Monday, March 20, 2017

COLUMN: Almost A Car Wreck

If you're reading this, it's a good thing. You survived 2016.

Hopefully, so did I -- unless, of course, the paper is running this column posthumously as a moving tribute to my memory. If that's the case, I'd better see some tears from you people, because I WILL be watching. Also, please contact Zak Bagans and the Ghost Adventures crew and tell them to investigate my house pronto, because I have full plans to haunt the heck out of this place after my demise.

How much did 2016 suck? Some of my favorite TV shows got cancelled. Most of the summer blockbluster movies were awful. An orange-tinted reality star is about to be our next President. And yes, all the celebrities that ever mattered to my childhood seem to be shuffling off this mortal coil at an alarming rate. This jerkwad of a year took away Alan Rickman, Carrie Fisher, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, Phife Dawg, Garry Shandling, and a kajillion other people we loved, including our good friend Ellis Kell. We lost Carol Brady, Jason Seaver, Grizzly Adams, Willy Wonka, Miss Cleo, and Mr. Drummond. Ziggy no longer plays guitar. No one wants to see us dancing in the purple rain. There's nobody to spin us right round, baby, right round, like a record, baby.

I'm writing this on December 27th. The serial killer known as 2016 has four more days before its execution. Earlier today, it almost got ME.

Technically, I'm on vacation this week. I had some extra time-off to burn in 2016, so I thought I'd splurge and extend my Christmas weekend by a couple of days. And oh my, did I have exciting plans. I wanted to spend my vacation at the happiest place in all the world. That's right, I went on vacation to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

My driver's license is set to expire soon, and I don't fancy a repeat of last time. A few years back, I had no clue my license had expired until I tried to go to a trivia night on Arsenal Island and handed my ID to the guard at the gate. Next thing I knew, I was surrounded my military police and my poor car nearly got impounded to federal car jail. Worst of all, we lost the trivia game, which if you know my team is nearly unforgivable. No siree, I needed to play by the rules this time and procure a spanky new license in sufficient time.

As you know, our local DMV is conveniently located on the absolute edge of nowhere in a strip mall that's so ridiculously hard to access, they might as well just hand out licenses to anyone who makes it in the door -- if you can find the place, you know what you're doing behind the wheel. The DMV is at the polar opposite end of the Quad Cities from my house, and any attempts to make it from here to there are less an errand and more like a daytrip.

I mustered up every remaining ounce of holiday spirit and climbed into my car with a positive attitude -- which lasted for eleven minutes.

That's how long it took for me to get to downtown Moline, where I witnessed one of the nastiest car wrecks I've ever seen. It was the kind of thing you simply can't make light of -- it was awful and I'm sure people got hurt. It happened just a few blocks ahead of me and caused a pickup truck to flip onto its roof, or what was left of it. It certainly wasn't what I wanted to see en route to renew a license that allowed me the privilege of perhaps being in a similar accident someday myself. My thoughts and prayers go out to all involved, and I hope everybody's okay.

Witnessing the aftermath of that collision up close and personal made me grip the wheel a little tighter as I continued on my way, and it's a good thing I did. Just minutes later, I was toodling down 12th Avenue when a woman in a pickup made a left turn against oncoming traffic. The oncoming traffic was me. This woman just turned smack into my lane as if I were Wonder Man flying my invisible jet instead of Chubby Guy driving a perfectly visible Hyundai.

I'm not usually known for my lightning fast reflexes. Thankfully, they were there today. The instant I saw her, I slammed on my brakes and missed t-boning her by three feet. She, meanwhile, had seen me coming and ALSO slammed on the brakes, stopping across my entire lane frozen like a deer with a dumbstruck look on her face.

I am a nice guy. I pride myself on being pleasant to people. But everybody has their limits. There are times when its proper to say "thank you." There are times when it's polite to say "excuse me." And now I can say with some certainty that there are times when you just have to roll down your window and yell "WHAT THE [EXPLETIVE], LADY?!" Sorry, my bad.

I picked my stomach up off the ground and headed on, leaving a good portion of rubber and a not-so-good portion of my lunch on 12th Avenue. Eventually, I made to the DMV -- to find it closed for the holiday. Exactly which holiday they chose to celebrate on December 27th is a mystery, but if I had to reckon a guess, I'd say they were observing International Elevate A Shane's Blood Pressure Day.

There's not too many things worth dying for. A visit to a closed DMV is certainly NOT among that list. "Here lies Shane; License Expired January 2017" is NOT the epitaph I'm looking for. If 2016 wants to end me behind the wheel of a car, it had better be preceded by a booty call from Katie Holmes or some equally worthwhile endeavor. Until that happens, I'm staying as put as put can be for the next four days.

Here's to a much happier new year. Sorry I swore at you, lady.

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