Things I Try Not To Yell At Other Drivers

Look. I am aware of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. I am aware that like 90% of people consider themselves “above average” drivers. Therefore, I do not consider myself an above average driver, except in my ability to parallel park a step-van. When it comes to driving said step-van around Seattle’s narrow residential streets, its clogged and often badly engineered freeways, and its due-to-collapse-any-day-now viaduct, I’m sure I’m just average.

This being said, I am an experienced driver, having been driving this step-van for over three years and having done a couple-three cross-country road trips, and so I feel I have some authority from which to offer the following friendly tips:

  • Turn on your headlights. Especially if it’s raining. Turn on your headlights.
  • You know that triangle-shaped part of the road on exit/entrance ramps? The gore area? Hey guess what CROSSING THOSE LINES IS ILLEGAL. Not just in WA state, either! Crossing them so you can get past the line of cars trying to get onto 520 at the 405 junction is also a JERK MOVE. QUIT IT.
  • oh my god, use yah blinkah, are you kidding me
  • especially if you’re going to insist on illegally changing lanes across the gore area
  • And turn on your headlights!
  • It takes a lot longer for a truck to slow down and stop than it does for your car. Leave us some space.
  • Turn on your schnauzercliffing headlights. I don’t care if it’s 80F and there’s not a cloud in the sky! You will be SO MUCH MORE VISIBLE and I will be considerably less likely to try to merge into the side of your car like the least competent Voltron pilot in the universe.
  • Every time you leave enough space for a truck to change lanes in front of you, and flash your brights to let the driver know that it’s safe for them to move over, a jackalope gets its antlers. I understand that may not sound like an incentive, but it really is a nice thing to do, so if the heartfelt gratitude of an anonymous trucker won’t do it for you maybe the cryptids will.

Look. Cars are amazing. Driving is one of my favorite things to do, but it’s also dangerous: we are all harnessing a series of controlled explosions to propel us at inhuman speeds down the road to where we’re going. That’s metal as HECK, but it also means it behooves us to help each other out. Generosity and care for the human beings around you is super cool.

Be above average. Drive safe!

Crossroad Blues

You know those days when it’s blue and bright and you’re on the road? And the signs over the highway say that if you keep going this way you’ll end up in a city you’ve always wanted to see, and you just want to step down on the gas pedal, skip your exit, and roll on south, east, west. The desire for movement sits in the empty spaces behind your solar plexus and in the skin around your eyes. It’s not that you need to escape, exactly, although the idea of escape is often appealing: it’s just that when you’re moving all you have to focus on is the movement.

15192838652_021b6c9160_zWe took a lot of road trips when I was growing up, including a six-month one around the entire contiguous USA. I find the motion of a car soothing. Nowadays I don’t own a car, though, and generally the longest I get to drive anywhere in the food truck is forty-five minutes or so. Those drives are nice; I just miss the long, straight stretches, two-lane highways and too much coffee, naps in gas station parking lots, neat and anonymous motel rooms. Mountains. Cornfields. Horizons.

Cabin fever, I guess. No cure for it but moving forward.

Tales from food trucking

My sister says I should be writing about food trucking, which sounds like the opening line to the weirdest diary-style YA novel ever written. Here’s some thoughts.


I work on three trucks right now: the pie truck, and two sandwich/burger trucks that sell at Boeing. On the sandwich trucks, I cook a little, but mostly I run the window, taking orders and money, delivering food.

At both sandwich trucks, I ask customers for their names so I can call out their orders when they’re ready. I make a somewhat concerted effort to learn the names of my regulars at the different trucks; it just seems like a nice thing to do, a welcoming, friendly, where-everybody-knows-your-name kind of thing. I’ve probably managed to learn thirty names and faces, but there’s another forty or so faces that I recognize but can’t put names too.

It’s easier to remember names that aren’t European, or are attached to non-white faces. Selam and Salim I learned quickly. Unusual names in general stick out, like Slim or Stokes or Ramses or Desi. People with custom orders stick out, too, like Susan or Patricia or May.

