Drive nicely, or GET OFF THE ROAD

I used to be a good driver. At least that’s what I thought.

Other than  a minor fender bender in the middle of rush hour traffic in West L.A. when I was in college a very long time ago that was never even determined to be my fault, I have suffered no major car accidents

The only speeding ticket I ever got was in the spring of 1991 when I was driving the almost 200 miles from Kansas City to Omaha for my Uncle Buddy’s birthday party.

I had never driven that far by myself, but my mother did not want me to miss the party and my work schedule was not conducive to me riding with her or my sister. So I chugged my little rented Geo Tracker (remember those) along the highway as fast I as I possibly could so that I would arrive in time.  That’s when I got pulled over.

I still made it to the party and my family’s side with moments to spare and my mother, in a gracious gesture of understanding, paid the fine. It was altogether a very long time ago.

I do not think that either of these incidents even remotely suggests that I am in any way a bad driver.

It was not until I married my second husband that I got the slightest inkling that I might not be up to standard, in the driving department. According to him, I might even be considered a traffic hazard. But certainly not for going too fast. Speedy Gonzales is not my MO.

He never commented on my skills. I don’t even think he realized this particular shortcoming. It was I who brought it to his attention.

When we got  hitched a few years ago, my husband was an Assistant Professor of Military Science at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He commuted from Kapolei to UH each day which meant he was often stuck in traffic. Yes, Hawaii has traffic, in abundance.

This gave him plenty of time to reflect on the deficient skills of the drivers around him who created much of the congestion that was so understandably annoying.

The drive home was the worst. What should normally take about 30 minutes to drive the 23 miles between our house and the university could easily suck up 90 to 120 minutes of his afternoon. That’s how bad the traffic can get. It totally sucks. Thank goodness he doesn’t have to do it anymore. Now he works  in another direction and comes and goes in about 20 minutes. He is a much happier man.

I noticed that the frustration induced by the demanding commute translated into him becoming a slightly more aggressive driver.

One of the things that I liked about him when we were dating was that I felt safe in his car when we were on the road. He never seemed to be in too much of a hurry. He did not tailgate. He kept two hands on the wheel (most of the time) and his eyes on the road. I’d had a few scary incidents in my past and it was comforting to be in a man’s car with whom I felt safe.

I still feel safe in his car. I simply saw a shift in his driving habits when he worked at UH. Mostly he drove faster and was more likely to change lanes to get around somebody who was traveling too slowly.

Over dinner is when I heard his complaints. From his perspective, a majority of Oahu’s drivers  do not understand what is considered common rules of the road, especially when they are  on the freeway. Due to their lack of consideration for the flow of traffic, they create more congestion than necessary.

As he delineated the details of their violations, his description of how each lane should be traveling faster than the one to the right of it, allowing for lane changes as drivers accelerate or exit, his complaints about people who brake in the middle of traffic for no discernible reason or to look at something happening on the side of the road and the subsequent chain reaction this braking causes for miles behind, hit home.

“That’s me,” I thought–except the “Lookie Loo” part. I do not slow down to look at other people’s problems on the side of the road. I have always thought it was an invasion of their privacy at what is usually a very stressful time.

What I had perceived as protecting the safety of me and my children, my cautious, defensive driving was actually causing problems for others and creating minor hazards on the road. HELLO!

With my new-found  understanding of the rules of the road, I changed several of my habits with great success and little compromise.

Turns out I get places faster these days as I move with the flow of traffic. I still boast a clean driving record. I can also add to that list  that, even though I know he was not directing his criticism at me, I am completely confident that if my husband and I were to meet on the road, he would feel no nagging annoyance at my ignorant driving habits. Instead, I would garner his admiration and appreciation anywhere we go.

Good Car Ma

I often write about “The Carpool” and many might be tired of hearing about it, but it has been one of the most time-saving, energy-efficient, environmentally friendly and personally helpful things about my life as a parent.

