The traffic-deterring giant slug, systemic honk reform and fruit-picking through the car window with a retired bat researcher

# Lyft Line # Kids Who Lyft

A college-aged guy sits down in the front seat. After announcing that he has philosophy homework and a big research project to turn in, he gets to work. 

The app tells me our ride has two stops; next we will be picking up his niece at her elementary school.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is coffeehwincar.jpg

“It smells like coffee in here,” is the first comment she makes upon getting in. 

She is a cute black girl with pig-tails. Like her uncle, she too clutches sheets of homework in her hands. 

“What does coffee taste like?” she asks while looking down at them.

I try to put its taste into words. Liquefied burnt toast? Or is that just what bad coffee tastes like?

It’s mostly quiet for the rest of the ride as the two remain submerged in their studies. Papers shuffle. Snow Patrol gently croons from my car’s speakers. The girl’s purple bow bobs up and down as she moves her eyes from top of bottom of the page. All of this together creates a calming effect.

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# RoadThoughts: Our Dire Need for Systemic Honk Reform

One morning a car did the casual duck thing mentioned in previous entries, where it floats into your lane (nonchalantly) without signaling. I honked at the driver to indicate my disapproval. In response, the car floated back into its original lane—perhaps misinterpreting my request for a signal as a greedy demand to have the entire lane to myself.

 I imagined his thought process being: “She didn’t want me there; she must not like to share.”

Maybe he thought these things; maybe he didn’t. But if he did, my prepared response was this:

I just want all cars to make each other aware of their plans. If you’re gona change lanes, indicate it. 

One flick of the wrist. That’s all it takes.

This stands out to me as an example of why we need a better honk system.

My reservations with the current one: How do you know who the honker is honking at? Is it at you? The car in front of them? The driver to their left?

You can just never be sure. The fact that there’s no way to aim your honk leaves so much room for ambiguity, miscommunication, and potential anxiety.

We need an updated, new and improved system. One with more specified communication. Could something similar to what the protagonist used in Diving Bell and The Butterfly work? A single honk for A, two honks for B, 23 honks for W. 

…On second thought, never mind. 23 is far more than I want to hear in a full week of driving.

What about loudspeakers for every driver on the road?

Or the option of different animal noises, each of which transmit a separate message? (We can add it to the DMV manual to ensure that all drivers memorize it).

 What if our cars, using a motorized projected car voice, were allowed to lecture people and hold them accountable after unacceptable road conduct?

What’s that? Shaming and guilt-tripping don’t work, you say?

Whatever that new system looks like, the one that exists now has much room for improvement, is all I’m saying.

It breeds meaningless chaos. Enmity, even. Lots of finger-pointing and less true understanding. I say we fix that. I propose systemic reform.

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This Week on “Cars are Animals and the Road’s a Jungle“….

(See original entry here: https://lyfttales.com/2022/02/16/cars-are-animals-and-the-roads-a-jungle/ )

On my way to the freeway from the Mission district, I’m met with traffic. A large truck backing into the Trader Joe’s parking lot takes up nearly the entire road.

My mind switches to the nature channel, as it often does when out on the road. The long yellow truck becomes a giant yellow slug obstructing the other animals’ path. The stalled vehicles become confused ants, angered by the deterrent. Some remain in place; others dart frazzledly in an attempt to navigate around the larger and more imposing creature.

 A few blocks later I pass by a street blocked off to constructions. It strike me that the yellow construction trucks (which some stressed-out drivers decry for slowing down traffic) are like giraffes eating grass, clearing the way for other animals to safely maneuver the path.

Good Samaritans, in other words, who are too often the recipients to looks of contempt and exasperated sighs.

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Bigger Passenger Story: Buckeyes and Bat Research with a Retired Free Spirit

“You see those things  hanging from their branches that look like pears?” Ty* asks me. “Those are buckeyes.”

Minutes earlier I’d picked him up in front of a Thai restaurant inside a small strip mall. Wearing a black zip-up vest and a tan baseball cap, he’d waved to me using one of his crutches. After introducing himself, he then asked if I’d be up for taking the “scenic route” to his destination (as opposed to the freeway). I said sure.

