or heard any of her (many) television or radio commercials, then you already know: As an actress, Danica is a very talented race car driver.
Not that she's ever actually, you know, like, won a race.
Oh, don't get me wrong: She is a very talented driver. But fate and skill and luck and backing have not yet conspired to put her in the winner's circle at a single Indy Racing League (the circuit on which she races) event. This is a much (but quietly) gnawed bone of contention among her fellow drivers. It's bad enough, y'see, that a girl beats most (but never all) of the boys on the race track, but she kicks the holy [exhaust] out of them in the opinion polls, and her endorsement deals and general household-namishness far outshine those of any other driver on the circuit... despite the fact that she's never won a race. Other IRL drivers find themselves caught in a frustating dichotomy. On one hand, Patrick's popularity is good for the league: It boosts gate receipts and sponsorships and, ultimately, the size of the prize purses. On the other hand, though, it chafes them worse than an ill-adjusted crotch strap to finish ahead of her and then not only hear questions like, "So, what did you think of Danica's performance?" in the post-race interview, but have to be excruciatingly complimentary while answering them.
This simmering pot of resentment boiled over just a bit back in July. You might have heard that darling Danica was shopping around for a new contract. Rumors were loudly circulated (mostly by Team Danica, as leverage) that she was considering a move to the much more popular NASCAR circuit. (Oh, hey, look: A matchbox car made in heaven!) This meant, of course, that every other driver in the IRL had to answer a whole new batch of questions about Danica Patrick. Cue the blaspheme.
During an interview that no-one but the biggest and most obnoxious IRL fans (sorry, redundant again) would have paid any attention to, one of Patrick's fellow drivers (Ed Carpenter) decided to pull the ol' Fuzzy Zoeller routine. (If you don't know what that refers to, type "fuzzy zoeller, tiger woods, fried chicken and collared greens" into your search engine... or, by now, you can simply infer.) When asked how he thought Miss Sassy Chassis would perform on the longer, more rough-and-tumble NASCAR circuit, Carpenter replied that he thought Danica had the ability to do well, quote, "especially if you catch her at the right time of the month."
No, I'm not making this up. He actually said that.
Way to go, Ed... You know, I'd have bet money that you couldn't stick the whole brake pedal in your mouth like that. Where've you been, laddie? You can't make fun of women just for being women, not in this day and age. We're more grown up, now. Now, you have to have a reason.
More on all of this in a moment (or whatever). First, a word from our sponsors...
From time to time in the past, many of you have enjoyed (or claimed to) some little vignette or other that I have told from my day job as a sailor of the asphalt seas-- a celebrated and romantic schlepper of freight from To to Fro. Behold, my wide-eyed virgins, the American trucker: Backbone of the Western Economic Engine, plying the highways and byways and truck-stop parking lots of this great litter-box we call the good ol' U.S. of A., struggling through rain and sleet and snow and blown tires and blown turbochargers and high diesel prices and the near-constant nightmare of old people in RVs to do his small part to keep the great, blighted organism of American Industrial Might from developing an even worse case of osteoporosis. Yea, brothers and sisters, let us double our clutches and dare not dilly our dallies in that never-ending journey toward Point B... amen.
On the other hand, some of you don't give a bat's ball. So be it... and go [coitate] yourselves, because (believe it or not) I'm going somewhere with this.
Now then, to set the scene...
The town of Elko, Nevada, is always a speed trap. Mighty Interstate 80 comes screaming in like a shock wave, full-throated and unfettered, from out of the arid plains and chiseled canyons of some half-forgotten epoch, and abruptly yaaawwws into the clear, viscous air-bubble that hangs over the town. It is a force field of sorts, generated by simple, black-on-white roadsigns: "Speed Limit 65." Oh, and rest assured, pilgrim, there is a speed cop in a broad-brimmed hat just beyond every gently graded crest, around every sweeping curve and within every sizable tangle of sagebrush. Dare to do 66 around these parts, cowboy, even if yer jus' passin' thru, and you will be politely told to donate to the annual Policeman's Ball.
Throughout this summer, they have complicated things further: Road work. Cone zone. One bumpy, narrowed lane in each direction, all the way through town. The posted speed is double nickle, which makes little sense at times because they've also posted a gauntlet of flag-persons, waving orange signs over their heads, like they're trying to signal a search plane. The signs say "Slow." They don't say how slow "Slow" is, of course, just "Slow." I infer, though, from that slap-the-table motion they keep making, that 40 in a 55 isn't slow enough, in their opinion. That makes me wonder why all the speed limit signs say "55" in the first place, of course. It also makes me wonder why there are other orange-clad people impatiently waving at me to go faster. Make up your minds... and get that [expletive] RV out of my way.
This stretch of I-80 doesn't need road work; that's something of a sham. In fact, no major highway in Nevada really needs much work at all right now. Having traveled far and wide, I can give the somewhat informed opinion that Nevada has the best-maintained highways of the 48 contiguous states. (If you only get turned on by round numbers, go ahead and throw a couple of Canadian provinces in, to take the place of Alaska and Hawaii... Nevada would still be at the top of the list.) So why are they doing road work when they don't need to? Well, you see, the Silver State is raking in its nice, tidy little percentage from every innumerable casino game and slot machine, statewide, twenty-four-seven. That adds up to a [expletive-load] of money (technical term), even after a dozen or so public officials embezzle their share. The state coffers are gorged. Rather than alleviate the pressure by, say, improving social services for their citizens, they instead pour it into making the best highways in the country (maybe the world) even better, so that the tourists can zip from casino to casino to casino with even greater speed and comfort.