When I bought a new car in 2004 there were only me and my daughter, who was in second grade at the time, to consider. But I had high hopes of  forming a carpool to take our kids  from our home in Ko Olina to Kapolei’s IPA, such high hopes that I bought “The Pacifica” which seated 6.

The carpool did not come into fruition until 2 years later when I met Laurie Hanan (who is the best blog commenter I know) and began our long-term relationship in what we fondly call the Kapolei Carpool.

It never happened for regular school, but Laurie and I have been shuttling our kids back and forth from the Synagogue on Wednesdays and Sundays and any other chance in between  since 2005.

The Pacifica was on its way to a painful demise so I figured I would finally replace it. It turned out to be a more emotional experience than I imagined. I was pretty attached to that car. It had been my life for six years. We spent so much time driving places and had so much stuff in it that my daughter used to call it our mobile home.

But change was inevitable and it turned out to be all a matter of what I am fondly calling Good Carma. Weeks before I went to buy a car, a friend of mine proudly showed me her new Highlander. It is a very nice car and one that I had considered buying. She told me of her unpleasant experience at several dealerships and how it had influenced her final decision to purchase this Toyota.

I could not imagine how a salesperson’s attitude would be a deciding factor in such a major purchase such as a new automobile. Then I went car shopping one Saturday and learned first hand how right she was. After hours of web surfing and intense perusal of, I decided to buy a Chevy Traverse. We  rented one in California last August and enjoyed it immensely.

I test drove it again when I returned to Hawaii and confirmed my good first impression. That is until I went to three different Chevy dealers on Oahu and left the last one absolutely disgusted at their inventory, communication and manipulation to try to get me to buy something that I did not want.

I left the Chevy dealer on Nimitz Highway, turned right and saw the Buick dealer a few blocks down. I vaguely remembered seeing a Buick online kind of like the Chevy Traverse and impulsively turned into their parking lot.

Four hours and five phone calls to my husband for emergency online information later, I drove away in my brand new 2011 Buick Enclave and have been thrilled every minute since I bought it. That’s what I call Good Car Ma! Their salesman, Mike Chau, was helpful, honest and went out of his way to help me find what I wanted. And he bought me ice cream while we waited for the car to be prepared by these very nice young men.

The managers were reasonable at the negotiation table and the finance guy was straightforward and honest. I have to say that I never imagined I’d be a big ole’ Buick driving mama, but I float across Kapolei, right onto H1, straight into Honolulu with pleasure ever since my karma kicked in and I made that right turn into the Hawaii Auto Group and traded in my beloved Pacifica for my newly adored Enclave.

Jewaiian Time

I grew up with Jewish Standard Time. That’s the way most Jewish social events don’t ever start on time. If you tell people to come at 7 pm, they show up around 7:20 and you don’t get started until after 7:30.

People have busy lives with jobs and kids and responsibilities. They try to fit in as much as they can. If  Synagogue life cannot be at the center of their lives, at least it is a part. They will get there when they get there and do what they can.

Then I moved to Hawaii. Here they call it Hawaiian Time. Same concept. Most things start late, but for slightly different reasons. Hawaii is “Laid Back.” Not in a lazy sort of way, but with grace and ease. What’s the hurry? We have plenty of time. Just as the tide rolls in, so do the people. And then they stay.

And then there’s being Jewish in Hawaii.

I recently heard the combination of  Jewish Standard Time and Hawaiian Time referred to as “Jewaiian Time”–a powerful combination–certainly in terms of scheduling.

With these two cultural idiosyncrasies working together, it is almost completely impossible for anything to start as scheduled.

Luckily, they create a compelling synergy. The laid back nature of the island culture has definitely had an effect on the local Jewish Community, softening an underlying edge that I might have felt in other places.

Some might come a bit late, programs and meetings may not begin exactly on time, but nobody minds and they certainly stay, transforming our Shul on Oahu into at true Beit Knesset, place of assembly, gathering place.

It’s this sort of “Go with the flow” kind of lifestyle that makes being Jewish in Hawaii such a unique experience, certainly one worth writing about.

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