His transition into ebullient tour guide / knowledgeable nature teacher hybrid mode was almost immediate. Ty pointed out trees, landmarks, and a youth rehabilitation center to our left and right as we traveled 30 mph along roads that wound elegantly through the hills. I was recommended a hiking trail that extends all the way down to Livermore. 

Now here I am, getting a free tour both of the verdant backroads of Contra Costa County and of my passenger’s interior landscape. 

Ty tells me that in the springtime, pink flowers cover the buckeye trees. 

“Then they shed all the leaves in the winter. I don’t know what pollinates them.”

Reaching through the window to grab one off the branches, he then cracks it open—explaining that inside “you get this thing that looks like a chestnut.”

I comment on its pretty color.

“I like it too— it’s almost mahogany,” he points out, reverently.

Gesturing to a grove of olive trees to the right—“those are new. Few years ago there were a fine group of horses runnin’ around out there. But I guess they took a lot of money to maintain, so they got rid of ’em and planted those olive trees to take their place. More profitable.”

As we drive past goats munching on yellow grass,  the tour switches to Ty’s interior landscape. I learn about his career; not only did he once fly planes, at one point he also conducted research on bats.

“I tracked their sonar signals while I was flying. I was the only person in the country who did that kind of work.”

He talks about his ex-wife, from whom he had separated following an eleven-year relationship. 

“I don’t have problems limiting myself to one person,” he explains. “Monogamy doesn’t  oppress me. But I do have a hard time staying in one place. I like exploring. It’s just not in me to operate on a schedule. I’m a free spirit (**after him watching him pick buckeyes from my window, this admission doesn’t surprise me). And that quality doesn’t really lend itself to marriage. At least it didn’t to ours.” 

Many of his friends asked Ty why he even married in the first place (“‘Marriage isn’t your thing,” they commented”).

 Some part of him agreed with that, but Ty says he initially disregarded it out of love for his wife.

“The love was there. It just takes more than that to keep a relationship together. No one making a Disney fairy-tale wants that to be the moral of their story though.”

His closing thoughts, as we draw closer to his destination: “Now that we’re separated, I’m considering moving back to Tucson. There’s nothing tying me here. I think I’ll renew my pilot license. “

Life lay ahead for Ty. New chapters awaited. Plans were in store. Though he may have had the body of a man his age, his spirit— hungry to explore and pursue new experiences— seemed to match that of a 20-something’s.

After he gets out I find myself wondering if the buckeye he left behind will taste good in pie.

Some more info about them (from homeguides.sfgate.com):

“Externally, a medicinal ointment or paste can be made from buckeyes to ease the pain of rheumatism, rashes and hemorrhoids. To make the salve, cover the nuts with a cloth and then crush them with a rolling pin or hammer. Place them in a pan filled with enough water to cover the nuts.

“Squirrels and chipmunks are the only animals that can safely consume the raw seeds. The flowers are an attractive source of nectar for hummingbirds, but the nectar and pollen is highly toxic to bees, so avoid planting these shrubs near apiaries.”

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*Names changed to protect confidentiality

*Follow us on IG @lyft_tales

Photo credits

Bats–https://www.treehugger.com/bat-facts-4864066

Buckeye–https://www.advocate.com/arts-entertainment/internet/2012/06/18/bisexual-state-tree-ohio-buckeye

Published by esteph42190

A 30-year-old queer bilingual writer born and raised in the Bay Area, I’ve been writing since before I knew how to spell. Balancing my generative energy with a desire to inform, as a child I printed and distributed to classmates publications that included The News Newsletter and Health Digest (ironic considering I also ran an illicit candy business that landed me in the principal’s office several times). As a student at UC Davis I wrote for The California Aggie, with pieces ranging from an exploration of gender roles in the movie Tangled to my own weekly psychology column. After graduating I kept a bilingual blog of my 14 months living in Montevideo, Uruguay, and upon returning continued to blog about social issues and human psychology.

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