The real problem is the short, common men’s names. If your name is Joe or Scott or Steve, Jeff or Greg or Dan, I almost certainly can’t remember your name. There are multiples of all these names coming to the trucks every day, and generally speaking I’ve managed to associate one face with any given name, and that’s it. I know one Scott; the others are all “you’re that guy who was here yesterday.” Plus, weirdly, it’s hard for me to remember names if regulars from one truck come to one of the other trucks. It’s like how walking through a door resets your brain.

I guess the takeaway point here is, if you’re a regular somewhere and want the staff to remember your name, try giving something unusual: a nickname, or surname. And if we can’t remember your name, please don’t take it personally. We do remember you — and we’re just delighted you’ve come back again.

The other day I was describing my summer schedule to my friends Piper and Lasheena, and Lasheena asked “so you’re working six to seven days a week … how does that work with having a personal life?” And I kind of stared at her blankly for way too long and then said that I make it work, one way or another. Which is true!

But I also get a weird charge from interacting with people, especially my regulars. I’ve had conversations twice with regulars today about the horror convention I’m going to this weekend, extended ones about what horror movies we like and who I hope to meet. I don’t think these guys even know my name, they just know I serve them food four out of five days a week. But those interactions do a lot to recharge my extrovert batteries and satisfy the human need for interaction.

Although having some personal life is nice too.

This weekend, after more than a year in our current kitchen, we’re moving! Today was the last time I should ever be at that kitchen. Leaving tonight was like some odd rendition of Good Night Moon.

Good night to this kitchen
Where we did our baking
Good night to the alley
Where I spent so long waiting

Good night to the walk-in
I’m afraid this is it
Good night plastic flaps
That were covered in … gunk

Good night to the back lot
And your dumpsters and stenches
Good night to the crows —
Opportunistic mensches

Good night to the padlocks
Good night to the gate
That I loathe dealing with
When it’s cold and it’s late

Good night to the flag
That’s as big as the block
Be it red, white and blue
Or supporting the ‘Hawks

Good night to you, potholes
I hit in the dark
Good night, too, Safe Access
And so long, Skylark

Good night to you, bridge,
Where the cops lie in wait
For speeders or drunks
Or expired license plates

Good night to the shoe
Lying lost on the verge
Good night to the backup
Of cars waiting to merge

Good night to the route
Down to Fourth and Spokane
To avoid that damn merge lane
And its rush hour jam

And so long to Rainier’s R
Shining red in the night
I’ll see you again,
But to Delridge — good night.

A place at the table

A midafternoon break somewhere on the Camino: a tomato and cheese bocadillo, cerveza, my credencial, and my trusty walking stick. This photo actually has relatively little to do with this post, but I have almost no photos of actual albergues and I really like this one.

One reason I want to go back and do the Camino again is the albergues.

Albergues, or refugios, are an integral part of the Camino’s infrastructure. They’re roughly equivalent to hostels all over Europe — usually they provide a bed in a dorm, or possibly beds in a private room for a little extra, a shared bathroom, and a place to wash your clothes. Along most of the Camino, a stay at an albergue costs under €10 per night per person; about €8 is pretty typical.

There are a few oddities about the albergues, though, compared to the hostels you may have stayed in elsewhere in Europe. First is the fact that most of them lock their doors at 10 p.m. The logic seems to be that peregrinos need their sleep and by God, they are going to get it whether they want to or not. Locking the doors at 10 discourages peregrinos from over-indulging in the local nightlife (if there is any) and encourages an early bed time. You can, of course, leave the albergue any time you want, which is important because a lot of peregrinos want to start off before sunrise in order to get most of their walking down before the heat of the day around 1 p.m. And you will have to leave the albergue by 8 a.m. the next morning; stays of multiple nights are highly discouraged, unless you have a doctor’s note saying that you need to stay longer. The hospitaler@s have a lot of cleaning to do, and they’ll have a fresh pack of pilgrims at their doorstep in the afternoon, so you need to move on.