Unless, of course, they happen to encounter one of the construction zones. I'm sure you're familiar with the protocols: Enter the cone zone and proceed at a strictly-monitored posted speed (or, for some reason, five or ten miles below it) until you are virtually on top of one of the sign-waving, table-slap-gesturing flag-persons. At that point, you are obligated to Panic and Slam On Your Brakes, coming almost --but not quite-- to a complete stop. As I'm sure you know, blind, unthinking panic and standing on your brake pedal is always the proper reaction to, well, to just about any situation you could ever find yourself in while driving. Here's another tip: It's also a really, really good idea to violently twist the steering wheel while standing on the brakes. Which direction you twist it doesn't matter. I recommend that you practice doing it both ways: Next time you're out driving, try twisting the steering wheel very suddenly and very violently, first in one direction, then again in the other-- you know, just to get a feel for which way works best for you. Please note: Never, ever attempt this exercise unless you are going at least 50 miles per hour beforehand. The faster the better, in fact. Good luck and (hee-hee!) stay safe out there.
After making sure that everybody's ABS is working properly, your next step is to pussy-foot your way past the actual area where actual work is actually being actually done and then (hold on to your hats) speed up again and resume your previous, strictly-monitored speed. You see, for every five miles of cone zone on America's highways, there is about sixty feet that is actually being worked on at any given time. (You might note that this ratio tends to correlate somewhat with the number of highway workers who are actually doing something at any given moment: Roughly, two people are working while anywhere from twelve to sixteen are just standing around and watching. These statistics do not include flag-persons, of course, because they are doing a little of both: They are working, but their job description entails standing around and watching.) All but sixty feet out of five miles is an awfully long way to be doing 30 in a 55, trust me. Alas, though, this whole "resumption of posted speed" concept often proves itself to be far too complex for many people to grasp. That sad reality probably comes as no surprise. After all, we do live in a country that elected His Incoherency, George II... twice! Besides, I recently read in Playboy (yes, read in Playboy) that, according to a national driver's test survey, an estimated 18 million people who currently have a driver's license would flunk their state's driving test if they took it today. Personally, I think that's a low estimate. I also think there are at least that many other people who know perfectly well what the rules are, they just don't think that the rules apply to them.
Now, uh, where was I? Oh, yeah: I was stuck in traffic.
I might as well have been on a freight train, one of the big ones, snaking and swaying along at 35 miles per hour. Someday, maybe, we would reach that Promised Land of the Last Cone. When we did, the Hebrews would already be there. I rolled my eyes and wondered who was leading this parade.
I spotted my answer on one of those grand, sweeping curves. Far ahead of me, Some Dumb Damned Trucker was putt-putting along, making my whole profession look bad. Maybe he was unnerved by the sheer bulk of his [big-donkey] truck in that narrow, narrow lane. Maybe he was worried about losing control or breaking an axle on the uneven pavement. Maybe he just felt unduly chagrined by the table-slapping gestures of the flag-persons we'd passed earlier (so long ago). Whatever the reason, all of eastbound Interstate 80, the country's Main Street, was stacked up behind him... and all of us, drivers and radiators alike, were getting close to boiling over.
For my part, I was also thinking about another construction zone, a much longer one, 130 miles ahead of us in Utah. When you rack up five, six, seven hundred miles a day, you develop a tendency to think that far ahead. Mainly, what I was thinking was this: I'd sure like to be in front of this [trucker] when I get there.
I soon discovered that that was going to be a tall order. Judging by the way he blasted off after passing the Last Cone, he was pulling a much lighter load than I was. A lighter load makes all the difference. There are mountains between Elko and the Utah state line, and a lighter load makes all the difference. But I wasn't giving up: I cranked up my boss' impressive team of horses and, before too many miles had whipped under my wheels, caught up with him. I checked my mirror and signaled and moved into a passing position.
You know how it is. When you finally get your chance to go around that bozo (or bozo-ette) who has been screwing up your traffic pattern, you almost can't help yourself: You have to give them a look. Not necessarily an angry look, not even a "get a life" look, but some kind of look, right? (Sometimes, admit it, sometimes it's a "you'll notice that I am pointedly not looking at you" look, isn't it? Other times, it's a knowing look... as in "you and I both know you've been acting like a putz.")
Well, on this occasion, I decided that I was going to give him a mildly perplexed look, as if I were genuinely curious as to what sort of person behaves that way. So, turbocharger roaring, I eased up alongside him and, just as I pulled even, turned my head to give him a look and...
Oh, my goodness, look at the time! I gotta go!
Now, I know I've left a lot of loose ends, here... What happened when I gave him my look? ...Did I win the race to Utah? ...Will there be more about Danica Patrick, *pant-pant-pant*? ...What's with the title, you pig? ...Are you really going somewhere with all of this, or are you full of [fertilizer]? ...and Where does the Navy football team get its cheerleaders? (Okay, that last one was just for me.)
Well, all I can say in answer to these and other questions is this: You'll just have to wait and see.
Stay safe out there (for real).
P.S... Bud "Hey, Where Does the Navy Football
Team Get Its Cheerleaders?" Selig must go.