Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Keys in the Ignition

        Oftentimes, I get completely overwhelmed by political talk, profuse opinion sharing, and stubborn conjectures in general. I will hear some well-meaning person say something and think, "Holy Freak! Hasn't Life beaten them down properly enough to know that this kind of language only makes people talk about them behind their backs, while imitating their voice and hand gestures?"  One thing that I have to always remember comes from Dale Carnegie. If you know me at all, you know I am crushing on that bespectacled gentleman in the same way that girls "squee" over the *cough* "gentlemen" from Magic Mike. (Please, put such a hard set of quotation marks on that word that it downright violates all of its consonants!) 

       In Mr. Carnegie's book "How to Win Friends & Influence People" he talks about the problem with  us criticizing others. He brings up the whole idea of "walking a mile in someone else's shoes" but points out the issue that we are still imagining ourselves in our current state, with our current brain and emotions.  We say things like, "Why is he DOING this? It's so idiotic! If I were him, I wouldn't do that!"  Of course you wouldn't. You're not him, and you're not doing that.  The point is that we would do the EXACT SAME thing that the  "idiots" are doing if we were them with their life, circumstances, education, experiences, and emotions. We're looking at people with our own, special set of goggles, and all it really gives us is more information about our own natures. We wouldn't even be able to PERCEIVE the thing making us crazy if it wasn't an integral part of our own life. 

    And, if I ever need an extra kick in the pants to be more charitable to  other people, I always think of the maroon van. 

     My parents owned this repugnant red van that was maybe..uh...a Mercury...Villager...94'...um.. ..piece of sadness. When you drove it over 50 miles an hour, the front would start bobbing up and down like a raptor head, and the sounds coming from the engine sounded eerily similar to this creature as well. My parents let me and my sister have reign over it and we drove it to high school to avoid the complete and utter horror that is school-bus-prison.  We always felt to guilty to ask my parents for money, because they always talked about how poor we were, and so we would forage around the house for change to get us to and from school. Generally, about 87 cents did nicely for the 10 mile drive, and I swear that some higher power was forming loose change in the gross, sticky little tray between the drink holders. 

      My amazing, wonderful, glorious parents believed strongly in letting their kids "be  themselves" and so my mom didn't blink an eye when I asked if I could use her tole paints (still good from the 90's craft show phase) to paint a giant duck on the hood.  I was so  hell-bent on being a non-conformist that I probably spent MORE time than other vain teenage girls getting ready for school. In their brains- "What will make boys like me and other girls jealous" . My brain- "What will let the other kids know that I don't give a *bleep* about them and what they think?  I don't want to push TOO hard and look like  Hot Topic employee of the early 2000's, but I also don't want to to look weird...renaissance bodice, it is!" I love the irony of spending an hour worrying about whether or not the "other kids" will know that you care deeply about them perceiving you as not caring deeply....

       Anyhow, I drove around a butt-ugly van with a huge yellow duck on the front. Also, the power steering went out one day while I was stuck behind the train tracks that I had to cross over to get home. The train was just sitting there, and finally, after an hour, I used all of my might to do a 367-point turn in the small 2-lane country road so I could go back the other way around the train. Trying to do that WITHOUT power steering is..um....well, let's just say that "the other kids" may have seen that I cared!  Eek. 

          Good glory! I've got to get to the point of this story!  It's coming! I promise.  So, out on the farm where my parents lived, it was literally in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by forest. We had about 3 cars that the adults all drove, and it was absolute LAW that if you drove the car last, you HAD TO LEAVE THE KEY IN THE IGNITION AND THE DOOR UNLOCKED!  I know, the exact opposite of the rest of the world, right? It's just that our house consumed keys in the same voracious fashion that dryers consume one half of your pair of socks, and they all go into the same dimension.  If we took the key inside the house, no one would ever find it again, and we would never be able to leave the farm again! My dad often had some choice words for the kid who was foolish enough to take the keys inside and put them on the kitchen counter. Good glory, what kind of animals had he raised???

        After I got married and moved away, I finally did sort of kind of get better at locking my car and taking my key with me. However, when I would try to explain why it was hard, I just got blank stares.  It's that same thing. "Why is she DOING that? It's so idiotic? If I were her, I would never do that!" I could hear people saying that when I went through a phase where I always locked my keys in the car. (I was partway into the better  habit...the "locking" part, but leaving the key firmly in the ignition was not gone from my brain.)

      One year, we went back to the homeland to visit my parents. My husband drove the family van to the grocery store. He came back. He took the keys out of the ignition. He put them on the kitchen counter.

       Several hours later, I heard a commotion downstairs.  My dad was yelling, "Who in the HELL took the keys out of the van??? I have a meeting, and the damn kids WILL NOT KEEP THOSE KEYS IN THE VAN!" My husband's head snapped up. He had a "deer in the headlights that brought the keys in the house" type of look. He sidled downstairs and quietly said, "Uh....Brent....I'm sorry, I put the keys on the table."  The whole family went to work shifting around all of the crucially-important-to-keep-because-important-info-was-written-on-the-envelope pieces of mail around, and a half an hour later, we found the dang keys.

       So, why do people do what they do? Surely, if you were them, you would do a perfect, flawless, no-mistakes-ever job?  Thank heavens I drive around duck vans and don't care a *bleep* what you think.


  1. This actually made me smile and like you even more.

    1. Thanks, I like YOU even more now! Holy NIGHT!

  2. I have some ... farm type relatives ... that also do that with their cars. I'd never really seen anyone else do that and thought they were crazy.

    Oddly, I now do that when I LARP so the woods can't eat my keys. However... I lock them in, and the car has codes to get back inside. Best of both?

  3. My parents leave the keys in their car too. It's just a thing we farm people do :D

  4. My grandparents do NOT leave keys in their vehicles anymore... because the younger grandkids were hellraisers. A 9 year old city kid with a combine is trouble. Grandpa had JUST bought one with an auto transmission (oops). My sister also crashed the golf cart into the kitchen garden. It is truly a miracle she is still alive.

  5. She ran one of the farm trucks into the lake later in our childhood. I wasn't surprised when she failed the (Texas, ffs) driver's license exam THREE TIMES. It takes true talent to mess that up (evidence- any road in Texas) but she managed.

    That truck survived 3 deer and my sister killed it in 45 minutes.

  6. I feel like some of you may have missed the point of the story.
    Thanks Michelle. I will try to keep this idea in mind before I judge how I would have handled someone else's actions.

    1. ahha, I had people that were like, "Michelle, are people being mean to you?" and I had to tell them, "No...uh...this was written for ME, as all of my writing is. I, MYSELF was the one who was feeling judgemental and grumpy!"

  7. Oh, my dear. Those were the days. We still leave the keys in the car, but I know that will have to change someday. Funny to read about it though. Love, Mom