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Of coffee cups and caprese, of hazelnuts and things

IMAG0377My ugly American moment coming back from Rome (an odyssey that involved a two-hour delay leaving Rome, rebookings in Heathrow, and frantic sprinting through the Vancouver airport to make my connection to Seattle, not to mention middle seats on every flight including being stuck next to a friendly but elbow-happy and beer-swigging (Northern?) Englishman on the transatlantic one–)

Uh, let me start over.

My ugly American moment coming back from Rome came as I tried to navigate Vancouver’s beautiful but confusing airport, and I spotted a Starbucks shop, and inwardly sighed contentedly at the sight. There’s not a single Starbucks in all of Italy — the nearest one is in Cannes, France — and I kind of missed it.

(Somewhere, my sister just shuddered in horror and isn’t sure why.)

I actually really, really enjoyed the cafes in Italy. In Rome, at least, they take their food slowly and their coffee quickly; the etymology of espresso, according to Wikipedia, is linked to the English word “express,” in both the senses of “specific” and “fast.” When you walk into a bar, you order café for a single shot of espresso served in a tiny cup, usually with sugar on the side. You drink your espresso standing up at the bar. Sitting at a table costs an extra €0,40 or so, usually, and the coffeeshop culture doesn’t encourage the sit-down-for-hours-with-your-laptop behavior American coffeeshops do. Sitting and kibbitzing for a while is certainly welcome, though.

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Pater noster, mater nostra

ImageI’m practically the definition of a lapsed Catholic. I don’t go to mass, but I feel vaguely guilty about it, especially at Easter; I can’t help doing a Sign of the Cross when I walk into a church, but I haven’t been to confession in years; I have Opinions on the new wording of the mass that are decidedly mixed because come on, “and with your spirit,” but maybe “consubstantial” is a little closer to the original Latin, I don’t know. I’ve thought about writing at greater length about why the Church and I have been “It’s Complicated” on Facebook for some years now — the Church’s attitudes towards women and the LGBTQ community, my skepticism towards any long-entrenched organization, the Church’s scandals — and maybe one day I will, but for now, it’s not necessary to do so. Though the Church and I may not always get along, I still consider myself a spiritual person and more Christian than anything.

So today we went to the Vatican.

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Camino memories, and a brief hiatus

Carvings on (I think) the cathedral in Burgos.

Carvings on (I think) the cathedral in Burgos.

Going through my pictures — and through my mom’s very helpful daily accountings of the Camino — reminds me of how many stories I still need to tell. The pensión we stayed at in Cirueña, with the puppet show outside and the Italians sharing our dinner and the completely charming host and hostess who made us dinner, that deserves a post all of its own. (I had a brief but intense flirtation with the idea of giving it all up and moving to Spain to be a hospitalera while we were in Cirueña.) And the saint story of Santo Domingo, and observations on walking, and so forth . . .

For now, though, I have to finish packing for a very different trip to a very different pilgrimage site; I’m off to Rome with la famiglia this afternoon, staying there for about a week. (I remember where my passport was! Go me!) I commented to my dad and sister last night that it’s hard to get out of the Camino packing mindset, but I have made a valiant effort by packing multiple impractical sundresses. I’m also bringing my little slow netbook, so I may be posting some, but don’t count on it.

I’ll be back in the States on September 16, and will resume my reglarly scheduled whimsically irregular blogging then. Ciao!

Friday evening grab-bag

There was some seriously awesome graffiti along the Camino. Peregrinos making fun of themselves and bemoaning their sore feet often feature prominently.

There was some seriously awesome graffiti along the Camino. Peregrinos making fun of themselves and bemoaning their sore feet often feature prominently.

In ancient mythology, mass deaths are used to symbolize disasters. In other countries like Greece and Japan, myths were recounted through the generations, partly to answer unanswerable questions about death and violence. In America, we don’t have that legacy of ancient mythology.

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